The first time I went to a TTouch® training, I was confused by the catalog of TTouches. There are so many, and they all possess animal names. At first I thought this was silly, unintentionally marginalizing the work.
Once having learned the basic circle, I thought it would not really matter how I held my hand, how much pressure I used, or how many times I circled the flesh of the animal I worked on. Besides, it was all so confusing.
This basic circle, the hallmark and foundation of Tellington TTouch, may be done over the entire body. The purported intent of touching an animal or person in this way is to awaken and activate the function of the cells, enhancing cellular communication, or what Linda Tellington-Jones calls, “turning on the electric lights of the body.” Tellington-Jones’ intuitive notion that the cells of the body emit light was later empirically proven by the German researcher in biophysics, Fritz Albert Popp who labeled this light, biophotons. I still have issues, intellectually-speaking, with this concept of turning on the lights in the cell. Raised and educated in a world where the scientific method held sway over everything I learned, I just don’t have enough evidence to prove to myself beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what TTouch does.
Yet I try to keep an open mind. When I use TTouch on a person or animal, the results are pretty clear. I don’t fully understand the reason for the success. I have to remind myself that there are millions of medical interventions that work without a solid understanding of the mechanism by which they function. For example, aspirin was one such medication once upon a time. Antidepressants are currently prescribed all over the place, yet no one can say exactly how they do their job, because neurotransmitters and neuropeptides are poorly understood.
A few additional basics I grasped easily.
Direction of the circle is a matter of personal preference, and can easily be inferred from the response of the animal. For example, the majority of people prefer clockwise circles. It do not notice a difference myself, yet a friend gets all wigged out if anyone tries a clockwise circle. Her clear preference is the counter-clockwise circle. In my experience with horses, I have found the same degree of preference to hold true. Most times, you can tell what they respond to best.
Pressures vary according to the location and nature of the work. Since Tellington TTouch works primarily in developing an awareness of the body, working at the cellular level, the deeper pressure of massage and manipulating the muscular system is not necessary. As an equine massage therapist, it was this light pressure that initially attracted me to TTouch. Using TTouch, you can work with much lighter pressure than you imagine possible, and still get great results. Refer to any work by Linda Tellington-Jones for a more detailed description of pressures.
On to the TTouches
Abalone TTouch Named for the eponymous mollusk, Abalone uses the whole hand, with the center of the circle at the palm of the hand. This TTouch is used to relax, increase awareness, and and comfort because it is non-invasive, diffused in pressure, and non-threatening. This is my favorite, and the TTouch I use the most often. In fact, as a novice at TTouch, I could not understand why anything else was needed.
Lying Leopard TTouch This touch is intended to relax and build trust between practitioner and recipient. With Lying Leopard, the practitioner is increasing focus and intensity without increasing contact or any invasiveness. This can help to ground a flighty or fearful horse, in addition to building trust between horse and practitioner. It is also said to reduce pain and swelling in acute injury, provided a Number 1 pressure is used.
Clouded Leopard TTouch was the original “TTouch That Teaches.” Tellington-Jones named it for a leopard she worked on in the Los Angeles Zoo. This TTouch is the basic TTouch for activating awareness of the mind-body connection in a way that enhances the horse’s willingness to learn (I can vouch for this!), builds trust and confidence is handlers, releases fear at the cellular level (still have trouble with this concept), and most importantly, increases a horse’s proprioception.
Tiger TTouch can be used for heavily-muscled horses or sluggish and dull, unresponsive to the aids. It can also be helpful to relieve itching without irritating the nerve endings and continuing a positive feedback loop which causes more itching. My next post will cover the horse who doesn’t like to move forward, so this TTouch will come in handy then. “Waking up” heavily muscled areas that don’t have much awareness, stimulating dullness or insensitivity, or providing firmness of touch to horses who are easily tickled are skills we should all have in our toolkits. If the lighter TTouches seem to have no effect or if just grooming the horse seems to tickle or irritate, Tiger TTouch is a real bonus. It helps if you have a bit of fingernail for this touch.
Bear TTouch is different from Tiger TTouch in that the circles you make are tiny–imagine them to be the size of the head of a pin. The point of Bear TTouch is to go deep and quick rather than to press hard. Bear TTouch is useful for activating circulation around the coronary band, releasing tightness in the neck and at the croup, promoting circulation in areas of heavy musculature, and bringing awareness to insensitive areas.
Raccoon TTouch is excellent for swellings anywhere on the body. It can reduce heat and inflammation, stimulate healing around the edges of wounds, clear blocked tear ducts, and increase circulation around the coronary band in the case of laminitis. I have used this TTouch for years on horses’ eyes, to clear blocked tear ducts. I heard of it long before I started to learn Touch in earnest. It really works. Imagine the tiny fingers of a raccoon rapidly circling a small area with speed and light pressure.
Llama TTouch is useful around the head and ears of ear and head shy horses. Llamas are extremely sensitive and trainers have found that they can be approached and touched with the back of the hand, which is less threatening. The same holds true for sensitive horses. It is a valuable introductory tool for a horse who needs to be accustomed to ear work or having a bridle path clipped, but is having trouble accepting being touched there.
At first I did not understand that each of these TTouches targets the equine nervous system in a slightly different way. TTouch in all its variety helps to eliminate pain and increase awareness of the body. Pain and discomfort limit learning. Fear also limits learning and decreases a horse’s ability to perform up to potential. With TTouches for Trust and the Playground for Higher Learning, specific fears can be eradicated, paving the way for a horse whose general fear level is reduced.
It might be argued that rubbing a horse down each day, or simply applying TTouches at random may have similar beneficial effects. This is true. As an equine massage therapist, my clients were happier, healthier and more tractable. BUT:
A touch is not a touch is not a touch. Learning a variety of TTouches and their proper uses can greatly increase the effectiveness of the work, and can easily be done in just a few minutes a day. Added to a grooming regimen, TTouch has profound effects on a horse’s health and behavior. Now that’s I’ve written about the individual TTouches, I feel I have a greater understanding of their differences and various uses. I’m still not 100% convinced about the cellular communication and light concepts, but I see it working, so I’m not going to push too hard for proof. I’m going to keep looking.
NB: In all TTouch, keep your off hand on the horse at all times to “Ground” your contact and comfort the horse. Keep your joints soft and malleable to prevent transmitting tension to the horse. Between each circle and a quarter, gently slide you hand across the skin and hair to a point nearby to start another circle. Do not remove your hand from the horse. Move from your feet and knees, using your hips, rather than using just your arms. This helps avoid fatigue and communicating fatigue and stress to the horse.
For detailed descriptions of how to do each TTouch, please visit TTouch.com and check out the books and videos for sale.
Don’t forget the November Carnival of the Horses will be held here at Enlightened Horsemanship Though Touch on November 1, 2008.