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The world is revving up for the 139th Run for the Roses—that first Saturday in May when greatness is sought and horses again hold the nation’s attention for a few heart-and-ground-pounding minutes.

Last year, TSB featured author Kerry Thomas’ analysis of the 2012 Derby field, when he and his HORSE PROFILING: THE SECRET TO MOTIVATING EQUINE ATHLETES co-author Calvin Carter successfully pinpointed I’ll Have Another as a standout in the herd of competitors. Prior to that, the pair saw and named the champion potential in Animal Kingdom.

As we count down the hours until Saturday’s starting bell, we again ask Kerry and Calvin to share their thoughts on the Kentucky Derby field.

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Kerry Thomas: Patterns of Motion Analysis

“There’s this guy from Pennsylvania who has picked the last two Derby winners, both longshots, and he did it in a most ingenious way,” writes Mark Coomes in his February InsiderLouisville.com article about Kerry Thomas entitled “‘Horse Whisperer’ beats handicappers, uses behavior profiling to pick last two Derby longshots.”

“He used no speed figures, no class evaluation, none of the traditional handicapping tools,” Coomes goes on. “He used behavioral profiling. That is, he examined the way horses behave during a race, and by applying hard-earned, grassroots knowledge of equine psychology, he identified the horses that possessed the mentality and temperament required to win the wild, 2-minute stampede staged at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.”

“The one thing I can say about this year’s field of competitors is that I truly feel there will be some rather tenacious space battles and herd dynamic communication going on throughout the entire race,” says Kerry. “There are several horses with very closely related communication styles in the field at the top levels, and seeing how this plays out in their patterns of motion over time and distance should prove fascinating.”

You can read Kerry’s full Patterns of Motion Analysis of the 2013 Kentucky Derby field at www.brisnet.com/derby. (Scroll down and look for the link to the Thomas Herding Technique.) Here are some of the qualities he looks for when analyzing racehorses (and read more about his methods and techniques in his book HORSE PROFILING):

Behavioral Overcompensation: This occurs when one sensory avenue, either by physical limitation or psychological aberration, is overcompensated for its inefficiency by the use of another sensory avenue.

Buddying-Up: This occurs when a mid-level herd horse seeks the comfort of movement with another horse. “Buddy-up horses” are dependent on another horse for safety, direction, and rhythm of motion.

Emotional Conformation: The mental and emotional psychology of a horse that makes up who he is. It includes the way the horse communicates, interprets stimuli, as well as almost everything he actively does, including competing on the racetrack.

Group Herd Dynamic (GHD): This is a horse’s awareness of the group around him. It goes hand-in-hand with the ability to interpret multiple stimuli. A horse with a good group dynamic can see/feel the big picture and where the horse himself fits into that picture. A healthy group dynamic is integral for a horse to run well through traffic or come from far back in a race. Many horses with a strong Group Herd Dynamic will prefer to be near the back of the field early in a race in order to read the other members of the group’s intentions. They are in fact “sizing up the field” and determining where they want to go. The U.S. champion mare Zenyatta is the classic example of a horse with a big (“strong”) group dynamic (she also had a big individual dynamic, which she could turn on when needing to fight for space and pass horses).

Herd dynamic: This is a general term we use to describe a horse’s overall herd level (his Group and Individual Herd Dynamic combined).

Individual Herd Dynamic (IHD): This is the dynamic that involves just the self and a singular target. Example: A horse engages in a pace duel with one other horse, not thinking about the rest of the field, the length of the race, or anything else but that one-on-one struggle. Horses that rely too much on Individual Herd Dynamic will get lost if they have too much stimuli to interpret. Front-running horses that only run their best races when they are near the front of the herd, where there are limited stimuli, usually have a very high Individual Herd Dynamic. A high IHD is integral to being a good racehorse, but the best horses are strong in both IHD and GHD. When you’re only operating on one dynamic, it’s easier to have the rug pulled out from under you. And when things don’t go their way, individual dynamic horses tend to fall apart.

Egg: The horse’s “egg” is an invisible area of space surrounding the horse and varying in actual foot-distance from him—this is the comfort zone of space around the horse. Shaped much like an egg is shaped, with the more pointed part being forward, owing to the area of binocular vision, the “egg of comfort” is the area where stimuli are efficiently interpreted by the horse in any direction. It is directly related to the herd dynamic (that area around the horse that is managed by him—see above). Some areas of the horse’s egg can be rigid, hard-shelled, absorbing/cushiony, or soft-shelled.

Space infraction: This is when one horse infringes upon another horse’s comfort zone. Picture an invisible “egg” of space surrounding each horse (see above). The size of that egg is dependent on the individual horse. Some horses shy from space infractions, some feed off of close contact.

Principles of Adaptability: This is when physical change is necessitated by environmental conditions and stimuli. Mental interpretations of these happen prior to the physical response and are in place so a species can survive, learn, and evolve. Ultimately, associations evolve into perceptions, which precede anticipation, shortening the time between action and reaction.

Anticipatory Response: Principles of Adaptability allow associations to become perceptions, which can be seen as anticipation and leading to an anticipatory response prior to actual physically or emotionally driven stimuli. In a properly functioning sequence, this allows for learning and social/psychological growth; in an improperly functioning sequence, this allows for aberrations.

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Calvin Carter: Numerical Scoring System

Since 2009, intensive study of Thoroughbred pedigrees and the late Federico Tesio, a world-renowned owner, breeder and trainer of Thoroughbred racehorses, has had a tremendous impact on how Calvin Carter, co-author of HORSE PROFILING, determines if a young colt has star potential. Calvin’s research has helped him pick the classic champions I’ll Have Another, Animal Kingdom, Pour Moi, Super Saver, Lookin At Lucky, and Summer Bird. Last year, all five horses he profiled in his Kentucky Derby blog finished in the top five.

“Like an intricate puzzle, the pedigree contains many secrets of what champions are made of,” explains Calvin, “and Tesio was the master at putting all the puzzle pieces together. In addition to pedigrees, past performances and the horse’s behavior, will to win, are also important factors I look at.

“Tesio was keenly aware of the importance of behavior in determining champion Thoroughbreds. In HORSE PROFILING, Kerry Thomas and I wrote that the horse’s Emotional Conformation, his will to win, is the final piece of the breeding puzzle.”

You can read Calvin’s Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profiles, a numerical scoring system, for the 2013 Derby field on his blog CLICK HERE.

Horse-Profiling-250[1]HORSE PROFILING: THE SECRET TO MOTIVATING EQUINE ATHLETES is available now from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

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As horse people, there’s a lot we love about our new books for young horse lovers: CROWN PRINCE and CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED. We totally identify with author Linda Snow McLoon’s sense of time in a horse barn—the smells, sounds, and daily chores that make up horsekeeping and enthrall thousands of young people the world over. We appreciate her attention to “horsey details” often neglected by writers less in tune with what makes a real riding stable go ’round.

And of course, we LOVE the book covers! We are thrilled by artist Jennifer Brandon’s depictions of a young girl and the horse that owns her heart. In the course of her career, Jen has captured the the charm and personality of all kinds of animals—from beloved pets to working class farm animals to million-dollar racehorses. Oil on canvas is her medium, while artistic passion and an understanding of an animal’s personality bring her portraits to life.

We had a chance to talk to Jen about her painting process and ask her how she brings portraits to life. Check out this terrific video where she summarizes the creation of the cover art for CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED:

TSB:  Can you tell us a little about how you became an artist specializing in animal portraiture, specifically dogs and horses?

Jen: Growing up as a farm girl amidst everything alive and beautiful, my love for horses, dogs, and all animals became a very integral part of who I am today. Now, it seems the more people I meet, the more I love horses, dogs, and all animals.

Seriously though, raising horses as a child and having a mom who is a masterful painter who always encouraged me to follow my dreams, pursuing my passion for painting and specializing in equestrian and pet portraits was pretty much a no-brainer.

TSB: Can you describe a little about your creative process and the techniques you use?

Jen: My medium of choice is oil paints, typically on canvas, linen, or board. I love taking still photos of horses I’ve seen in action and re-imagining them through active brushwork on the canvas. It is so much fun to spend late nights in the studio with Billy Joel (my go-to music for painting inspiration) blasting through the speakers. Dancing around with paintbrushes in one hand and a cup of strong coffee in the other, I allow paint to move from my brush to the canvas as the horse emerges from the white canvas.

It all starts with imagining the final image on that stark white canvas. Then I mix together my base color and carefully lay the foundation for the composition. Before I know it, bold fast strokes collaborate with careful meticulous strokes to create a sense of action and movement. I love contrasting colors and values to evoke a mood of drama, while more related subtle tones give tribute to a fond memory.

TSB: What is your experience illustrating print books and what do you like best about it?

Jen: I’m thankful to have had the privilege of illustrating several children’s books. I remember devouring illustrations as a child, page by page. Through bright watercolors and energetic line, I like to encourage creativity and the concept of thinking outside the box and drawing outside the lines. Of course it’s fun to develop the story board, and begin the painting process. But I love seeing the crayon drawings it inspires children to create.

TSB: How did you come up with the image of Sarah Wagner and Crown Prince for the new BROOKMEADE YOUNG RIDERS fiction series?

Jen: After reading about the moment with Sarah and Crown Prince in the barn, it sparked an image of the immediate connection between horse and girl—a concept that hits home for me.

TSB:  Do your subjects, whether fictional or real, “come alive” for you as you paint them? How do you imagine Sarah and Crown Prince would be if you met them in real life?

Jen: More often than not my subjects “come alive” for me. Thankfully my dog is always in my studio with me, so I can always say I was just talking to him…and not my painting. I mean, who would ever talk to a painting?

I do, however, imagine Sarah being very similar to me and my best friends growing up. I feel we could all relate to her connection with Crown Prince. She seems like someone I would’ve enjoyed hanging out with.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember drawing or painting a horse.

Jen: If you look through all my sketch books from my childhood you’ll see a recurring theme…horses…horses…horses. I LOVED drawing horses. I cannot remember the very first time I drew a horse. But I can, however, remember the first commission I received to draw a horse. I was 9 years old. A sweet elderly woman from my church saw an opportunity to encourage a young girl and she paid me $75 to create a conté crayon drawing of a horse for her niece. I’d love to meet her again some day to thank her.

TSB: Do you still ride horses? If so, what do you like best about riding?

 

Artist Jennifer Brandon created the eye-catching covers for the new Brookmeade Young Riders Series by Linda Snow McLoon.

Artist Jennifer Brandon created the eye-catching covers for the new Brookmeade Young Riders Series by Linda Snow McLoon.

Jen: Unfortunately I haven’t ridden since high school. But I can tell you what I used to love most about riding was jumping on the back of my quarter horse and riding bareback and bitless and getting lost in the woods for hours on a breezy fall day with my best friends riding alongside me.

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse (or a dog!) and a book, what breed of horse (or dog!) would it be and which book would you choose?

Jen: I would have to choose my good ole’ Great Dane. He’s my studio buddy, and only he knows just how goofy I can get while painting.

As far as a book goes, it would have to be Crown Prince Challenged, of course, as I haven’t been able to read the second one in the series yet!

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

Jen: Butter and true maple syrup. Sometimes I think I could happily live off of those two ingredients. Romaine lettuce is also a staple.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Jen: Perfect happiness….I’m not sure I can do the description justice. But it would definitely have to do with being tuned in to what Christ has in store for me, and living my life in a way that reflects his grace, creativity and love. Having a healthy family and friends. Enjoying painting outside on a beautiful fall day. Gardening barefoot. Or finally completing a rock climb that’s been spitting me off!

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

Jen: Honesty and the ability to laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse (or dog)?

Jen: I can be as goofy and ridiculous as I want and they will never tell!

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

Jen: Wild caught salmon grilled to perfection with maple syrup, a side of roasted root veggies, fresh salad greens and tomatoes from our garden with mozzarella cheese, and a side of yummy garlic bread. Completed with dessert, fresh berries and ice cream from a local farm and a good strong cup a’ jo.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

Jen: I was going to say it’s a tie between painting in Rockport Massachusetts, or climbing in Boulder, Colorado, but then I remembered Italy. Italy takes the cake!

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

We’re featuring Jen’s wonderful paintings and prints on the TSB blog in the month’s ahead. Click here for more information about Jen’s custom pet portraits.

Jen: Rien Poortvliet. I’ve found him to be one of the most inspiring painters and illustrators. Not bound to presuppositions or boxes of any sort. He obviously loved his animals and was a phenomenal painter.

TSB: What is your motto?

Jen: “. . . a piece of a beautiful moment.” Derived from a moment in Sienna, Italy, where a grandfather helped his little granddaughter learn how to ride a bike for the first time on the cobblestone streets. A moment when I happened to be a bystander, watching that precious time and relationship. These are the moments that bring a smile to my face. These are the moments that make up our lives. These are the moments I love to express through paint.

Learn more about Jennifer Brandon and her superb creative talent at www.jachestudio.com.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER CROWN PRINCE AND CROWN PRINCE CHALLENGED TODAY

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With only four days until the running of the Belmont Stakes and I’ll Have Another’s shot at becoming the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, Kerry Thomas and Calvin Carter—co-authors of the new book HORSE PROFILING: THE SECRET TO MOTIVATING EQUINE ATHLETES—took a few minutes to review I’ll Have Another’s chances with us.

Twenty-nine horses have been eligible to win the Triple Crown coming into the Belmont Stakes, but of those only eleven have succeeded. In six recent runnings, horses that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, just as I’ll Have Another has, could not find the win in the last of the three-race series: Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, Charismatic in 1999, War Emblem in 2002, Funny Cide in 2003, and Smarty Jones in 2004.

Does I’ll Have Another have that something extra, that little something that in humans we’d call “grit,” “determination,” and the “will to win”? This is the question Kerry Thomas asks himself of all the horses he profiles, and it was this characteristic that made Kerry tap I’ll Have Another in the Derby back in May.

“If I’ll Have Another is healthy and sound as he has been, mentally and physically (the race for sure will be a battle of herd motion as it always is), I see nothing that would indicate this horse has anything internally that would inhibit his making history,” says Kerry. “His patterns of motion have been consistent and seem to be getting stronger, and though I won’t have the opportunity to study the field for the Belmont as closely as I did the Derby, I’ll Have Another has incredible mental soundness. His Emotional Conformation and Herd Dynamic is second to none.”

HORSE PROFILING by Kerry Thomas with Calvin Carter is available from HorseandRiderBooks.com.

“I liked both I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes,” adds Kerry’s co-author Calvin Carter. “While I especially liked the pedigree of Bodemeister, Kerry ranked I’ll Have Another higher than Bodemeister in his behavioral analysis of the Kentucky Derby contenders for the online magazine Kentucky Confidential. That’s important to note that while a horse may have a good pedigree or physical conformation, his behavior or Emotional Conformation is the final piece of the breeding puzzle, which is necessary to determine if the horse has the heart and mind to be an equine champion. While I haven’t seen the list of other competitors, I’ll Have Another has the right Emotional Conformation Profile as well as the breeding and pedigree to win the Belmont Stakes and become the twelfth Triple Crown winner—the first since Affirmed last won it in 1978.”

You can learn more about Kerry’s Thomas Herding Technique and his method of Emotional Conformation Profiling in the new book HORSE PROFILING, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF HORSE PROFILING TODAY

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TSB author Anna Morgan Ford is featured in the July issue of Practical Horseman, available now.

Anna Morgan Ford, Program Director at New Vocations Racehorse Adoption and author of BEYOND THE TRACK (with equine journalist Amber Heintzberger) is featured in a two-part series in the July and August issues of Practical Horseman magazine. The articles, by Kim F. Miller, are based on the techniques Anna uses to prepare off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs) for a new life and a new career at New Vocations. In addition, you can find excerpts from Anna’s bestselling book BEYOND THE TRACK on Equisearch.com.

As Triple-Crown season winds down and racing no longer dominates prime time, many of us forget about the amazing Thoroughbreds who train and race hard during the early years of their life, often to find themselves “retired” from the track—due to injury or poor record—at a young age. These horses are often capable, athletic, and sane, and more than ready to enjoy life with you on the trail or in the competitive arena. Anna Ford’s book BEYOND THE TRACK makes it possible for any compassionate horse person to make an OTTB his or her next riding partner, and to successfully and safely transition the horse to life after the home stretch.

The first part of “From Track to the Arena,” featuring Anna Ford  and covering turnout, nutrition, leading, and ground manners, is in the July issue of Practical Horseman, which is available now wherever magazines are sold.

BEYOND THE TRACK is available from the TSB bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

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