Kerry Thomas, author of the new book HORSE PROFILING: THE SECRET TO MOTIVATING EQUINE ATHLETES, is recognized by many around the world as a pioneering researcher and service provider in the field of Equine Athletic Psychology. He has directed his innovative “Emotional Conformation Profiling” toward the development of programs to advance equine athletes in their given field, as well as to identify the mental blocks that seem to curtail the progress of many horses. (Find out more about Kerry and his method, the Thomas Herding Technique by clicking through from our list of recommended links on the right side of this page.)
TSB caught up with Kerry in the days running up to the Kentucky Derby and asked him about his involvement with the Thoroughbred racing industry and how he thinks horse profiling can make horse’s lives better…among other things! (Check out the article about Kerry and his profiling techniques on ESPN.com by clicking HERE). Kerry will be in Louisville from May 2-6 to attend the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby and promote his new book. (To arrange an interview, please contact:Larry Knepper, Thomas Herding Technique, Director of Client Relations and Equine Consultant, 502.296.6076.)
TSB: Can you tell us about when and why you decided to research wild horse herds in Wyoming?
KT: We had some family trips out West when I was young, and in 1989, I and my cousin, on our way to Southern California, made a stop to visit friends in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I fell in love with the area. I longed to explore the region, the mountains, and see what I would find. I am purely driven by a sense of adventure and discovery, and I always have more to learn, which is what I love the most: that sense of discovering something for the first time.
TSB: What is one of your most vivid memories from your days in the Bighorn Mountains?
KT: The first time I saw a herd of wild horses was actually a bachelor herd, and it was two days after I had seen my first grizzly bears. I thought, wow, this is for me.
TSB: How did you get involved in the Thoroughbred racing industry?
KT: Almost by accident. I had no real ambitions in the early days to dedicate so much time developing protocols for racing clients, as all equestrian disciplines interest me. During some time working with therapy horses and other animals and learning about children with special needs, I also met several owners of racehorses, and little by little, I began to dabble in profiling their horses. I found an amazing correlation in what I do and what makes a successful racehorse because Emotional Conformation searches the ingredients of “who” the horse is and how his “behavioral patterns” translate into “Patterns-of-Motion,” and these herd dynamics of motion are consistent from breed to breed. It’s the pilot of your “ship” that governs the ship’s performance.
TSB: Thoroughbred racing has gotten a lot of negative press recently. Do you feel that applying your breeding and training methodologies can play a role in improving the welfare of American racehorses today? If so, how?
KT: Any sport that is high-performance and pushes the limits of performance, be it auto racing, track and field, triathlons, horse racing, and even football or baseball, will never be fail-safe. However, I do feel that any time you can add another dimension to performance horse sports by way of information, and you peel back another layer of the horse, it will have a favorable impact not only on understanding the equine athlete as an individual but also in the way that the athlete is prepared. Any sport of high intensity and physical demands lends itself to physical and emotional breakdowns, but there are contributing factors that might well be assuaged with added information that will assist in developing individually specific training and breeding paradigms. The sport of horse racing is something I dearly love, and I want to continue to do all I can to support it in a responsible manner. I don’t have all the answers, no one does, but I do feel that anytime you begin to add more information, in my case, the individual psychology of the horse, or as I call it, his Emotional Conformation Profile, and we embrace that it is the mental capacity of the equine that controls the physical output of the athlete, we begin to develop the athlete while still nurturing the horse. Profiling horses for pre-purchase inspections can be a great asset to the horse and the potential owner to see if the horse has the psychological strength and trainable mind to achieve the goals that will be placed before him. Putting a round peg into a square hole is not going to work. It isn’t that one horse is “better” than the next as much as it is some horses would fit better and be happier and more successful with different goals. The goals for the horse, whatever the discipline, must be achievable goals.
TSB: Racing has been the first horse sport to embrace your ideas, but the Thomas Herding Technique has applications in all equestrian disciplines. How do you feel your methods can help the trainers of reining, cutting, endurance, jumping, and dressage horses?
KT: Regardless of the discipline, any time that you can bring more information about your horse to the fore, it is helping you understand the horse you are working with. Emotional Conformation Profiling and Behavioral Genetic Research is a study without disciplinary confinement. It’s about the horse—my job is to study and discover and catalogue the ingredients that make up “who” the horse is so that innovative ways can be developed to create environments that allow the horse to become the best “who” that they can be, in both a physically and emotionally responsible manner. I have profiled horses for all disciplines, as well as for those seeking a backyard pony for their little girl. Among the most overlooked and underutilized aspects of horses is the reality that understanding and training the horse, whether competitive athlete or therapy mount or pleasure horse, has to be approached from two fronts: You develop the athlete, you nurture the horse.
TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?
KT: A Pryor Mountain Mustang mare and the book Treasure Island!
TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?
KT: Cold water, V-8 juice, fruit cocktail, and empty space…
TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
KT: Seeing smiles on children’s faces when they discover something wonderful and exciting for the first time in their lives.
TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.
KT: I was at a friend’s barn with my dad when I was a child and he sat me on a horse. I was about five or six years old, and I also remember when he was taking me off, the horse bit me, so I decided I didn’t like horses. But I have since changed my mind…
TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.
KT: I was trying to impress a neighbor girl, when I was about 10 or so, with my ability to ride bareback. However I had never done that before (nor have I attempted it since), and when I pressed the gas pedal, I slid right off. I ran home!!
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?
KT: Someone who sees who you are and not what you have.
TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?
KT: Horses that seem to understand me long before I understand them.
TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback or with a horse that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?
KT: Continue to advance and make new discoveries in emotional wellness programs for humans. It’s my passion.
TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?
KT: The one I didn’t have to cook!
TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?
KT: Hiking along a private beach or in the mountains.
TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?
KT: Abraham Lincoln.
TSB: What is your motto?
“You must endeavor to understand, before you seek to be understood.” –Kerry M. Thomas
The new book by Kerry Thomas, HORSE PROFILING: THE SECRET TO MOTIVATING EQUINE ATHLETES is available from the TSB bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE. Blog Bonus!!! Enter the coupon code TSBBLOG15 to get 15% off your entire order!!