|Posted on May 6, 2015 at 8:35 AM|
2015 Kentucky Derby
(The following is the introduction piece written for the KY Derby 141 Analysis)
Learning is a constant evolution by its very nature, and it is not only the cornerstone of our work and vision at THT Bloodstock but also for me as a person. Growth can only be measured by the transformation of itself from one thing to another based upon experience even if at the time those experiences are a mystery and you know not what might emerge from them. It is the mystery of the horse that drives my passion; not what has been discovered, but what is yet to be.
As we now have moved into year five of our Kentucky Derby Analysis I want to once again thank you, both the new and the returning buyer of this product, for doing so. On behalf of both Pete Denk and I, the appreciation we have for your support and interest in the efforts we make cannot be overstated. The development of these profiles for the Derby is a monumental task, but a labor of love to be sure and also a chance for us to apply more of the things we continue to learn in our endless journey studying equine psychology and the Herd Dynamics.
Kentucky Derby 141 is flush with upper level herd dynamics and anything but easy to differentiate. Our view into this inner world of the individual horse has been greatly enhanced over the last year as we collect and track our data from thousands of horses both evaluated at auction and in our work profiling performances. We continue to build this bank of knowledge and have expanded to include a growing list of Stallion Profiles we make available for breeding purposes and progeny/weanling research.
This year’s study afforded us a unique opportunity to include where possible our auction evaluation notes. There were several athletes that we evaluated in the sales environment and made our herd dynamic short list who distinguished themselves on the Derby Trail. Having had the opportunity to study these horses in depth as they mentally grow has taken our work to a new level. After several years of hard work and study we have built a growing database of ingredients to monitor how these translate to athletic ability. We continue to chisel down the primary focus points in our unique evaluation system with practical applications found both in the profiles we produce and the services we offer.
I have long held fast to the belief that patterns of behavior translate to patterns of motion, that sensory soundness and the efficiency of the psycho-sensory system, mentality, is the key to both adaptability and stress management. As emotional athletes, horses are often a reflection of their environment, and like any athlete in any sport, the ingredients of greatness lay just as much in the psychological as they do in the physical. And, just like in other professional sports, the closer the athletes become in their physical abilities, the dividing factor begins to shift to their psychological strengths; things we call, grit, will-power, class, heart.
The mental capacity of the equine controls the physical output of the athlete.
In order for a horse to move freely and efficiently into space their sensory system must first clear the path as it leads the body; the sensory super highway is the pilot steering the vessel if you will. The horse’s capacity to optimize physical ability, or even rise above it, lay within the efficiency of their psycho-sensory system. A natural pattern of motion is a physical reflection of naturally occurring psychological rhythms, this emotional energy distribution is innately even allowing for the optimization of physical ability. The sensory system must identify stimuli and then funnel the information into the psyche where that stimulus is then interpreted. Proper interpretation allows for a smooth and sequential purposeful motion. At a high rate of physical speed in the midst of herd chaos and stress, the efficiency of this rapid-fire sequence is tested and thus begins to separate the horses over a period of time-in-motion within their natural leadership roles, their herd dynamics. There’s a big difference between horses whose psycho-sensory system leads their body and of those that do not.
If the sensory system, the ‘radar-egg’ around the horse did not have influence over the physical horse, the horse then would simply be a machine of no reaction. Blinkers, shadow rolls, screens… would be sensory modifiers never developed because they would have no effect. The horse walking in a sale environment being asked to walk faster by the use of a broom would not react to it, nor would the horse respond to your intentions, your emotions, your body language, they wouldn’t show signs of stress or fear or look playful in the pasture. These are real things, they really happen, they impact the horses daily life, they impact the horses ability to perform.
I personally feel that every horse should have the opportunity to excel and grow with the full use of their natural sensory systems without inhibitors. I think once you gain a full understanding of the psychology of your athlete a coaching-up program that fits them individually offers a healthier longevity. I feel too, that because the sensory system (identifying) and psycho-sensory system (interpretational) leads the physical horse through space, mental coaching and sensory enrichment should supersede that of the physical. Let the body catch-up to the mind, not the other way around. This is the basis for the old adage, “be patient”. Like ourselves, individual horses learn, grow, and season, to the beat of their own unique drum. Nurture the horse, develop the athlete.
I adhere to a common mantra in my work, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so if the sensory system can optimize the physical, it can also pinion it. The inability to translate information and adapt quickly to changing environments ultimately begins to chip away at any physical advantage the horse has; especially in elevated competition, most especially in classic distance races. Of course, in a horse race comprised of elite athletes anything can happen, so we must look at the body of work and at consistency of performance. Our job at THT Bloodstock is not to determine what the horse is, but to do the detective work necessary to identify who the horse is; scouting potential is about projecting the future, and because the psyche manages the growth patterns, gaining an in-depth understanding of that psyche is essential to that projection. Our work is not that of saying who will and who will not, but rather in evaluating probability by focusing on sensory soundness and mental aptitude, the command center of the athlete.
When it comes to applying the herd dynamics to handicapping, psychological versatility should not be underappreciated. As you go through the following profiles of the Derby Contenders, and as you put together the pieces of your own puzzle and plays, we work to offer you another window from which to see the race, not as a whole group, but as individuals who thus make up the whole.
When studying a horse I care less about where the horse finishes physically in a given race than I do about where they’re finishing psychologically against their peers. When you look for things that key you in on psychological growth patterns you begin to unveil the emerging character of the equine athlete’s one to the other. These growth patterns are in my opinion useful to note when handicapping a field such as the Kentucky Derby as it’s like putting together a puzzle of both athleticism and psychological versatility in varying environments. I always lean toward the horse whose psychological ‘speed’ and rhythms are the same regardless of the speed of the physical body.
Another essential ingredient lay in the area of influence. High level horses have the ability to influence other horses without themselves being influenced. The difference between elite herd dynamic athletes and their subaltern counterparts lies in the area of their ability to impress their will upon the world around them. Horses with elite minds can supersede physical expectations; mid-level horses can achieve to them.
It is vitally important to keep in mind when looking at individual profiles that a snap-shot of the physical placement of a group of horses at the end of a race does not always indicate the natural herd dynamic hierarchy of them individually. I never get too excited by ‘a’ performance, but by the aforementioned growth patterns in juxtaposed performances. Circumstances can dictate physical location; herd dynamics allows them to manage that.
This year’s Derby has in my opinion a deep collection of highly capable herd dynamics and mental profiles, leaving us much to consider in the smallest of ingredients. Separating the top tier horses in herd dynamic order is not unlike splitting hairs. For me the challenge is very exciting and as I always say, on any given day…; it is our goal with this report to offer a deeper window into the psychological and sensory aspects of the individual athletes. I look for patterns in their psychological rhythms and patterns of motion and think of these in terms of probability; how many times out of ten say, does one particular herd dynamic trump another at a mile and a quarter of time-in-motion. I have always felt that psychological versatility is made possible by sensory soundness and the lynchpin that makes a horse tactical; the ability to change gears, adapt and react to sudden changes and stresses mentally paves the way for the body to follow, taking full advantage of talent and speed.
On a personal note I have to say, looking ahead from where I now sit, I am excited and thankful, energized and tirelessly seeking to peer deeper into the window of the invisible. The growth we are experiencing and the awesome amount of detailed data we have been able to collect and track allowing us priceless research to learn from, both where we were right and where we were wrong, has us zeroing in on what I call the ingredients of greatness. This is due in large part to the tireless and dedicated efforts of Pete Denk, for whom I’m most grateful.
As a team we continue to take this work to new places and we look forward to those advancements we’ve yet to discover. Whether at a sale where the scouting process for us is not unlike an NFL Combine, or evaluating a herd of contenders seeking those who show the mental fortitude to fully optimize their athleticism, my thinking is always forward. I never look at what is, without then considering what could be, something imparted to me from my heroes, my parents, who taught their children to have fearless imaginations and to live in a forward direction.
Visit our new website THT Bloodtsock and enjoy a dig around and most certainly get in touch with us if there is anything we can do for you. In a financial game of emotionally charged athletes, the economics of behavior simply makes sense.
Thanks Pete, thanks Brisnet, and most importantly, thank you.
“Never underestimate the value of Emotional Intelligence in High Herd Dynamic athletes.”