TTouching Your Horse
My introduction to TTEAM and TTouch occurred about 8 years ago. I was signed up to participate in a one-day ground-driving clinic late in October. A few weeks prior to the clinic I had a rather serious horse accident, which left me with limited use of my right arm and a probability for major surgery. My orthopedic surgeon was trying to prepare me for what he thought was inevitable shoulder surgery to repair a three-degree separation of the shoulder. The thought of surgery to repair my body was frightening. There was no possibility of being able to do the hands-on portion of the ground-driving clinic. My friend Julie said she would chauffeur me to and from the clinic and make sure I stayed safely away from the horses. I was on the strongest pain medications that I could take without being hospitalized. I was taking a medication, an artificial codeine, every two hours to try and manage the intense pain. During the lunch break the clinic instructor, Debra Potts, asked if I wanted her to show me what the circular TTouch felt like on my body. I was skeptical but also curious and I agreed to let her TTouch me as long as she did not touch my right shoulder. She started doing little Clouded Leopard TTouches (see Fig. 1) on the left side of my body. Two minutes later I told her that she could do them on my right side, as they did not hurt! These little Clouded Leopard circles felt soothing and they alleviated most of the pain. I did not take any painkillers the rest of the day. I was able to deal with the residual pain without drugs. Debra taught me how to do the TTouch circles in less than five minutes. I went home and taught my husband how to do Clouded Leopard TTouches. I was able to avoid surgery, successfully regain 98% mobility of my shoulder, and find a new noninvasive way to deal with animals. It seemed like a miracle at the time and it changed my life. I decided to become a practitioner so that I might help people and animals have more choices in their lives
First of all Id like to explain that TTEAM is an acronym for the Tellington-Jones Equine Awareness Method. But, since this works on everything with a nervous system it is also known as the Tellington-Jones Every Animal Method. TTouch stands for Tellington Touch, which consists of several different circular TTouches, lifts and slides. TTEAM is a holistic way to approach training a new way of thinking about animals and their behaviors. This method of training is a system of learning and teaching specific exercises and the TTouch is a way to communicate or connect non-verbally with animals, often at a cellular level. We seek to understand the horse on different levels: physical, mental, and emotional. TTEAM offers amateur owners and handlers a way of reeducating a horse or starting a youngster without fear or force.
TTEAM is based on the premise that an animal resists because of fear, pain, or not understanding what is being asked. TTEAM most often teaches an animal to think and reason, and they cannot do that if they are in pain or fearful. TTEAM teaches horses to think, not just to react using instinctive responses. TTEAM does not rely on desensitization or repetition. This method enables the handler to teach the horse a variety of skills that build confidence and strengthen the human/animal bond; this helps to create a positive and willing partnership based on mutual respect and trust. TTEAM methods are both practical and time efficient. A few minutes of TTEAM a day or even once a week can bring about seemingly miraculous results in a short time.
Linda Tellington-Jones developed TTEAM and TTouch in the 1970s. Linda is a world-renowned horsewoman who is noted for consistently being a woman ahead of her time - about 20 years ahead of her time! In the 1960s Linda and her husband, Wentworth Tellington, started and managed the Pacific Coast Equestrian Research Farm. Linda and Went conducted research on the effects of massage on performance horses and published a monograph called Physical Therapy for the Athletic Horse. They also published the first endurance manual. These two publications were combined and edited into the 1972 Doubleday book, Endurance and Competitive Trailriding. Linda and Went also documented the effects of trailering horses and had many new and innovative products that they developed and tested on their farm. After witnessing the increasing abuses and lack of understanding that appeared to be occurring more frequently in the horse world, Linda was prepared to give up horses completely. At this point she enrolled in a Feldenkrais Method for humans. This training changed Lindas life forever and inspired her to try new non-habitual ways of teaching horses to learn how to learn.
One of the most incredible things about TTEAM training is that anyone can learn to do it. That fact alone was a huge relief to me. I had been working with some challenging horses with good yet limited success up to that point. By incorporating the TTEAM work into my training program I was able to make great differences in the horses' behaviors and bodies in just a few sessions. These sessions did not involve going to war with these guys! My training sessions became more productive, physically easier, and a lot more fun for both the horse and me. I was able to stop looking at every situation as though I had to win and the horse had to lose or submit. I became more creative in figuring out what might help the horses on an individual basis.
TTEAM also helped me to become aware of the subtle differences in behavior that could occur with such simple things as saddle fit, equine dentistry, or shoeing. I personally am not at my best when I have a headache, toothache or sore overused muscles, so if the horses did not feel well, why on earth would they want to work, let alone enjoy their work? Working horses seemed like play instead of work! We actually achieved greater results in a shorter amount of time after I adopted this new attitude. I found this work was easily integrated into my grooming sessions, adding about 5 minutes to grooming time. I also noticed that after integrating TTEAM into my grooming that I reduced my warm-up time under saddle by ten to fifteen minutes.
One of the first difficult horses I worked with using TTEAM was a chestnut Arabian filly named Rajah. Rajah had been in the show ring and really did not know how to do anything other than rear and lunge frantically around. She was so traumatized and irrational when I met her that her owner left her halter on twenty-four hours a day. I removed the chain from under the chin and put the chain lead on her over her noseband. Putting the chain on over the noseband enabled me to teach Rajah to lower her head from a simple ask and release command on the lead line. High headed means high strung or over-sensitive, nervous, and reactive in most cases. By teaching Rajah to lower her head and maintain an effective head position I was able to override her instinct for flight. By lowering her head I helped her to learn to think and then act, not just react on an instinctual level. The ideal position of the head is when the poll is slightly below the level of the withers. Too low and the horse can go into 'bliss-out' and stop thinking.
I then taught Rajah to accept the 4 stiff white dressage whip being stroked all over her body. After a few deep breaths she allowed me to TTouch her all over. I used the Abalone TTouch because that was all she could handle - the flat hand touch is very soothing. It often helps horses to breathe more normally or release their breath if they tend to hold it during times of stress. I did find that Rajah really liked hair slides on her forelock and mane, and this became her favorite reward. I worked with Rajah for one hour every Saturday for the next two months. In that time she learned to be led from both sides, to longe sanely and in balance going in both directions, to stand quietly while tied, to enjoy being groomed, and to be able to stand quietly and in balance for the farrier and the veterinarian. Her owner, Robyn, was absolutely astounded. At the end of the two months Robyn asked me if I would come over and help her paste de-worm Rajah. I did not think anything of it at the time because Robyn was quite pregnant and due rather soon. I did about 5 minutes worth of mouth and nostril work and then paste de-wormed her without any trouble. I discovered during the mouth work that Rajah needed dentistry badly, she still had her wolf teeth and some of her baby teeth had not shed their caps. Robyn was shocked at how easy it was to paste de-worm Rajah without an all out fight. She was truly amazed to see the difference in her horses behavior.
I got to work with Rajah the following spring to get her started under saddle. Again, I only worked with her one hour per week. She learned to be ground driven, long lined, and saddled, to go under, over and through clear plastic and learned to get into the trailer readily without fear or trauma. We did have some exciting times while under saddle! On her third trail ride out, a pheasant flew up under her. She jumped straight up and came down straight legged, prepared to bolt. I asked her to lower her head a couple of times in that first minute or two to try and control the situation. Because she had the basics of lowering her head from a signal, it worked! She did not bolt! She was also able to continue the ride without incident after a few deep breaths and some TTouches on her neck. By the middle of summer she was able to walk, trot and canter in both directions, and do simple changes of lead on a figure eight. I did not have to drill her repeatedly and she is dependable enough that her owners children can be all over her without fearing for their safety.
Parish was another interesting horse I met as a result of TTEAM. Parish is a middle aged Quarter horse gelding who had been rescued by a couple of very nice first time horse owners. Parish had some very nasty looking scarring on his left hind leg. His leg looked as though he had caught it in wire and it had healed very poorly. After a couple of months of excellent feed and general care it was apparent that Parish had a few issues about people. He hated being caught; he bucked, reared and evaded humans in nearly every way possible. At the time his owners thought he would get over it with additional loving care and understanding. But, he re-injured his scarred, already damaged leg in the pasture, and he required daily handling and medication for the leg. Monica called me to see if the TTEAM work we had been using on her other horse would help Parish. I said I did not know for sure, but that it "couldnt hurt and might help so lets try it". The first day I worked with Parish it took us an hour to catch him. We led the other horses into a small corral area and then led the horses out one by one. We left his favorite mare in to keep him company. After catching him and teaching him to lead with his head in a lower position we started doing the TTouch all over his body. It took nearly half an hour of TTouch before I could touch the opposite hind leg without him kicking or running backwards.
I came back the next day and it took only half an hour to catch Parish and a few minutes of leading exercises to calm and focus him enough to touch him. After a few minutes of TTouch I was able to pick out all of his feet and gently probe the injured leg. Parish had a hole the size of a quarter in the front of the hock that went to the bone. After trying to flush the wound, he became more agitated and worried. We decided to try a body bandage on him to help him contain himself and have more self-control. We went through the labyrinth a few more times and over the poles practicing walking in a relaxed frame. After a few minutes in the body bandage we went back and finished cleaning his leg wound. We then dressed the wound and bandaged it. After the wound was bandaged I did little Raccoon TTouches all over the leg, on top of the bandage. I also did Python lifts (see Fig. 2) on all of Parishs legs to help circulation and to give him new awareness of his legs. He visibly relaxed after the Raccoon TTouches and Python Lifts as demonstrated when he would lick, chew, yawn and sigh very deeply. The Python Lift is a very subtle upward lift, like sliding the muscle up the bone slightly. Python lifts often relax nervous horses and improve balance and stride.
I continued to visit Parish daily for the rest of the week. By the end of the week, Parishs owners were able to catch him consistently and clean and dress the wound without tranquilizing him. He also learned to stand while tied and to have more self-control in frightening situations. His leg healed cleanly and the new scarring looked much better. He was also able to effectively tolerate the farrier and veterinarian working on him without need for tranquilization. Previously he had always been tranquilized for these occasions.
Sadie is another regular horse; she is a six-year-old green broke Appaloosa mare. Her owner had trouble getting Sadie to trot and canter. Sadie also tended to shy at the back corners of the outdoor arena. Sadie had fairly limited life experiences; her exposure to new situations was nearly non-existent. She had rarely, if ever, been in the indoor arena and she had never seen cows before! The first time I saw Sadie she needed to have her feet trimmed and her teeth checked by an equine dental technician. After Sadies owner had her properly shod and had her teeth floated I came back and rode her again. The difference in the way she moved was amazing. She was still a bit lazy and did not want to come forward, but she was no longer stargazing and tripping with every step. The next week I did a few minutes of Lying Leopard TTouch (see Fig. 3) on her back and girth area (shes quite girthy). I did about ten minutes of groundwork with her in the arena using the Elegant Elephant leading position. She was quite high headed and snorted and blew every few feet. As I taught her to lower her head from a signal, her behavior started to change. I then added the body bandage and did a few more minutes of leading exercises in the indoor arena. Sadie froze a couple of times when the herd of cows next door started running and her head did go straight up, but she regained her composure within seconds.
I then saddled her and added the promise wrap to the saddle. The promise wrap is an Ace Bandage that is attached to the billets or girth of a saddle to help the horse to engage their hindquarters. I also added the TTEAM bit. With the TTEAM bit Sadie is able to lower her head, relax her jaw, and give through the poll and have more use of her pelvis. I rode her through the labyrinth and over ground poles. She was in a relaxed frame and doing quite well. She was able to work in an indoor arena by herself with those scary cattle just across the fence line. When the cattle all decided to run around the pasture and moo loudly and repeatedly, Sadie froze. She threw her head in the air and jumped forward and sideways about fifteen feet. I asked her to lower her head and to pay attention and I was able to get her attention back in just a few moments. After having her go through the labyrinth a few more times I decided to end our ride in the outdoor arena. I had her canter in both directions for a few laps. The promise wrap really helped her to have better balance and more rhythmical gaits. And, she was not nearly as much work to ride.
TTEAM would not be where it is today if it were not for Lindas sister Robyn Hood. Robyns tireless efforts to help promote and teach TTEAM has made it possible for Robyn and Linda to work together to develop new methods of TTEAM teaching techniques. Both Robyn and Linda currently teach TTEAM in over 12 countries throughout the world. They also work together to produce new books, videos, and other literature. Robyn is an instructor as well as the host for several weeklong TTEAM trainings at her Vernon, B.C. home. In Robyns spare time she is the editor for the TTEAM Newsletter, TTEAM Connections, which has over 5000 subscribers at this time. Robyn also is in charge of the TTEAM Guild, which has over 300 TTEAM Practitioner Members, and its own quarterly practitioner newsletter. Robyn also heads the TTEAM Canada Office. Robyn and her family are the largest breeders and importers of Icelandic Horses in North America, with often more than 120 horses living on their farm at a time.
Please keep in mind that this is a basic introduction to TTEAM and TTouch and while it is a simple yet profound concept, it is not necessarily going to be easy. The reason I did not include more how- to information in this article is because whole books have been written about this method. My idea was to give you some case histories of horses that Ive worked with over the past few years and then encourage you to rent a TTEAM or TTouch video, or pick up one of the books. There have been many articles in numerous publications written about TTEAM as well.
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For more information:
TTEAM and TTouch Training
PO Box 3793
Santa Fe, NM 87501 USA
5435 Rochdell Rd.
Vernon, BC, V1B 3E8