Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Reviews, Burchard von Oettingen, Dark Ronald, Horse Breeding In Theory And Practice

The book that Thomas Herding Technique Founder Kerry Thomas and I co-authored – Horse Profiling, The Secret to Motivating Equine Athletes – has been out three months now and several flattering reviews have been posted on the internet: 

“This is an ingenious book and long overdue. I could not put it down. As a trainer of dressage horses through Grand Prix, I have studied with many ‘masters’ of dressage including Herbert Rehbein, Conrad Schumacher to name a few. The horse as an individual, the conformation, temperament and breeding was always emphasized to me to be a key to determining the training of any horse. This book takes that knowledge a giant leap and bound further for all equestrians. The work contained within this text is without question an absolute ‘must know’ for all horseman. Even better, the knowledge this book provides will, without question save the lives of horses, as they will not be discarded and thrown away for training issues or broken down due to misunderstanding. Many of those ‘issues’ will just never occur, as horsemen discover the best way to train and handle each horse as an individual. Serious kudos to Trafalgar Square Books for publishing this wonderful title, and to Kerry Thomas and Calvin Carter, what can I say – except a heartfelt thank you. All of my students will be receiving this book as their holiday gift this year.” – Please note: This is a copyrighted review and may only be published elsewhere with credit clearly denoted as “, The International Equestrian Shop.” 

“I have read and re-read, and am still re-reading this amazing book! For me it was an illumination of what I had already figured out about my own horses and then it became so, so much more! I want to know even more!! I think the Thomas Herding Technique (THT) is something that can benefit each and every horse and horseperson out there!! A must read for all those who want to "figure out" their own horses and help them reach their potential in any discipline.” – Aniis ( 

“So just how does one discern whether or not a horse has a trainable mind? By watching them, of course. [Kerry] Thomas clarifies, “To understand any species, means to understand the environment in which they are geared to live.” And this is what Thomas spent several years doing, while he was out studying wild herds in Wyoming and Montana. What he learned about how horses manage space and react to stimuli, offers a window into their emotional world. These patterns of behavior, Thomas explains, then translate into physical patterns of motion. 

“What this means to the equine therapy world is that the way horses manage space within a herd is very telling in terms of the emotional make-up of the horse. For those who work with horses, namely equine therapists and the horse experts they often work alongside, much of their education should involve watching horses in their natural environment — in the herd, that is. 

“For the thoroughbred racing world, what Thomas brings is a fascinating resource. Simply by watching a young thoroughbred with his herd mates, or even in a race, this seasoned horseman can often predict the outcome on the track. And those whose money rests on the determination and grit of the sleek performance machine that is a thoroughbred racehorse, may just want to bet their money with Thomas. After all, he predicted Animal Kingdom’s Kentucky Derby win after simply watching a video replay of his past races.” – Claire Dorotik, Licensed Marriage Family Therapist ( 

“As a long-time horse racing fan and horseplayer, I found the book to be both interesting and a valuable new handicapping tool! We tend to forget Emotional Conformation and Herd Dynamics when handicapping races. Why do certain horses hang? Why are others, such as Zenyatta, able to move through a field so easily? With only a small number of foals/runners in his first crop, why has Hat Trick already sired two graded/group stakes winners? You will get a much better understanding as to the answers of these questions after reading Horse Profiling!” – Alan Levitt ( 

The preceding is just a small sample of the reviews about our book and we are excited by the enthusiastic response it has received from a wide spectrum of the reading public. 

Early in the book, Kerry and I ask the questions: How can we as caretakers of the horse embrace the magic within the spirit of this noble creature and provide for his physical and emotional well-being? How can we return the full measure of what the horse has given to us? 

That’s what Kerry and I set out to explore in our book and it’s been a fantastic journey. 

Burchard vonOettingen, the director of Germany’s Royal Stud, knew how to embrace the magic within the spirit of the horse and his work was immortalized in the outstanding book Horse Breeding in Theory and Practice. One of the greatest owners, breeders and trainers of Thoroughbred racehorses was the Italian Federico Tesio – the Wizard of Dormello – and he was influenced by the work of von Oettingen. 

Kerry and I wrote about von Oettingen and Tesio in our book and here’s an excerpt about the amazing von Oettingen:

The Benefits of Nature Nurturing the Horse: Burchard von Oettingen and the Royal Trakehnen Stud

One of my favorite authors and published sources of the benefits of making the farm environment as natural as possible for the horse is Burchard von Oettingen who, at the turn of the twentieth century, was director of the Royal Trakehnen Stud, where the Trakehner breed evolved, in what was then East Prussia. Von Oettingen was a world-renowned expert on horse care, and in his book, Horse Breeding in Theory and Practice (Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1909), he outlined the benefits of pasturing horses. Although written over 100 years ago, the universality of his writing, extolling the benefits of nature nurturing the horse, bears repeating here: 

Even the best soil requires, in order to derive any benefit from its advantages for breeding good, capable and sound horses, two very important factors, i.e., pad­docks and permanent pastures…But the method of rearing in the stable without paddocks and permanent pastures, which is still so widespread in Germany for all kinds of breeds, threatens to ruin many breedings…Paddocks and permanent pastures serve, therefore, as a contrast to the method of rearing in the stable, to keep the breeding material as long as possible outside the stable and in confor­mity with nature, to nourish same. The following advantages thus arise:

1. The influence of light. The recently well recognized beneficial influences of light consist principally in destroying many very dangerous microbes, especially tuberculosis bacilli, and in increasing the energy of life by multiplying the red corpusculli and the haemoglobis.

2. The influence of good air. The air rich in oxygen in the open is a primary condition of every healthy development. The continuous remaining out in the open increases the need of oxygen, and in order to satisfy their needs, horses must, by deep breathing, make a greater use of the lungs. Accordingly, the lungs will be extended and strengthened, and also the energy of life increased.

3. The influence of wind and weather. The constant skin massage by wind and weather strengthens the whole nervous system. As a matter of fact, wind and weather preserves the whole animal organism in a continuous and benefi­cial training through frequent and sudden changes, and forces it to get accus­tomed to outside circumstances for the sake of self-preservation. In conjunc­tion with the beneficial influence of light and air, wind and weather, owing to a normal and strengthening development of the nervous system, favour the health in such a good and energetic way altogether impossible if the horses are brought up in the stable.

4. The influence of exercise. A voluntary, continuous and mostly slow exercise on the meadows is necessary when seeking their food. By this means the sinews, muscles and bones are under the influence of a favourable slow, continuous and effective training quite impossible outside of the meadows. The longer grazing is possible…and especially night grazing, the more distinctly is to be observed a favourable development of the formation of the body, especially of the shape of the limbs, as well as that so important to correct walk. The voluntary desire of the horses to visit distinct parts of the meadows, the possibility of their moving about as they please, and so noticing all that is going on around them, the at­tention which is required for observing changes, the many chances to caper and play with their companions—all these strengthen the intellect and senses, and are the best and only preventives against timidity.

5. Food grazing. The advantages of grazing on the meadow, as against green food in the stable, lie, firstly, in the fact that the horses never get as much in their mouth in the meadow as in the stable, and that, therefore, sudden overloading of the stomach is avoided; secondly, many and just the best and youngest grasses lose their taste between the time of being mowed and eaten; thirdly, the useful combination of amids are, for the most part, in the younger plants, and these are the most difficult to mow, but the horses whilst on the meadow get them easily. For the good preservation of pastures it is very important that they should be grazed alternately, as far as possible, by horses, cows or oxen (but not by sheep).

From the strengthening of bones and tendons as well as the heart, lungs and limbs by exercise over varying terrain, to the continuous beneficial nurturing pro­vided by environmental stimuli that the casual observer, man, long ago ceased to rely on for survival, indeed, there is no better nurturing process than that provided the horse by Mother Nature. It is not practical to breed or train the equine athlete without fully understanding the “view from the hoof” and the necessity of nature’s beneficial nurturing of the horse. Only then can one hope to grasp the reality of the horse and the Equine Circle from the vantage point of man, and do one’s best to provide the setting, albeit artificial, where the equine athlete can prosper. 

Burchard von Oettingen’s work at Trakehnen and other stud farms owned by the Prussian state, such as Beberbeck and Altefeld, was exemplary. During his tenure with the Royal Stud until retirement in 1920, von Oettingen diligently worked to improve the training and stud operation. …

After the establishment of the Royal Stud, select English Thoroughbred and Arabian stallions were purchased and added to the breed. One of von Oettingen’s crowning achievements for the improvement of the Royal Stud was the purchase in 1913 of the English-bred Thoroughbred Dark Ronald for £25,000 (about $40,000). It was, definitely, money well spent as Dark Ronald became a foundation stallion of the Royal Stud and one of the most influential sires in the history of Germany. 

Dark Ronald sired the German Derby winner Herold, and his sire line produced other notable Thoroughbreds such as Alchimist, Birkhahn, Surumu, and Acatenan­go, all of whom were classic champions and important sires. In all, the sire line of Dark Ronald has produced 25 German Derby winners, and his influence has even recently been seen in the United States—as Acatenango is the broodmare sire of Animal Kingdom, winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby and Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Male. 

In addition to becoming a tremendous influence on the German Thorough­bred, the sire line of Dark Ronald also is a powerful worldwide influence on the European Warmblood. The highly regarded Moorlands-Totilas, viewed by many as one of the greatest horses in the history of dressage and a triple gold medalist at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, is a direct sire-line descen­dent of Dark Ronald (fig. 4.6). In the show jumping world, Dark Ronald is a direct sire-line ancestor of the deceased jumping champion and influential improvement sire Cor de la Bry√©re and his sons Caletto I, Caletto II, Caletto III, Calypso I, Calypso II, Calypso III, Calypso IV, Corrado I, Corde-Star, and Cordalm√© Z. 

The result of von Oettingen’s study and labor was the establishment of a first-class breeding and training operation that relied on the foundation principle of making the farm environment as natural as possible in order to produce the health­iest, soundest horses. His efforts were integral to the development of the Trakehner as a performance horse, as it went on in the 1920s and 1930s to win countless med­als and awards in jumping, eventing, dressage, and steeplechase.

Copyright © 2012 Kerry Thomas
First Published in 2012 by
Trafalgar Square Books
North Pomfret, Vermont 05053

ISBN 978-1-57076-508-7

To purchase the book, please visit this link:

If anyone ever knew how to embrace the magic within the spirit of the horse it was Federico Tesio but I’ll post more about that on a future blog. 

In August, Kerry will be at National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame for a book signing and here’s his latest Facebook post about the event: 

As we continue to develop behind the scenes, making ready the THT Weekend and Book Signing at The Racing Hall Of Fame for HOF Weekend, I thought I would repost this today from our team. Exciting conversations going on between THT & NTRA and other outlets, so now is the right time to reach out to be a part of it with us. Now, off to meetings... 

“Let's partner! Promote your brand at THT Hall of Fame events, Nat Museum of Racing. For info email: Sponsorships include all pre event publicity in Saratoga plus social media promos, as well as high visibility on site at the events. This is a prime opportunity to showcase your brand and have a presence during racing's most exciting summer meet. Thank you for supporting the work of THT. We welcome your partnership.”

If you get the opportunity, please check out this short slideshow of pictures from the book that I posted on youtube: 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Stakes Racing Roundup

(The preceding story, originally published in the July/August 2010 issue of HorsePlayer Magazine, has been updated with current information and statistics.) 
Now that the Triple Crown is over, the next crop of 2-year-old thoroughbreds are ready to begin racing. Pedigree, of course, is one of the most important tools handicappers have when wagering on precocious juve­niles-it can determine which horses have the potential to be rising stars and stakes winners.
Not surprisingly, descendants of the Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer sire lines perform extremely well as juveniles, and it would do the horseplayer some good to pay attention to these pedigrees as the prestigious 2-year-old races at Del Mar and Saratoga get underway.

Del Mar July 18 to September 5

Del Mar hosts two marquee races for juvenile colts: the Best Pal Stakes (G2) and Del Mar Futurity (G1).

The Best Pal Stakes (G2) is eponymously named after the California-bred racehorse, who began racing at two and had more than $5.6 million in earnings when he retired at the age of eight. The Best Pal Stakes (G2) produced the 2010 Preakness (G1) winner, Lookin At Lucky, who also won the 2009 Del Mar Futurity (G1).

Traditionally held on the closing day of the meet, the Del Mar Futurity (G1) has long been a springboard for top run­ners. Del Mar Futurity (GI) winners that became classic champions include:

·         Lookin At Lucky (Preakness)
·         Silver Charm (Kentucky Derby, Preakness)
·         Gato del Sol (Kentucky Derby)
·         Tomy Lee (Kentucky Derby)

Saratoga July 20 to September 3

Saratoga hosts the Sanford Stakes (G2), Saratoga Special Stakes (G2), and Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (G1) - all prestigious races in their own right.

Sanford Stakes (G2) winners that went on to become classic champions include:

·         Affirmed (Triple Crown winner)
·         Secretariat (Triple Crown winner)
·         Afleet Alex [Preakness, Belmont)
·         Regret (Kentucky Derby)
·         Vagrant (Kentucky Derby)
·         Spendthrift (Belmont)
Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) winners that became classic champions include:

·         Union Rags (Belmont)
·         Whirlaway (Triple Crown winner)
·         Morvich (Kentucky Derby)
·         Regret (Kentucky Derby)
·         Swale (Kentucky Derby, Belmont)
·         Bold Forbes (Kentucky Derby, Belmont)
·         Native Dancer [Preakness, Belmont)
·         Bimelech [Preakness, Belmont)
·         Conquistador Cielo (Belmont)
·         Blue Larkspur (Belmont)
·         Colin (Belmont)
·         Summer Squall (Preakness)
Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (GI) winners that became classic champions include:

·         Affirmed (Triple Crown winner)
·         Secretariat (Triple Crown winner)
·         Whirlaway (Triple Crown winner)
·         Foolish Pleasure (Kentucky Derby)
·         Morvich (Kentucky Derby)
·         Regret (Kentucky Derby)
·         Ben Ali (Kentucky Derby)
·         Afleet Alex (Preakness, Belmont)
·         Man O'War (Preakness, Belmont)
·         Native Dancer [Preakness, Belmont)
·         Nashua (Preakness, Belmont)
·         Bimelech (Preakness, Belmont)
·         Needles (Kentucky Derby, Belmont)
·         Middle Ground (Kentucky Derby, Belmont)
·         Zev (Kentucky Derby, Belmont)
·         Jaipur (Belmont)
·         Peter Pan (Belmont)
·         Summer Squall [Preakness}.

Sire Lines for the Last Seven Key 2-Year-Old Stakes

Sanford Stakes (G2), $200,000, 6-furlongs, July 22
Year-Horse, Sire, Sire Line
2011-Overdriven, Tale Of The Cat, Northern Dancer
2010-Maybesomaybenot, Sunday Break, Mr. Prospector
2009-Backtalk, Smarty Jones, Mr. Prospector
2008-Desert Party, Street Cry, Mr. Prospector
2007-Ready’s Image, More Than Ready, Nasrullah
2006-Scat Daddy, Johannesburg, Northern Dancer
Note: In 2005, the Sanford Stakes (G2) was not run.

Best Pal Stakes (G2), $150,000, 6½-furlongs, August 5
Year-Horse, Sire, Sire Line
2011-Creative Cause, Giant’s Causeway, Northern Dancer
2010-J P’s Gusto, Successful Appeal, Man o’ War
2009-Lookin At Lucky, Smart Strike, Mr. Prospector
2008-Azul Leon, Lion Heart, Northern Dancer
2007-Salute The Sarge, Forest Wildcat, Northern Dancer
2006-Principle Secret, Sea Of Secrets, Northern Dancer
2005-What A Song, Songandaprayer, Mr. Prospector

Saratoga Special (G2), $200,000, 6½-furlongs, August 12
Year-Horse, Sire, Sire Line
2011-Union Rags, Dixie Union, Northern Dancer
2010-Kantharos, Lion Heart, Northern Dancer
2009-D’ Funnybone, D’ Wildcat, Northern Dancer
2008-Run Away and Hide, City Zip, Mr. Prospector
2007-Kodiak Kowboy, Posse, Northern Dancer
2006-Chace City, Carson City, Mr. Prospector
2005-Henny Hughes, Hennessy, Northern Dancer

Three Chimney’s Hopeful (G1), $300,000, 7-furlongs, September 3
Year-Horse, Sire, Sire Line
2011-Currency Swap, High Cotton, Northern Dancer
2010-Boys At Tosconova, Officer, Man o’ War
2009-Dublin, Afleet Alex, Mr. Prospector
2008-Vineyard Haven, Lido Palace, Mr. Prospector
2007-Majestic Warrior, A. P. Indy, Bold Ruler
2006-Circular Quay, Thunder Gulch, Mr. Prospector
2005-First Samurai, Giant’s Causeway, Northern Dancer

Del Mar Futurity (G1), $300,000, 7-furlongs, September 5
Year-Horse, Sire, Sire Line
2011-Drill, Lawyer Ron, Northern Dancer
2010-J P’s Gusto, Successful Appeal, Man o’ War
2009-Lookin At Lucky, Smart Strike, Mr. Prospector
2008-Midshipman, Unbridled’s Song, Mr. Prospector
2007-Georgie Boy, Tribal Rule, Northern Dancer
2006-Horse Greeley, Mr. Greeley, Mr. Prospector
2005-Stevie Wonderboy, Stephen Got Even, Bold Ruler

In the past seven years, of the 35 key 2-year-old stakes races at Del Mar and Saratoga, 15 races have been won by sire-line descendants of Northern Dancer; the Mr. Prospector sire line produced 13 winners; the Man o’ War sire line produced three winners; the Bold Ruler sire line produced two winners and the Nasrullah sire line produced one winner.