Charles de Kunffy, international renowned author, lecturer, trainer, and FEI judge, writes: “Horsemanship is a living art similar to ballet and singing. Living arts survive by the right advocacy of their practitioners… Equestrians are the custodians of a living arts and its survival depends on its uncompromised transmission from generation to generation…I have been actively advocating for a U. S. national riding academy that would supply the knowledgeable instructors – a dedicated priesthood – to be trusted for the education of the future generations of aspiring.” Other practitioners echo Mr. de Kunffy’s eloquent discussion and support the need for a central environment where amateurs and professionals can come for in-depth education.
The Four Harmony Foundation has begun to create an environment, Pine Knoll Center, where the equine sport can examine its potential and promote the most effective scientific care and training of the horse and rider. The components of this equine center will provide state of the art facilities, equipment, educational programs, and training to enhance the health and performance of equine and human participants.
The center will include a facility for the profiling of the horses, a seminar facility, and a barn/indoor riding arena for the training of the horse and rider together. The seminar facility already exists in a shell form. Additional equipment, such as a simulator, need to be acquired. The land for the profiling facility and the riding arena need to be acquired in the very near future so construction of the appropriate buildings can begin.
One of the directing experts on the staff of the Pine Knoll Center would be Kerry M. Thomas, a pioneering researcher and service provider in the field of Equine Athletic Psychology.
Mr. Thomas will supervise the profiling of the equine athlete using the Thomas Herding Technique, a system of emotional conformation profiling and behavioral genetics research.
Over a period of about three days, Mr. Thomas studies the horse in question and, based on scientifically organized principles, develops an outline of the needs of the horse. This study can determine the training pursuit which is most beneficial to the horse’s interests and physicality. These results are shown to the person who is perhaps interested in buying the horse or frustrated because the horse is not working up to the owner’s expectations.
Once the needs of the horse are determined, the horse and its person can be sent to the training component of the center to be trained or retrained according to the profile’s findings.
Animal profiling is not a new concept. Potential service dogs have been profiled for years to determine if they will be successful at their job, such as search and rescue, and if they will work well with their people, such as therapy dogs. It is just as important to determine if the horse will work well at the job the human has chosen and if the horse and human can work together.
Many people acquire animals because of needs within themselves. If the animal is not an appropriate choice, both the person and the animal become frustrated. This frustration is preventable. The prevention of it in the relationship between people and horses opens the door for this very expensive undertaking to become exciting and rewarding for both participants.
Thomas Poulin would head the training center. Thomas Poulin, vice-president and instructor of the American Dressage Institute and assistant coach to the Swedish and Mexican Olympic teams, will integrate the information gleaned from the other programs into classical dressage. Mr. Poulin would be responsible for training the dressage horses and for choosing the trainers who would be brought in to work with the other disciplines.
In addition to the activities with the horses, there would also be classrooms for educational studies, such as analysis of such components of the horse industry as public relations and marketing, and risk management. There would also be seminars on such topics as dental care, gait and movement evaluation, massage therapy, hoof care, nutrition, alternative health care, and nutrition.
These experts will also provide the oversight for other practitioners to teach within their areas of expertise, including all equine disciplines, and will emphasize the importance of the whole picture, including emotional conformation profiling of the equine athlete, work in the round pen, groundwork, and seminars on integrative healthcare, farriery, dentistry, biomechanics and personal performance coaching.
Such a center does not exist. Although there are many good practitioners in the various elements of the equine industry, they are situated all over the United States, making it difficult for the average horse and rider combination to utilize their expertise. Putting a number of experts in one area makes it possible for all pertinent information to be found at once. It also provides a “think tank” where intensive research can continue with experts from each expertise being involved at all phases, thereby enriching the end results.