By Calvin L. Carter
Kerry Thomas knows horses.
Thomas, age 41, has observed and worked with horses since he was 18 years old. He also studied wild mustangs on the Bighorn Mountain Range in their natural Wyoming wilderness habitat.
Thomas is an expert in understanding the fundamentals of a horse's well being and in 2008 he founded the Thomas Herding Technique — a business dedicated to helping horse owners understand the role that the environment and the natural herd dynamic has in the behavioral well being of their horses.
"The environment is the foundation from which all else stems, and it is very often the keeper of unseen stress and behavior issues we only observe much later," said Thomas. "Their movement, where they feed and how they get water, is vitally important."
If a horse is raised in a more natural setting, as opposed to an artificial environment of stalls and pristine paddocks, the horse will be better adjusted and trained more easily, added Thomas.
"The responsible caregiver has the burden to fully understand the environment the animal was taken from and re-create it," said Thomas. "A better fit into the domesticated artificial environment makes a healthier, happier horse, and an understanding of the true herding dynamics helps the horseman, or horsewoman, become better hosts of an animal that was not born to know fences or stalls."
Thomas is helping horse owners provide better equine care for their horses. He regularly gives lectures and seminars on the importance of the environment in the behavioral development of horses and his insight into the behavior of the equine species has led to him being compared to Federico Tesio — the late, great, world-renowned owner and breeder of Champion thoroughbreds.
Known as the "Wizard of Dormello," Tesio knew that "Nature knows best" and he went to great lengths to make his farm at Dormello in Northern Italy as natural and nurturing as possible for his horses. Located on the banks of beautiful Lake Maggiore, Dormello had the appearance more of an Italian Villa rather than thoroughbred farm with impressive stables and white-fenced paddocks. With its masses of flowers and park-like setting, Dormello was actually a number of little farms, each complete with its own pasture, stables and paddock. Nestled among the hills overlooking the lake, each little farm had its own population of horses — broodmares, yearling colts and fillies. Tesio specifically designed Dormello into little farms so that in the event of a disease outbreak, it would be possible to isolate it before the entire population of Dormello was infected.
According to Thomas, another advantage of Tesio establishing Dormello as a collection of several little farms is that it provided the perfect environment for the horses to be raised in the natural herd dynamic setting.
"The natural herd dynamic is an intricate social order. Whether a band of two or a band of six, there are social and communicated dynamics going on within that change little from structure to structure, group to group," said Thomas. "As in any operating social order, the fundamentals of the family social arrangement are extremely important for survival. Herd stability is maintained through its existence and all communication is founded upon it."
Indeed, Tesio was a master of understanding the herd dynamic.
As a young man, Tesio rode with Gauchos in South America and learned how to break horses from the wild herds on the Argentine Pampas. He also studied wild herds of bison on the Canadian prairies.
Tesio applied his knowledge of the herd dynamic to create a natural, stable environment for his horses at Dormello. In order to make the weaning process as smooth as possible, in the winter Tesio would send his weanlings to the estate or Marchese Incisa in Southern Italy so that they would have an extended grazing season. The result of that practice produced two of Tesio's greatest Champion racehorses — Donatello and Nearco.
"One of the greatest crimes a man can commit is the weaning of a horse far too early," said Thomas. "Maintaining a family structure for as long as possible will do much to begin the development of the emotionally sound equine."
Tesio understood that and the practice of sending his weanlings to Southern Italy for an extended grazing season was vitally important to help maintain the emotional health of the young weanlings, added Thomas.
Calvin L. Carter, a pedigree analyst and freelance writer, loves to study thoroughbred racehorses. His most recent project was to document for publication the sire and damsire line of all the American Classic winners. He currently is working on documenting that same information for all of the European Classic winners.
When it comes to Classic races, Mr. Carter says that breeding is vitally important. In 2007, he picked Rags to Riches, Curlin, and Tiago to finish in the top three positions of the Belmont. In 2008, Mr. Carter picked Da' Tara and Anak Nakal to finish in the top three finishers in the Belmont. In 2009, Mr. Carter picked the stone cold trifecta in the Preakness of Rachel Alexandra, Mine That Bird and Musket Man.
Mr. Carter can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org