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Equine Therapy: Do We Neglect the Emotional Side of Horses?

emotional horsesWhile the power, beauty and grace of a horse can easily fascinate those who are both new and old to horses, are we sometimes so overcome by the physical appearance of horses that we fail to understand the emotional makeup of our equine friends? Or, perhaps, even worse, do we simply not believe that horses can be profiled on an emotional level in the same way people can?

There is one man who would strongly disagree.

Kerry Thomas is a simple man. Born color blind, he sees the world in black and white, but more importantly, he sees the world much in the same way horses do, having studied wild herds in Wyoming and Montana. To him, the emotional makeup of the horse is more important than the color, conformation, or even athletic ability of a horse. As far as he’s concerned, the mental capacity of the horse controls the physical output, and to that end, he is looking for a trainable mind.

So just how does one discern whether or not a horse has a trainable mind? By watching them, of course. Thomas clarifies, “To understand any species, means to understand the environment in which they are geared to live.” And this is what Thomas spent several years doing, while he was out studying wild herds in Wyoming and Montana. What he learned about how horses manage space and react to stimuli, offers a window into their emotional world. These patterns of behavior, Thomas explains, then translate into physical patterns of motion.

What this means to the equine therapy world is that the way horses manage space within a herd is very telling in terms of the emotional make-up of the horse. For those who work with horses, namely equine therapists and the horse experts they often work alongside, much of their education should involve watching horses in their natural environment — in the herd, that is.

For the thoroughbred racing world, what Thomas brings is a fascinating resource. Simply by watching a young thoroughbred with his herd mates, or even in a race, this seasoned horseman can often predict the outcome on the track. And those whose money rests on the determination and grit of the sleek performance machine that is a thoroughbred racehorse, may just want to bet their money with Thomas. After all, he predicted Animal Kingdom’s Kentucky Derby win after simply watching a video replay of his past races.

For more information of Thomas, or his upcoming book, “Horse Profiling: The Secret To Motivating Equine Athletes,” visit

Horse photo available from Shutterstock.

Equine Therapy: Do We Neglect the Emotional Side of Horses?

Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT

Claire Dorotik-Nana LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in post-traumatic growth, leveraging adversity, and other epic human achievements. Claire has written multiple continuing education courses for Professional Development Resources, Zur Institute, and International Sport Science Association. Claire has also authored multiple books, including:
Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards and On The Back Of A Horse: Harnessing The Healing Power Of The Human-Equine Bond. For more information about Leveraging Adversity or Claire, visit

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APA Reference
Dorotik-Nana, C. (2011). Equine Therapy: Do We Neglect the Emotional Side of Horses?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 20 Dec 2011
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