Everything But the Kitchen Sink: Maira's TTouch Prescription
Today in the TTEAM Training, it was time to round up our assessments of our horses. We discussed how to effect the necessary changes and encourage beneficial qualities in our horses. We spent a warm and breezy afternoon in the arena figuring out how to use some of the Tellington TTouch® ridden work in the Playground for Higher Learning, experimenting with TTEAM equipment, and getting sunburned.
After examining Maira thoroughly, Linda’s pronouncement confirmed some of my suspicions, but when she threw in everything but the kitchen sink, the diagnosis got a little alarming. I’ve got a lot of work to do.
• Typical of draft breeds and draft crosses, Maira does not seem to know where her feet are. Increasing her proprioception will help her use her feet more effectively in tracking up, stepping across, disengaging her hindquarters, and balancing herself. I knew this, and had already begun wanding her legs and tapping her hooves to increase her awareness. But so much more is needed.
Yesterday we used various TTouches for Trust and Awareness on Maira’s legs, with more hoof tapping and the addition of leg circles. Today in the ring, after lots of back lifts to raise her back and help her balance herself more fully, we walked her through the Labyrinth at a half-walk, allowing her frequent breaks to stop and think, and place her feet carefully. Our horses cannot be careful with their feet unless we allow them the time to develop the awareness to do so. Maira is a deep thinker, and several times she stopped, went deep within herself and waited. At first, I couldn’t tell whether she had “vanished,” as horses can sometimes do, or whether she was thinking. Then suddenly a big gob of drool would come along with some licks and chews and she would respond to her rider again, and off they’d go, a little more carefully with her feet again. The Labyrinth is a miracle worker for balance and awareness of feet and legs!
• Related to Maira’s lack of awareness of her feet is a lack of connection to her legs and tail. I knew Maira had a floppy tail with almost no tone. I knew she was tough for the hoof trimmer to handle, because she doesn’t lift her legs. I always thought it was because she was unsure of her balance, and so resisted. Wanding her legs helped a lot, and prevented a hoof trimmer revolt. But Linda’s exploration of Maira’s legs and tail revealed it to be much worse than I thought. According to Linda, Maira has “some of the worst neural connections to her hind legs and tail I’ve ever seen.” Bad news. Linda sees hundreds of horses each year. Maira’s left hind leg is very stiff and comes only about six inches off the ground. There is tremendous resistance to leg circles, which can be made in a very small diameter. Not only does she need to loosen up, but she also needs to increase her connection to this part of her body. According to TTouch, this can be accomplished through daily leg circles, modified tail work, pelvic tilts, back lifts, and connected lines of circles all over her body. As I mentioned earlier, Maira’s tail has almost no tone. It’s loose, floppy and almost squishy in texture. She offers no resistance to light pressure on her tail. A horse needs her tail for balance, like a rudder on a boat, and any work I can do to increase the neural connections from her tail through her spine and the muscle tone from her tail through her back will improve her balance and coordination. In a case like this, I will not pearl her tail, or move it out of the tail groove, but gently lift and ease it forward, rocking her forward so that she feels it, offers a little resistance through the stay mechanism, and through this develops some tone. At the same time, I can use Rhino TTouch to do a gentle pelvic tilt, also effective for working those deep muscles responsible for balance and connection to the hindquarters.
• Also frequently observed in drafts, Maira uses her hindquarters poorly. That sloping croup singular to Percherons serves her poorly in self-carriage, Meant to pull a carriage or plow and not carry a rider, it’s really unfair of me to ask her to walk in anything close to a frame or trot with suspension and grace. With a powerful chest, neck and crest, she pulls herself along with her forehand. I’d like her not to leave her hindquarters behind while walking and stopping, and I’d like her to use her croup, back and hindquarters, right through to her poll to carry herself and her rider in better balance so she’s not dragging her beautiful butt around.
Today she was ridden bareback with a Promise Wrap (A Promise for Engagement), which had immediate results. She tracked better, used her back more, and engaged her hindquarters more than I’d ever seen her do.
I have two short videos for comparison. Warning: turn off the audio. The chatter and ambient noise are awful.
The first video shows Maira ridden by the very elegant Vail Dixon. We are experiencing saddle fit problems, and to add insult to injury, Maira was in effect being punished by moving forward and using her back by being pinched in the shoulders and back by the saddle. But the video is illustrative of her general tendency to pull herself along by her front legs, and to drag her hindquarters along behind.
The second video shows Maira being ridden again by Vail, this time bareback to eliminate the punishment of the saddle, with the addition of the Promise Wrap, which increases awareness of her hindquarters, encouraging her to use her muscles from her hind legs, tail, croup, through her back and to her poll. See if you see a difference in her carriage.
I’ve got my work cut out for me, and I sincerely hope I get well enough to do all this for Maira before I go away in the fall. She deserves to learn to use her beautiful body the best and safest way she possibly can. The upside is that by the time I have tried everything that LInda recommends, I will have a lot of practice in most everything TTouch and TTEAM have to offer.
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