For the Love of Thoroughbred Horse Racing!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

ZATT Recommended Reading ...

Thomas Herding Technique
Discovering the Communicated Equine

The Magic Within

A View from the Hoof

A book by Kerry M. Thomas with Calvin L. Carter

I would like to take a moment to introduce you to my book which, for me, is the culmination of an eclectic-style research of the psychology of the horse.

The book takes the reader on a journey of discovery of the intimate drama of life in the equine circle. Along the way, you get to see what a view from the hoof is like as I delve into the developing mind of the horse and its Behavioral Genetics which is measured by a term I refer to as Emotional Conformation. The esoteric information within the emergent properties of the equine psychology, behavior, influences every aspect of its life from breeding to training, pre-purchasing, and even a horse’s adoptability. I truly believe that you have to nurture the horse before you develop the athlete.

True horsemanship is the act of managing fear, while providing comfort.

Is your horse hitting the wall? Your equine athlete may be physically fit, but still seemingly aloof and disinterested. Physically fit but mentally bored is a serious but very common issue. Mental Fitness is your key to ultimate success but is perhaps one of the most underutilized aspects of horsemanship.

“Indeed, 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. This makes it very clear that while physical ability is important, the mental capacity of the equine controls the physical output of the athlete…”

Whether you are a breeder, trainer, casual rider, or just a human who loves horses, your deeper understanding of the minute intricacies of this rather private, but social animal is crucial for its health and well being. Within the pages of this book, it is my hope to take you on a journey inside the magic that is within the spirit of the horse.


Kerry M. Thomas, Founder of the Thomas Herding Technique

To purchase an e-book download, please go to:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stormin Fever is Hot

Don’t look now, but there is a sire who is quietly building one of the most impressive foal crops of 2007. With one of the horses to beat in Saturday’s Travers, arguable the best filly in Canada, and one of the top turf fillies on the East Coast, Stormin Fever has become a red hot sire. Last year he was the leading sire of juveniles in California by both winners and earnings. In 2010, Stormin Fever is only building on that success, and is on his way to having his finest year at stud to date. And the best may be yet to come, as horses like A Little Warm, Biofuel, and Check the Label are surging to the tops of their respective divisions. Regally bred, the 16-year-old sire is a son of the outstanding sire, and sire of sires, Storm Cat, and out of a mare by the great Seattle Slew, named Pennant Fever.

On the track, Stormin Fever ran successfully for Edward Evans over four seasons in the late 90’s. A winner of eight races, he was a graded stakes winning sprinter, and also finished second in back-to-back renewals of the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes. Stormin Fever was perhaps best known as a runner, for coming within a whisker of defeating Horse of the Year Skip Away in the 1 1/16 mile Iselin Handicap. Here is the a video of that outstanding performance.

Standing at Golden Eagle Farm in California, Stormin Fever currently carries a modest $5,000 stud fee. This surely is quite the bargain as he has already sired nearly 30 stakes winners, including three grade one winners. Known as a sire for any surface, it is interesting to note that his three star performers this year have all flourished on different surfaces, A Little Warm on dirt, Biofuel on synthetics, and Check the Label on the grass. Before this year, this versatile stallion was best known as the sire of the millionaire Sweet Talker who won the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on the turf in 2005, as well as the winner of the Santa Margarita on dirt that same year, Tarlow. Other current runners of note for Stormin Fever include Mambo Fever and King Ledley.

What’s in store for offspring of Stormin Fever for the rest of 2010? We will find out more in a few days, as A Little Warm will try to carry his speed ten furlongs for the first time and win the prestigious Mid-Summer Derby. Or maybe a signature win will come at Keeneland this Fall, when Check the Label lines up with a big chance to emulate Sweet Talker in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Or could the sire get his first Breeders' Cup winner when Biofuel makes another attempt in November? She almost won the Juvenile Fillies last year, and she is my current longshot selection for the Ladies’ Classic. One thing is for sure, Stormin Fever is a stallion on a roll.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Say No to Drugs

Senator Bernie Sanders
332 Dirksen Building
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

July 7, 2010

Dear Senator Sanders:

I am writing to you because you are one of the few politicians for whom I have respect. In the past, I have written to my Senator(s) and to the Committee in charge of investigating the horse racing industry, but did not receive so much as an acknowledgement of my letters, much less did there appear to be any action taken. A lot of hoopla, no substance. Perhaps this is just the way things are in D.C. but I have noticed that you not only make noise, you accompany it with action. I am a fan.

I have been a supporter of the horse racing industry for a few years now. It is my favorite sport and it is devastating how it is imploding. Tracks are closing, people are losing their jobs, horses are being slaughtered for meat and no one seems to have an answer. Chaos has ensued. Quite frankly, sir, the industry is in crisis. It needs help.

One of the subjects which is continually swept under the carpet is the issue of medication. The Committee convened two years ago after the death of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby touched upon it somewhat, but did not fully investigate - at least not to my satisfaction - the effects of drugs on horses. Horses in Europe and Australia do not use Lasix, Clenbuterol or any other medication on race day. The death and injury rate of European and Australian horses is far lower than the death and injury rates of horses in this country.

The Europeans also take a different tactic when a trainer is found to have broken the rules about medication. They are ruled off / banned for life. In the U.S., it is an entirely different story. Trainers here are fined, often a very small amount (in some states as low as $50) and allowed to continue training. There have been trainers of note who have been given larger fines and have been suspended for thirty days or more, e.g., Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Rick Dutrow, Jeff Mullins, for repeated violations and substantial infractions of the rules. Yet, these repeater cheaters are back at work, with seemingly nary a care, getting quality horses and winning stakes races while their honest counterparts with zero violations are stuck training lower-level claiming horses and making very little money.

And this is not the end of the story. Because who do you think is really getting stuck with the short end of the stick in all of this? The consumer of the horse racing product - the gambler. We are constantly being defrauded by the racing boards who continually allow these trainers to break the rules and retain their license.

Attached are examples from the California Horse Racing Board which shows how we, the consumer, have been duped and ripped off for our monies. In both cases, the trainer in question has had multiple violations. In each case, the horse is tested after the race and declared over the limit for medication. The purse money is returned by the original winners’ owner, trainer, et al and re-distributed to the place horse and the other top four finishers. However, there is no re-distribution of the mutuel pool money. Those of us who now have winning tickets receive no compensation and have no recourse to recover our initial investment nor whatever winnings we would have been awarded.

I understand that it would be virtually impossible to recall the tickets deemed winners on the day of the race and re-distribute the mutuel pool. What I propose is that race day medication be banned and that the trainers who repeatedly violate the rules be ruled off for life. It would be better for the horses and better for the industry as a whole. The statistics in other countries show that there would be fewer breakdowns of the horses. The trainers would be rewarded for their ability to train, not their ability to administer medication. And the consumers of the horse racing product would know that the information given to them in the past performances and the Daily Racing Form is accurate. No longer would we have to factor in a trainer’s propensity for using illegal medication(s) or improperly medicating the horse when deciding how to make our wagers.

I have attached copies of the California Horse Racing Board Stewards’ Decisions to this letter. Senator Sanders, I hope you can help. I would appreciate it very much. I am sure many others, including the horses, would be grateful as well.

Yours truly,
Traci Spencer Roche

Friday, July 9, 2010

Emotional Conformation Profiling:

“Discovering the Communicated Equine…”

by  Kerry M Thomas  (Founder - Thomas Herding Technique)

Any pedigree expert will tell you that you can breed a high standing sire to a wonderful, proven mare and, yet, two of their full-blood offspring, seemingly equal in physical stature and racing ability, will often have vast differences in performance levels on the racetrack. One horse may be an excellent runner while the other is a mediocre or poor runner.

At stud, the excellent runner may have offspring that are less talented than the sire while the mediocre horse produces offspring that excel at the racetrack. Both horses have the same genetic origin and, yet, their history and the history of their offspring can be vastly different.

Indeed, 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.

This makes it very clear that while physical ability is important, the mental capacity of the equine controls the physical output of the athlete.

What is Emotional Conformation?

When buying, selling, training or breeding, all horses are graded on Conformation which is an analysis of the overall physical horse. In addition to physical conformation, I grade a horse’s Emotional Conformation which is a term I use to describe the psychology of the horse and I use it to analyze the behavioral dynamics, as well as the social tendencies, that impact the potential of the individual horse. Because the overall mental capacity and aptitude of each horse is made up of both seen and unseen emergent properties and tendencies of behavior, the mental preparedness of a horse, to react and interact with environmental and social dynamics, becomes a vital indicator of its ability and a source of important information for anyone working with horses. It matters not whether you are preparing an Emotional Conformation Profile of a therapy horse, a high-end thoroughbred or show horse, Emotional Conformation is the indicator of that horse’s ability and understanding that is important if one is going to help that horse become a successful competitor and or stallion.

In addition to physical characteristics, if you believe that each horse has obvious individual personality traits, then you must also realize that the horse is more dependent on one of those traits than the other for survival. The machine, if you will, is the physical conformation. The pilot of that machine is Emotional Conformation.

Physical conformation only gives one a partial glance at the ability of an individual horse. Emotional Conformation can reveal if it has the heart and mind of a potential champion.

How Do We Do It?

Emotional Conformation Profiling can best be described as an attempt to fit together the pieces of the behavioral puzzle of the horse. To meet this end, I designed a personality test called the Thomas Herding Technique EthoGrade Scale which measures the Emotional Conformation of the horse. The EthoGrade Scale came to be out of necessity of proper note-taking while studying and researching wild horse herds and was then reworked where needed so that it was relevant for me to apply to horses living in a domestic environment. The environment is the only thing that changes. The subject matter and the way Emotional Conformation is determined is mostly the same.

The EthoGrade is made up of 28 different, though congruent, answers to behavioral and personality questions I created. Since the horse is incapable of answering questions on a piece of paper, one has to observe and research the horse in as non-invasive a manner as possible, in as many different but normally occurring circumstances as there are in a given environment.

Preparing an Emotional Conformation Profile can be likened to putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Think of a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle inside a box. On the cover of the box is the picture of a lovely horse – in all its splendid beauty. You can clearly see the physical conformation in the picture of the horse. The pieces within the box, once opened and strewn across your table, are the separate pieces that when put together make up the whole of what you see on the box cover.

Like the jigsaw puzzle, your horse comes in two parts - the physical (puzzle box) and the emotional (puzzle pieces). When profiling for Emotional Conformation, I am observing to identify those individual pieces and make note of them by way of the EthoGrade. Much like the many pieces of your jigsaw puzzle, the individual nuances, behavioral tendencies, emergent and obvious behavioral dynamics, are all the parts of the equine psyche or mental aptitude. When fit together, a very unique profile comes into view.

I must stress here that an Emotional Conformation Profile is not a tool for changing the horse but it is an indicator of its ability and potential. The horse is what the horse is and Emotional Conformation goes far in unveiling that. Emotional Conformation establishes a Personality Propensity Typing profile which translates the behavioral dynamics of a horse into a letter grade and potential number that I refer to as the P-Type. (For more information on the P-Type you can refer to as well as, which is the Lexington, Kentucky farm base of the Thomas Herding Technique.)

Once you have a P-Typed profile of the horse, you have a foundation point from which to start and you have the opportunity to help it reach its fullest potential.

How Do We Use It?

The Emotional Conformation P-Type profile becomes highly efficacious for many avenues from pre-purchasing to breeding as it is an immediate indicator of the psychological profile of the horse. The P-Type grade is a powerful tool in the tool shed because it is information that adds value to your equine investment you own, purchase, breed or have in training.

One of the ways to work toward the development of your horse is to use the profile as a cornerstone for the development of an individual playbook that is designed to elevate the “who” into “what could be.” Mentally nurturing your horse is vitally important for overall health and success. An Emotional Conformation Profile of the horse can go a long way in your decision making process – be it for therapy horse or athlete. (To read essays and articles such as Breeding for Behavior…, please visit A profile of the in-training athlete or therapy horse also is an essential asset when seeking to find ways to elevate the horse, or work through potential withholds by finding the sweet spot, that comfort zone that releases your horse’s true ability.

Aside from individual profiling other options are available. Maternity Band Profiling, as well as total Herd Profiling, are useful tools for culling your herd and separating individuals into the best possible protocols for success.

An Emotional Conformation Profile can answer the myriad of questions one often has when working with horses: should my horse go into training; be a broodmare; what is the best situation or environment to maintain my horse’s mental health while it is convalescing in the stall or shipping; should I buy this horse.

In then end, the more you know about your horse, the better your relationship will be and it matters not what the goals are for that relationship. The concept of Emotional Conformation Profiling operates in three ways: Investigate, Evaluate and Apply.

My main goal with Emotional Conformation Profiling is to help bring the horse into focus.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Handicapping With an Edge

Unless you’re an industry insider like an owner or trainer or some industry executive, for the rest of us this game is all about cashing tickets. And to cash tickets consistently there is one thing you need to have, an edge.  Somewhere within the race you are handicapping and the past performances you are studying lies an edge. You have to discover it, learn how it’s being applied and correctly weigh it against the rest of the field if you are going to achieve success and cash a ticket on this race.  This edge I speak of is an angle, a maneuver where a horse or trainer is trying to create a way to get to the winner’s circle. This angle has to be realized and the intent must be understood in order to be able to reap the benefits

There are so many unknowns in this game that it would be just impossible to win consistently going at it without an edge. For instance, about 20 years ago I was at Penn National Racecourse in Pennsylvania and as I was waiting to see the horses come onto the track I realized that they were all lined up on the side of the walking ring in the Receiving Barn.  With many United States racetracks you can’t see the horses prior to the race in the Receiving Barn. Many times you can’t see the horses prior to the race till they get on the track so I thought it would be a good thing to see the horses prior to entering the track giving me more time to check out their body language.  What opened my eyes was the fact that most of the horses in the Receiving Barn had one of their legs in a bucket of iced water! Here I was following this game for years not realizing that a horse can have his legs in iced water in the Receiving Barn just minutes prior to the race. I mean how sore are these horses that they have to be iced minutes before the race?

So I began by crossing off every horse that was being iced prior to their race. This of course knocked each race down to only a few real contenders and on the night I did well and yes two of those horses being iced had still won on the night. But I couldn’t help thinking that yet again there is another unknown to deal with in the way of trying to cash tickets.  In reality it is a very tough game to succeed at no matter where you stand. We all know about racing luck and jockeys messing up and traffic problems and jocks not reading the pace scenario correctly. There are amillion ways to lose and tear up your tickets compared to only a few ways to cash those tickets. So in order to succeed we have to discover the edges and try to use them to our advantage.

1 – Knowing how to read the pace scenario is a huge edge.
Understanding how the race will be run is a huge edge. Judging which horses will go to the front and which horses will lag can knock a race down to only a few real contenders. How many times have we watched a turf race scheduled to be run at along distance say 1 ¼ miles where one horse gets loose on the lead and never looks back? In the body of the race there is one early speed type that never won going as far as 1 1/8 miles so many would cross this horse off.

The rest of the field is filled with horses that have won 2 and 3 races in a row, at higher class levels and all look like tigers. However when the starting gate opens the speed horse gets loose on the lead, loping along under a first half mile in about 50 seconds. And of course he gallops home with an easy win leaving everyone that didn’t have him pissed.

So knowing the pace scenario and how the race is going to be run can bea big edge. After that you can rate horses as to where and what position they should be in at certain points of the race by knowing how fast the early pace figures are you can estimate which horses will be able to rally and which horses should start to flatten out.

2- Each horse’s block of past performances tells a story.
What I try to do is read and interpret each horse’s set of past performances and create a kind of profile for each horse.

Once I have done this I start to compare each horse’s profile against each other and figure out if any horse has a likeable edge that I feel can make the difference in them winning today’s race. Then I work on how the race figures to be run and how this horse with the likeable edge fits in.

For instance let’s say that I have found a horse with a decided class edge. He has been knocking heads with several horses that are real tigers, fighting every step of the way in seemingly almost every race they run.

Today our angle horse is dropping into a much softer spot although entered at the same class level of his last three starts. So unless you know or realize the abilities of the horses he was facing in his last few starts this class drop goes undetected. On the board our angle horse is 12-1.

However, according to how the race will be run, our 12-1 shot will be running about 8th in the early going because there is an abundance of early speed signed on. So while this horse has a class edge it gets negated because he is going to be too far back for my liking.

3- Sometimes I like to skip a race.
If I can’t find an edge or an edge that I like enough and have confidence in backing then I will simply skip the race. If I find more than one horse in the race with an edge or an angle that I like then of course I will try and bet according to how the horses are telling me they will run.

Since I feel both of these horses are telling me they are going to run big races today, instead of trying to toss one of these horses out I will use both of them in perhaps a Double or an Exacta or in my Pick-3’s and Pick-4’s. In doing this I feel I am locking up the race.

These three edges I have discussed should open up some new paths and ideas in your handicapping. In the next issue I’ll get into more ways to find some more hidden angles that can turn into some very rewarding edges.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Behavioral Overcompensation: The Greatest Hurdle for Efficiency-Of-Motion…

by Kerry M Thomas
Like its cousins running free in the wild, the horse was born to run– swift and magnificent. But one of the greatest obstacles preventing it from becoming a successful equine athlete is Behavioral Overcompensation.

What is Behavioral Overcompensation?
It is when the equine athlete alters its natural running style, due to a physical or an emotionally-perceived restriction, resulting in a loss of the athlete’s efficiency of motion.

What causes Behavioral Overcompensation?
Footing surface and condition, blinkers, shadow rolls and even the tack a horse wears are a few examples of physical restrictions that can cause the horse to alter its natural running style. Emotional restrictions canstem from experiences on the racetrack such as when the horse has been banged and jostled about resulting in cautious or timid behavior.

The horse has to feel comfortable and have confidence in order to perform at peak levels. Even being asked to run in a race can sometimes cause Behavioral Overcompensation. The late world-renowned breeder and trainer Federico Tesio, in his book Breeding the Racehorse, gives a good example of this when he tells the story of a horse entered in the starting gate but when the gate was opened the horse refused to run.Anything, physical or emotional, real or anticipated, that restricts freedom of movement can result in Behavioral Overcompensation and it is the toughest challenge for domesticated horses to overcome.

The most important factor for the equine athlete is to perform with peak efficiency of motion. If your horse does not transition well, orswiftly, he/she is not being efficient, and you are not getting the mostfrom their ability.Emotional Conformation can help you identify those areas where your horse may feel restricted and inclined to alter its natural running style.

Behavior Overcompensation and Speed
There is a steep set of basement steps in my older home, yet I can swiftly traverse them without any fear of falling when all of my senses– vision, touch and hearing – allow me to safely navigate the stairway. However, on laundry day I cautiously walk down the stairs because my vision is obstructed by the basket full of clothes I’m carrying. I still make it safely down the steps but I have to over compensate for the lack of vision by using my feet to help guide me to the bottom of the stairs. I complete the same distance from the top of the stairs to the washing machine, however, I do so in a slower time in motion.

Behavior Overcompensation and Pace
When protracted time in motion is combined with speed, the efficiency with which a given distance is covered is ultimately controlled by focusability; concentration. If you think of it like a relay race where abaton is passed from hand to hand, the first leg of the race will always be started by reaction and speed. Yet as the time in motion protracts and the burst of physical energy is waning, a different strategy is employed to maintain motion – the baton is handed over from speed to the hand of pace. Focus thus becomes the determining factor of the efficiency with which physical distance is covered. This means that during a race you can have two horses, side-by-side, covering the same distance of ground, each with exactly equal physical ability, but the two horses can have different time in motion. The determining factor between them, if indeed each horse is physically equal, is thus their individual ability to manage the time they are in motion. Over distance horses are less reliant on pure speed and more reliant on focus ability which determines pace. Mental training, mental nurturing and training forward the focus ability is the key to efficient motion.

The Herd Dynamics of Focus and Concentration
The efficient transition from speed to pace is obviously different from individual to individual. The equine athlete’s Individual Herd Dynamic determines this and can be found in investigating the Emotional Conformation of the horse. An evaluation of this determines the P-Type (Personality Propensity Typing) which is a system developed by the Thomas Herding Technique to indicate the horse’s individual herd dynamic and range.

Once we determine the horse’s naturally occurring focus agility w ealso get a gauge on its distance aptitude. The goal is not to change the natural equine athlete but to find ways to make it more efficient.Training for physical speed, getting the horse physically fit to cover adistance of ground is obviously necessary; covering that distance efficiently and with pace means negotiating the time in motion. The ability to stay focused while moving determines the time at which the distance will be covered.

A good experiment to measure focus agility and how it affects time in motion is to go to a track where you exercise by walking laps and time how long it takes to walk a lap with a stop watch. You can easily see how concentration determines how time in motion and distance are anything but the same. The first lap you make an effort to concentrate on your motion. Smooth and relaxed you go; never losing focus you cross the line and hit your stop watch. The next day you repeat the exercise but you are not so focused because there are other people walking or running laps, your mind wonders a bit because of emotional distraction.  Even though you are the same athlete covering the same distance your time is slower.

A key element to maximizing the potential in your equine athlete is within the effort to make them as efficient as they can be within their individual herd dynamic. Different emergent properties and behavioral tendencies showcase themselves in style of motion. Getting the equineathlete physically fit can only be fully maximized by an efficiency ofpace within the time in motion required to cover a distance of ground.Mental Stimulus Training protocols can be developed as part of the overall process to elevate the individual athlete.

For me, I use this simple equation: physical energy (speed) + emotional energy (the ability to maintain pace) = time in motion.