Tag Archives: Horses

Enlightened Horsemanship’s Favorite Posts of 2009

If you blog, what was your favorite post from last year? I’d love it if you posted it here in the comments, so we can all go and read it.
If you have a favorite from EHTT in the past year, let me now what it was.

January 2009

Mindful Monday: On Mistakes

February 2009

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor: The Missing Disclaimer
Verse Thursday + Completely Un-Horse-Related Ramblings of a Buddhist Nature

March 2009

How and Why Did Popular Natural Horsemanship Get So Far From Its Roots?
Handler Independence and Calm, Secure Learning in T.T.E.A.M.
Ray Hunt, Rest In Peace
Just Hold Your Horses!

April 2009

Horses, Shamans and Autism in Mongolia
The Mindlessness of Equestrian Vanity
Sally Swift, Godmother of Mindful Horsemanship, Dies At Age 95

May 2009

Another Bridleless Riding and Communication Tool: The Tellington TTouch Balance Rein
Ever Thought Something Was Too Good To Be True?
Guest Blog Contest Winner: Lost Trail Ranch’s High Mountain Muse
You Asked For It, You Got It: The Liberty Neck Ring

June 2009

The Nose Knows
Toward An Equine Bill of Rights
Embracing Groundlessness

July, 2009

Petition to Allow Bitless Bridles in USEF Rated Competitions
The Dominance Model and Horsemanship by Equine Ethology Are Dead
I Need Your Help and I Need It Fast! (Mongol Derby Animal Welfare Violations)
Affirmations of Awareness for Horsepeople: On Perception
Another Post About Demanding Your Horse’s Attention
Do You Demand Your Horse’s Complete Attention?
The Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare A Solid Foundation For An Equine Bill of Rights

August 2009

What can I say? Some months, you just don’t hit your stride. I should have gone on vacation. Go back to July. It was a good month. Or check out September.

September 2009

Styles in the Horse World: Trailer Loading
Parelli Parade of Preposterousness
Science Friday: Heart Rate & Heart Rate Variability And Emotionality in Horses
Verse Thursday: Puerhan on Hurt
Unprecedented BLM Mustang Roundup Hearing Tomorrow: Please Make Your Voice Heard

October, 2009

Eye Contact: Necessary for Catching Your Horse?
Reader Dilemma: Catching A Horse In The Field
Backing Up; The Holy Grail of Horsemanshp?
Parelli Natural Horsemanship Cake Recipe

November 2009

Mindful Monday: Don’t Just Do Something–Sit There!
Interpretations of “Pressure”
Routine Tasks With No Inherent Meaning Diminish the Spirit of the Horse
From Gallop to Freedom: Do we REALLY Know What We Do?
Horses In Transition: A Call To Action

December 2009

We Are All Made of Stars
Sage By Nature: Horses Drawing Out Our Goddess Force
I Ride/A Simple Statement
Dressage Derailed at Horses for Life
Another Brick In the Wall: Trainers Eschewing Rope Halters

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Horses, Shamans and Autism in Mongolia

Horses, Shamans and Autism in Mongolia

Andrew Campbell of The Regal Vizsla turned me on to this fascinating topic. Thank you, Andrew!

Rowan Isaacson is a seven-year-old boy with autism. Until the age of five he had suffered every symptom the illness threw every possible symptom and limitation his way. Rowan’s father and mother, Rupert and Kristin, were heartbroken that their son’s life was filled with wild tantrums and little meaningful connection. “You’re saying goodbye to a bunch of dreams that I think every parent has of a certain type of childhood, and a certain type of relationship with your child,” said Rupert.

“He would just stare off into space,” Isaacson said. “I was worried it was going to get progressively worse and that eventually, he might float away from us entirely.”

Rupert Isaacson and his son Rowan

Rupert Isaacson and his son Rowan

One day in the midst of a tantrum Rowan wandered off into a neighboring horse paddock, and scrambled under the hooves of a mare. The absolute worst place for a small child. Surprisingly, the mare, whose name is Betsy, sniffled the boy, accepting him.

“I’ve never seen a horse offer that to a babbling two-and-a-half-year-old,” he said. “Rowan and Betsy obviously had some sort of connection.”

Isaacson quickly made arrangements with the neighbor for Rowan to “ride” Betsy, because that mystical connection held the key to his son’s apparent happiness. Isaacson, a horse trainer for most of his adult life, began horseback riding along with with Rowan, finding that the rocking rhythm of the animal’s stride soothed his son. Throughout his horseback riding, Rowan continued with more orthodox therapies, including applied behavioral analysis, one of the most commonly used therapies for kids with autism. Isaacson quickly made arrangements with the neighbor for Rowan to “ride” Betsy.

He would be in the midst of a terrible tantrum and Rupert would put him on Betsy, and it was like that – it’s instant,” Kristin said. “He would calm, he would stop … His language just started to pour out of him,” Rupert said. “And the door into his mind sort of opened a crack. Whenever he was on a horse he wouldn’t tantrum. When I put him on Betsy that would be the only time his tantrums would stop, any other situation and he could turn at any point. We wanted to keep him on a horse as long as possible.

Horseboy Rowan in Mongolia

The transformation with Betsy was so extreme, his parents bet on another extreme chance: a quest to Mongolia, where the connection between humans, horses, and healing has been very strong for centuries. In the summer of 2007 when Rowan was 5, Isaacson and his family went to Mongolia, spending four weeks where Rowan was happiest: on the back of a horse.

“Before we went to Mongolia, Rowan was incontinent and subject to neurological fits and tantrums and was cut off from his peers,” said Isaacson. “We came back with a child that was toilet trained and no longer having tantrums. He made his first friend on that trip, too.”

It was the most extraordinary thing. It really was remarkable to see how quickly he changed, Pretty mind blowing actually.

said Rowan’s mother Kristin.

More than two years later, the progress continues with traditional therapy and horseback riding.

Rupert Isaacson and his son Rowan

Rupert Isaacson and his son Rowan

Is Rowan cured of autism? His parents are quick to say “no.” But at the same time, he’s doing remarkably better, and they believe his connection with horses is a big reason why.

Others are in agreement, yet others argue that Rowan’s transformation gives false hope to thousands of parents of autistic children. While therapeutic riding programs have grown in popularity among parents of autistic children, not every child makes a similar transformation.

Instructor Amy Causey says science hasn’t explained it, but she sees once-unreachable children respond.

“For some reason they have that other sense that they can connect and understand how that horse is feeling and that helps them understand how they are feeling,” Amy said.

Rupert Isaacson has written a book, “Horse Boy,” about the journey, and has opened a center where other autistic children can find their own connection with horses for free. “Every family goes to Mongolia in their own way,” Rupert said. “Every family goes to the ends of the earth.”

As for the ongoing debate about Hippotherapy and autism, the answer hasn’t yet arrived. We know that animals provide a low-pressure environment for kids to practice certain types of social skills. Therapists use horses as social objects for children to relate to, for learning how to read more subtle social signals. There is little doubt that this skill is important, and that it can be learned. In itself, it is not a cure for autism. Perhaps Hippotherapy can address many of the symptoms of autism, allowing for some self-regulation and mood improvement. It may also help with accepting certain kinds of stimulation from the environment. The resulting calmer, less agitated child will be happier and easier to live with, more enjoyable family member.

And for the Isaacson’s, life is far happier today than it was before Rowan began riding.

Isaacson and his wife founded The New Trails Center , which offers homeschooling and equine therapy for kids like Rowan.

“Every parent of an autistic child knows they have to go up a few blind alleys before they find what will work for their child,” said Isaacson. “No one should be so hamstrung by skepticism that it forces them into an extreme position that they stop following possibilities.”

“Rowan was healed of some of the dysfunctions he had and that, for us, was miraculous,” he said.

“That made the difference between a horrible life and a life where Rowan’s life and ours were in harmony.”
Mr. Isaacson has optioned feature film rights for “The Horse Boy” to Mark Ordesky, an executive producer of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and Ileen Maisel, an executive producer of the “Golden Compass.” Mr. Isaacson is writing the screenplay. I am looking forward to reading the book and watching the film!

References for this post:
The Daily Mail.com
Patricia E Bauer.com
The Horse Boy
ABC News.com
About Behavioral Analysis

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch

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The Next TTEAM® Training for Horses In Virginia

The Next TTEAM® Training for Horses In Virginia

May 6-10, 2009 in Middleburg, VA at Brook Hill Farm. This will be a five-day TTEAM® Training for Horses taught by Linda Tellington-Jones, PhD (Hon).

Nestled in spring-green, rolling hills of Piedmont, Virginia and lavishly dotted with dogwood blossoms, the stone barns at Brook Hill Farm provide a snug haven for horses arriving by trailer from around the country. Tellington TTouch Practitioner Pam Wooley’s capable staff see to it that visiting horse owners can return to their hotels at night secure in the knowledge that their horses are safe and well cared for. Training participants without horses get lots of hands-on time with these horses.

At this training you can learn about the TTEAM training approach, which encourages optimal performance and health while presenting solutions to common behavioral and physical problems. TTEAM horses demonstrate marked improvement in athletic skills and increased willingness and ability to perform. Not only does the horse benefit, but also a deeper rapport grows between horse and rider because of increased understanding and more effective communication.

TTEAM covers three phases: learning exercises done in-hand, the Tellington TTouch and riding techniques.

T.T.E.A.M. Training participants in San Marcos, Texas, September 2007

T.T.E.A.M. Training participants in San Marcos, Texas, September 2007

Some of the topics covered will include:
• How to improve performance
• Ground exercises to help improve balance, self control and focus
• How to apply TTEAM first aid techniques while waiting for the veterinarian
• How to use the TTEAM equipment like the Balance Rein, Neck Ring and Bodywrap
• Ways to speed healing and recovery from injury or illness
• Why issues such as nervousness, laziness, trailering problems, attitude difficulties and stiffness occur and how to solve them in a safe, positive way

If you have a commitment to bringing your relationship with your horse to the next level, Tellington TTouch Training for Horses will take you there. Regardless of your discipline, preferred breed or level of experience, you will learn the tools and techniques that foster the magical partnership between you and your horse that most people strive for a lifetime to achieve.

A T.E.A.M. Training participant does TTouch on the face and uses the body wrap in preparation for walking the labyrinth

A T.E.A.M. Training participant does TTouch on the face and uses the body wrap in preparation for walking the labyrinth

Combining the pioneering Tellington TTouch with special ground exercises and under-saddle work, this training method offers an approach based on cooperation rather than domination and understanding rather than control. Working with interesting and diverse horses, this training introduces the basic body work and its applications, as well as exploring the role and purpose of the special ground exercises and Tellington tack under saddle. You will learn to chunk down the training process into incremental steps that are scientifically proven to reduce fearfulness in horses, thereby increasing potential for learning.

You have several opportunities to work with Linda and other experienced TTEAM practitioners. Every training has its own special flavor, and in the Middleburg horse country you will find yourself surrounded by like-minded horse lovers in a spectacular and historic setting.

You will also begin to see your equine companion with new eyes. Innovative opportunities for working with your horse will begin to crystallize. You will be empowered with the “gift of possibility.” With an open mind and an open heart, you will come away from every training enriched with new and marvelous tools.

A Tellington Training is a gift for both you and your horse. Why miss this opportunity? Trainings fill quickly so register soon.

Questions? Email or call 866-4-TTouch (866-488-8624). TTEAM USA can help you develop the relationship with your horse that you’ve always dreamed of.

Click to here to register.

For further information, call the TTEAM USA Office:
866-4-TTouch (866-488-6824)
P.O. Box 3793
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Phone: 505-455-2945
Fax: 505-455-7233

Price: $950.00. Early bird price is $855 if paid in full prior to March 16.
Contact: TTEAM Office 800-854-8326 or trainings@tellingtontraining.com. Learn more or Register for this training.

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Saddle Up, Doc!

Saddle Up, Doc!

There’s only one thing worse than most doctors’ handwriting. And that would be their bedside manner. After 17 years with a critically, chronically ill daughter, I have learned that some of the world’s most astonishingly bad communicators wear white coats and stethoscopes.

Saddle Up, Doc!

I have personally experienced doctors and surgeons saying the most horrifying things without even bothering to make eye contact. Or telling me part of the story and expecting me to go to the medical library and research the rest as my child is lying there hooked up to life support. Or lying to my face to cover their inappropriate decisions.

The doctor-patient relationship is extremely important. Communication plays a vital part in determining patient outcomes (read: cure or no cure, whether the patient lives or dies). Not surprisingly, a committee overseeing medical licensing exams in the United States has found that poor communication skills are related to a higher incidence of malpractice suits, lower treatment compliance, and decreased patient satisfaction. I’ve met a lot of doctors, and I hate to say that the majority of them disappointed me. But there is hope.

Now there is evidence that horses can help medical students to be better doctors by learning better communication. Yes, you heard right. Working with horses helps some medical students communicate better with patients and their families.“What is even more critical is that, often, what is not said, may still be expressed in other ways. Indeed, the ability to pick up and interpret nonverbal cues that patients provide is with and the ability to, similarly, communicate certain things to patients in the same way separates the true healers from those who are merely adequate.”

Allan J. Hamilton, M.D., a professor at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, College of Medicine in Tucson, has a unique method of teaching these skills to medical students–a course called Medicine and Horsemanship: An Introduction to Nonverbal Human Interaction at the Bedside.

Dr. Hamilton emphasizes that working with horses can teach humans a lot about non-verbal communication.

Horses are very magnificently amplified systems of nonverbal communication. Their entire society is built on it. They are hundreds of times more sensitive to body language than we are.

As prey animals, horses’ heightened attention to their environment and to nonverbal cues allow them to serve as mirrors for human body language. In this course, medical students learn what good horsepeople know: To communicate successfully with horses, you have to be acutely aware of your own posture, eye contact, relative position and movement.

The result of completing this course is that students learn more effective nonverbal skills for communicating with human patients.


Every Friday afternoon, a group of medical students dressed in jeans, boots, and hats try to coax horses to leap hurdles or negotiate an obstacle course. Each medical student works with a new horse every week, and they do not use bridles, harnesses, or saddles to control them. Instead, they are taught to use their own body language to gain the horse’s trust and then persuade the animal to perform various tasks.

When I think of it, I have to giggle just a little. It would seem that they are starting from scratch, with no instruction, being asked to move a horse in a certain way, without the advantage of their major communication skill: spoken language. It reminds me of those scenes in the movie 28 Days, where the participants in a drug and alcohol rehab program are asked to lift a horse’s leg. They have no clue how to do it. They have to work it out for themselves. Hilarity ensues, of course. It also reminds me of the way I was taught in the beginning: the trainer sort of threw me into the round pen and watched what I did. Painful. And, in retrospect, funny.

The most important thing these students will learn in this course is this:

Patience, gentleness, and nonverbal communication skills are needed for a good doctor-patient relationship, and the horsemanship course is a dramatic shortcut to learning them. There is no quicker or more effective way to learn about your own body language.

I can only hope that some of the cold-hearted clinicians I’ve had the displeasure to meet will have the opportunity to learn a little about both verbal and nonverbal communication and how it can improve their relationships with their patients (and their parents). I would so dearly love for them to join the ranks of the truly compassionate doctors who worked tirelessly to save my child’s life so many times, yet still had the time, patience and care to speak with me about what they were doing and why. Those were the standouts, the ones I will remember all my life, and that she will remember, too. And to think, horses might have played a part in making them who they are.

Quick shoutout to Peter Heymann, M.D., master negotiator and my hero.

Inspiration for this post came from this article.

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What's Your Horsemanship Tool of Choice?

When I first began to learn about working horses in addition to riding them, I was taught to use a dressage whip with a plastic bag, a rope halter, and a series of lead ropes of varying lengths. There were a number of things that stand out about this method: first, I learned that if you really want to get the horse’s attention, that plastic bag will do the trick; second, I learned that I am not an expert rope handler and never will be. More often than not, I’d end up smacking myself in the face with the leather end of the rope. There were weeks on end when I sported red welts to prove it. My trainer urged more practice with the rope, tied to the fence: I was hopeless.

In the round pen, I was so klutzy that once, chasing an “impudent” horse around with the stick and bag, I fell and caught myself on a jump in the middle, collecting a splinter the size of a fountain pen. Even after a trip to the ER for removal, I didn’t think, “Hey, this type of training is not for me.” This was cowboy training, pure and simple. Natural Horsemanship, slightly feminized, applied by a skilled and powerful woman who taught me a lot. Still not for me.

And not enough. Not enough of the right stuff. When I took a clinic with Frank Bell, I had a grand old time. Because my trainer had recently been studying his methods, and went on to become one of his certified trainers, I had already learned most everything Frank taught in that clinic, and I was proud of my mare when she performed like a superstar. Frank is such a gentle man, who emphasizes safety above all else. But in addition to the crucial addition of hands-on work, he also uses the rope and rope halter in his work. So participants got to see me flailing about again. At least I didn’t hurt myself in public.

For a while I was enamored of Clinton Anderson and Pat Parelli. Both use sticks and rope halters in their training. After seeing Clinton Anderson in a demo in Texas, I left feeling that for him, a horse was a unit to be processed, and nothing more. There was no heart or empathy in his training, no emotional congruence. He only wanted the right behavior at the right time. Once Anderson was done with a horse, he was done with the horse. There’s one bit of equipment of Clinton Anderson’s I do adore, and that is his Aussie Tie Ring. Horses who pull back when tied are a danger to themselves and property. I don’t own tie rings because I’ve never needed them, but if I did, you can be sure I’d have a pair.

I’ve never seen Pat Parelli in person. I certainly know that his television shows and DVDs are inspiring, but it’s a fine bit of merchandising and showmanship. I love watching him walk around an arena moving a horse about with just his body language. Seems like magic. But what are we missing between takes? What’s left after that? I admire anyone who can teach themselves how to use all his tools and skills without attending the dozens of clinics normally required.

The woman who took over my old barn in Afton is Parelli certified, and boyo is she a skilled trainer. Her horses turn out beautifully. She is not a bully, and her horses reflect that. But when I moved on to a barn farther away, where most of the training is done in the saddle, I missed the opportunity of watching ground work. I was the only one who did anything like that, and it was frowned upon. No round pen, a very large arena, full of jumps of all sizes, and suddenly I lost the desire to do the work. It showed in Maira’s behavior. Until I met Linda Tellington-Jones.

I’d love to know what, if any, tools you folks out there use in your ground work, and how you use them.

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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.

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