Thursday, May 13, 2010

Emotional Conformation, Scouting The Hidden Talent

The following article by Kerry M. Thomas, Emotional Conformation: Scouting The Hidden Talent, was originally published in the Kentucky Derby issue of the online edition of the Zatt The Magazine - created and edited by Brian Zipse. Thomas is the founder of the Thomas Herding Technique and an Equine athletic psychology pioneer. His most recent article about Emotional Conformation will appear in the Preakness issue of the magazine which is scheduled to be released May 14.

Often mystical is the nature and flowing beauty of the horse. For centuries mankind has been enticed by the allure, infatuated with the power, and awed by the magic within the spirit of the horse. And for me, that magic is revealed in the Emotional Conformation of the horse.

My name is Kerry M. Thomas and I am the founder of the Thomas Herding Technique. I consider myself an investigator, a researcher who develops specific protocols based on an investigation and study of the psychology and emergent properties hidden within the horse.

Mental soundness, aptitude, behavioral tendencies, emergent properties, family line behavioral traits, and focus agility all blend together to form the Emotional Conformation of the Equine athlete. Physical conditioning is very important, but mental soundness is the key to the successful Equine athlete.

Why do some horses seem to be unable to pass other horses or get fragile in certain positions on the track, herding together and coming in a nose behind, or a behind, behind, even when physically their constitution is more powerful?

Many races are lost not because of the lack of physical training, but rather, they are lost in the space of time it takes for the horse to properly manage the emotional stress it incurs during the race.

Not only is physical conditioning important for the success of the Equine athlete. But, the question is: does the horse have the will to win – an emotional level of soundness that manifests itself into a physical result?

Emotional Conformation can answer that question.

Emotional Conformation: know it,
nurture it, breed it, train it

Genetic research and pedigree analysis reveals much about the Thoroughbred racehorse. Physical aptitude and conformation are considered in all aspects from breeding to how they should be trained and raced. However, an investigation into the individual equine psyche is just as important and it completes the Emotional Conformation profile. Individual nuances, personality propensities, emergent properties of behavioral dynamics, the intricate social structure of the herd in both Group Herd Dynamics and Individual Herd Dynamics, all have to be considered in every area of the horse’s life – from breeding selections to training and developing to actual competition. Just because a horse is bred from so and so for such and such, doesn’t mean the projection should be cookie-cutter neat; physical ability does not always mean mental preparedness.

Genetics, alone, is not the determining factor for success or failure. But, rather, it is the mind of the horse that is in complete control of the will and, thus, performance, on and off the racetrack.

An athlete has to have a natural inclination for managing emotional stress. Have you ever felt nervous or anxious before a speech, or an at-bat, or some other big moment? You probably have one time or another felt that burn of anxious energy from an emotional build-up to an event. Yet it is less the moment than it is how you manage the moment, which will influence the outcome. This is a key area of Emotional Conformation and what I have developed as a barometer of sorts, is in indicator I call the P-Type.

Emotional Genetics are Revealed in
the Emotional Conformation of the Horse

Pedigree efforts alone, while extremely vital, are primarily concerned with the physical genetics of the equine athlete – the Physical Conformation. Now you can enhance this information with an Emotional Conformation, a grade-score indicated by the P-Type. A study of the horse’s individual behavioral tendencies lends itself toward a deeper understanding of the driving force that powers the physical animal. Physical Genetics are only part of the story; it is the latent tendencies of behavior that complete the equine athlete. Emotional Conformation can establish family behavioral markers which can be used in the evaluation processes well beyond mating considerations. Behavioral tendencies within the equine psyche are the emergent property signatures that can only be nurtured when understood. Herd dynamics and the mental aspect of the equine are underutilized, yet powerful allies in the advancement of the athlete.

Hybrid-Reality: Atavism

Consider the Physical Genetics handed down the breeding line as a gene pool rather like a baseball team with a roster of 15 individual players. Out of the 15 individual players only nine can be on the field at any given time. These nine represent the entire team – they are the Emotional Conformation controlling the physical make-up of the whole. Nature’s law, the rules of atavism, In hybrid or impure animals, traits are passed on completely independent from each other. Thus, we can easily understand the important role that is played by the Emotional Conformation of the horse – for distance aptitude can be found within.

When we seek to apply Emotional Conformation to mating we must remember that breeding for behavior requires an established profile for either the Sire or the Broodmare, after which a mate can be sought to suite the desired projection or likely foal tendencies. The highest probability of success requires considering and combining both Physical and Emotional genetics.

The mental capacity of the equine controls the physical output of the athlete.

Focus agility is the determining factor that allows physical ability to be fulfilled. Any species that adapts well is a species reliant on continued advancement by emergent properties. At Thomas Herding Technique I focus on Equine Athletic Psychology, to investigate, evaluate, and apply, the individual propensities of the horse. The application of this process lends itself to a great many uses along the road of the Thoroughbred athlete and perhaps none more effective than scouting the hidden talent that lay within the horse: The Economics of Behavior simply makes sense.

Throughout the ages we have looked to the horse to entertain and help us with tasks both spectacular and mundane. If we wish to return the full measure of what the horse has given us, we need to reach beyond our own world and embrace the magic within the spirit of the horse.

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