THT Bloodstock

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Psycho-Sensory System and Injury

Posted on January 24, 2015 at 4:45 PM



Psychology of Motion

Psycho-Sensory System Relative To Injury

(Part Two of the Previous Post)

Position Paper


Kerry M Thomas




There are always collateral pieces of information we gather along the way during our work at sales panning for gold. Something that has emerged for me personally is the reciprocity between physical stress and emotional stress. We’re always seeking to understand how well the psycho-sensory system manages the body, which is very important when coupled with the physical inspections because we’re asking the additional question; how hard will this horse be on themselves?

It is a truth at every sale, there are horses that a lot of folks will pass over because of some physical issue or another, be those major or minor issues or issues that because of individual caprice turns a buyer away. Yet down the road that very horse pops up on the radar and in spite of the physical “issues”, is racing very well.

I have come to the conclusion that when you have a horse with some minor physical flaws that has you on the fence, the consideration of the herd dynamic and psycho-sensory system plays a huge part.

Because the sensory system has direct influence over physical action/reaction and overall body control, it plays a key role in how hard a horse will be on their body; emotional stress expresses itself physically in knee jerk reactions and loss of purposeful motion, which then opens that door to injuries wider. I also feel then, the opposite is true as well; more sensory soundness, better the self preservation.

An inefficient sensory system that has trouble spots, “sticky” spots when stimulus is being transitioned through the aforementioned sequence of; identification, interpretation, physical response, is like a car hitting a pothole. The rippling and shimmy after you hit the pothole is the physical reaction coming out in not so purposeful motion, and this is the moment when you can get a flat.

When you’re considering a horse that has some minor issues physically it becomes important to investigate the sensory system for any correlating sensory potholes that might exacerbate the issue. I have come to believe, and I am determined to dig into this much deeper in the coming year, that certain sensory potholes have reciprocal physical concerns.

I also believe that even with minor physical concerns, the horse that uses themselves well is less likely to over-stress the areas of concern. Just like we always want the horse to “walk through themselves” physically, I want the horse whose sensory system allows them to “move through themselves freely.”

For example, I believe that it makes total sense that the horse with a sticking spot forward, where the body is moving faster than the psycho-sensory system is interpreting; there will be correlating stress on the body front to back physically because of the way they will react. I also feel the same correlation is true for sensory potholes on the obliques of the horse and in the rear feel of the horse. Anything that creates uncontrolled or non-purposeful physical motion lends itself to physical stress, and thus injury. These are things that I feel are true, and areas of research I intend to continue to investigate.

Going back to the concept that the sensory system leads the way for the body to move into space freely, it also tells the horse where not to go, and what to avoid. When we see horses at the sales that get chased a bit to walk better, most often I see the exact opposite happening. The sensory system, aware of the water bottle or broom in their flank or rear, creates stress in the body and the ears go back, the horse can become skittish, or want to turn or become nearly stuck to the ground… just a small example of the sensory system leading the way or moving them away from, or stopping them dead in their tracks to avoid “attack”.

I personally always ask that the handlers do not apply this sensory pressure, I want to see the natural horse without over-loaded sensory stimuli; I need to get a feel for ‘who’ the horse is to better ascertain what the athlete in them can become.

We must be mindful that unlike race cars, race horses are emotional athletes, and very often are a reflection of their environment. The tools they have to interpret that environment are essential for your chances to succeed. This makes an evaluation of them of great importance, and that is exactly the focus of our work at THT Bloodstock.

There’s always more to come, more work to do, far more research ahead than behind; for the one thing I’ve learned about horses, is that I can always learn more.



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