Tag Archives: Linda Tellington-Jones
Tellington TTouch Training Announces TTouch For You® In Keswick, Virginia, May 1-3, 2009

Tellington TTouch Training Announces TTouch For You® In Keswick, Virginia, May 1-3, 2009


You are invited to join Linda Tellington-Jones PhD (Hon)

Internationally Renowned Teacher, Author, and Visionary

May 1-3, 2009 In Keswick, VA for A TTouch-For-You Experience®

• Learn and share a simple form of caring touch that activates the healing potential of the body, releases pain, stress and fear, and fosters well-being.
• Experience the unique physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of TTouch as both giver and recipient.
• Feel nurtured and supported by everyone around you.
• Return home energized, enriched, empowered and a little more enlightened.

The TTouch Experience
TTouch is a system of gentle, mindful touch that works at the cellular level with the intention of activating the function of the cells. Developed by Linda Tellington-Jones as a part of the Tellington Training method for horses and other companion animals, TTouch has been used effectively for humans for more than 20 years.
As you practice these simple, gentle movements on yourself or others, you will realize a newfound sense of well-being, empowerment, and renewal.
Relief from everyday physical and emotional issues such as headaches, backache, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety is a common experience.
Many discover a means to enhance relationships beyond the constraints of language, finding new ways to nurture one another, and reaching new levels of understanding, appreciation, and empathy.
These observations are supported by a rich legacy of anecdotal evidence; hundreds of letters from people from all over the world describe how TTouch has effectively relieved a vast range of health issues, enhancing personal wellness and quality of life. This body of evidence has inspired formal research and clinical applications of TTouch in health care and education. Nurses, massage therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physicians are successfully integrating these techniques into their practices, to manage anxiety, acute and chronic pain, and to support healthcare procedures. Many healthcare professionals experience much needed relaxation and stress relief for themselves, as well as in their patients.

This Weekend of Renewal is for:
• Anyone seeking a new approach to self-care
• Couples
• Mothers and daughters
• Caregivers
• Educators
• Healthcare professionals

About Linda Tellington-Jones, PhD (Hon)

Pioneer, teacher, trainer, and author, Linda Tellington-Jones has forged new paths in the understanding and appreciation of the animal/human relationship, and has offered instruction in her gentle and aware approach to animal and humans for over 30 years. In 1978 Linda graduated from the first American four-year professional training in the Feldenkrais Method of Movement Education with Israeli physicist Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais at the Humanistic Psychology Institute of San Francisco. Prior to that training, she co-authored a landmark book on equine massage entitled, Massage and Physical Therapy for the Athletic Horse, based on the teachings of her grandfather, William Caywood. She had already been applying this equine massage for 10 years for sport horses when she first adapted the Feldenkrais Method for humans to work with horses and other animals. In 1983, building on her experience as a Feldenkrais practitioner, Linda developed a new form of gentle bodywork that activates cellular function and reminds the body of its potential for perfection. Her remarkable approach honors the mind, body and spirit of all living beings

In 2007 Linda was inducted into the Massage Hall of Fame and in 2008 she was awarded an honorary PhD from Wisdom University of San Francisco, California.
Linda has taught Tellington TTouch for healthcare professionals in collaboration with Dr. Cecilia Wendler, RN, Ph.D., CCRN, at the University of Minnesota, and has developed a 3-year certification course for professionals in Germany. She leads an annual six-day retreat in Hawaii.

Feedback from Past Participants:

“I was amazed to discover the profound transformations that took place by simply practicing, receiving, and observing all the techniques in the course of our work sessions and Linda’s demonstrations. My aches and pains, anxieties, emotional barriers, faded away as the days went by, leaving in their place a sense of space and clarity, and a feeling of warmth, openness and fellowship towards all those in my company. I was struck by the way in which TTouch affects the emotional and spiritual aspects of well-being, as well as balancing the physical body. The act of connecting to another through TTouch opens a pathway for compassion to flow. This was a most profound experience emerging from such a simple activity.”
–Angana Shroff, TTouch Practitioner for Animal Companions, TTouch-For-You Participant, 2004, 2005

“The power of TTouch for me is this: It gives me something to give to my patients when there is nothing else to give. I cared for N. for four nights, doing TTouch on him twice a shift all those nights, and he never quit saying how profoundly important TTouch was for him.”
–M. Cecilia Wendler, RN, Ph.D., CCRN, U. of Wisconsin – Eau Clair

“The TTouch has been an invaluable tool for me in my work as a physical therapist. Most important is the fact that I can teach this work to anyone – family members, friends, and other healthcare professionals. It does not take any specialized knowledge of anatomy and physiology to do the work and get the same results. It is safe, non-invasive, and cannot harm anyone. It is a perfect way to teach patients something they can do for themselves and their own families.”
–Kathy Cascade, Physical Therapist and Instructor of the Tellington TTouch Training Method for Animal Companions

Registration Information
Enrollment is limited to 30 Participants.
Registration is $375; Family discount and Guild Practitioner discounts are available.
To register, Contact: Holly Sanchez Email Holly Sanchez or call 800-854-8326

Tellington TTouch Training
PO Box 3793, Santa Fe, NM, 87501
Downloadable registration packet available

Local Coordinator:
Sandy Rakowitz, TTouch and TTEAM Practitioner
434-973-8864 or Email Sandy

Feel free to contact Sandy or the TTouch Santa Fe home office for assistance with transportation, dining suggestions, local accommodations and any other logistical questions or concerns.

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Thankful Thursday: My Teachers

Thankful Thursday: My Teachers

I read Akal Ranch‘s last Thankful Thursday post with great interest. Simrat’s Standing On the Shoulders of Giants, thanking all the trainers she has learned from.

At first I thought it was not the best idea to copy another blogger’s idea directly, but then I knew Simrat would not object to being my teacher. We should all thank our teachers, whether they taught us good things or bad.

There is a Buddhist principle which states the same thing. In the Mahayana Dharma, there is a simple saying, “Be grateful to everyone.” As Pema Chödron says in her book, Start Where You Are, being grateful to everyone “is a way of saying that we can learn from any situation, especially if we practice … with awareness.”

“Be grateful to everyone” means that all situations teach you, and often, it’s the tough ones that teach you best … You’re continually meeting your match. You’re always coming into a challenge, coming up against your edge.

As we all know, horses are excellent teachers. They don’t know. But they can show you “where you need to be more gentle, where you need ot be more clear, when you need to be more quiet, and when you need to speak.”

Same holds true for mentors, trainers, riding instructors. You can’t really trust anyone else’s interpretations of the truth because you yourself have the wisdom within. Some of us only learn this after looking back long and hard at our teachers, both equine and human.

My first trainer and my first horse were a particularly difficult combination, one which I’ve written about before, though not in detail. I feel guilt about the way I treated that horse under the guidance of that teacher, yet I probably shouldn’t. I have learned a lot from her. I learned what it takes to be a successful horseperson. I learned toughness and resolve. I learned that being intimidated by horses is not an option. I learned a great number of basic skills, and I learned patience, though of a different kind than I practice today. Each time I get in the saddle, I remember what she taught me, “You have to show the horse what you want“, and I learned how to be quiet. She taught me those things. Looking back, I also learned many things I do not want to be part of my horsemanship toolbox: traditional natural horsemanship skills that thinly veil dominance and force. It is now easy for me to find ways to avoid that and come to a greater understanding with horses. I don’t know, however, if I could reach this place with such great understanding if I hadn’t been to hers first. It all makes better sense now.

Katie Little introduced me to Sally Swift and Tellington TTouch.

My second trainer taught me a whole new seat. She took away my saddle for three months and I really learned to sit on a horse. She taught me to jump. Bareback. The thrill of learning something that previously struck terror into my heart gave me such a sense of accomplishment. She is a Parelli-trained teacher, and her easy approach to training horses was fascinating. I also learned from her how not to deal with people on a strictly human basis. I have often wondered what it is about horsepeople that make them so difficult in real life. I think it has to do with passion. If you have great passion and desire, you make mistakes in dealing with people if you are not mindful of possible outcomes. This in itself was a lesson worth remembering.

My third trainer taught me patience and stillness. She is a wizard in the strictest sense. Her blend of traditional English horsemanship and calm, still mindfulness allows her to achieve amazing results. I’ve seen her take a greenie out into the hunt field and show him a great day, have a nice time herself, and come home without a scratch. Not many people can do that. The most important thing I learned form her was quietness. I thought I had that nailed early on, but I was able to take it to a deeper level with her. Not only was it “shut up and sit there,” but it was, “have no specific agenda because you will be disappointed and force the horse.”

Vera taught me about loyalty.

Linda Tellington-Jones blew a hole in my perception of reality with horses. She dismantled all my understanding of horsemanship, and reassembled it from the ground up. Along with the reconstructed horsemanship, she presented a new way to look at interpersonal relationships. She provided me with a new beginning, and a new purpose in life. A change that I’d needed for many years. I’m still amazed at the events that have unfolded in the last two years. And how they have changed my life. Thank you, Linda.

And now to the horses: Thank you!!!




Marksman Millie and Julia G. Scheibel

Brego, for demonstrating how dominance doesn’t work with fearful horses.
Millie, for being the best babysitter on the planet. Also for being true to your breed, a full-blooded Percheron, who really doesn’t like to move out in the ring. You taught me how to ask correctly.
Buster, for showing me what a (Parelli concept) Right Brain Extrovert is really like. And that you were too much for me at that stage of my learning. I wish you a happy life. I adore you.
Holly, for revealing true equine maternal dedication and elegance.
Mystic, for grace, and for showing me the value of eternal vigilance.
Storm, for being who you are. A stallion of uncommon beauty, inside and out.
My babies, Madison and James, for allowing me to shepherd you through the first year of your lives. Nothing can match that experience.
Maira, for being peaceful, beautiful, and accepting of all my flaws. May you show the same kindness to your new “husband.”

Living in the horse world, for however short a time has made me who I am. It is a singular influence on the way I see the immediate world, aside from Buddhism. I might never have gotten to this point, where my life is about to enter a new and exciting phase, without all my teachers.

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How and Why Did Popular Natural Horsemanship Get So Far From Its Roots?

How and Why Did Popular Natural Horsemanship Get So Far From Its Roots?

Ray Hunt changed the relationship between rider and horse from a battle for dominance to a dance of gentleness, communication and mutual trust. He taught riding as a path for both human and animal to realize their true nature.

Ray Hunt and his horse Hondo

Ray Hunt and his horse Hondo

The recent death of Ray Hunt has got me to thinking. With the assistance of reader Shoshin, I have been learning anew of the basic roots of Natural Horsemanship and finding that it was once quite different from the style practiced today by such popular trainers as Clinton Anderson. What seems to have filtered out through the horses and the years is the fundamental application of mindfulness.

An article in Shambala Sun, a Buddhist publication called Ray Hunt, The Cowboy Sage, by Gretel Ehrlich, follows Hunt through a clinic and explores the Buddhist roots of his work with horses. Hunt may not have agreed with that characterization, but there are some strong parallels between the way Hunt approached horse training and the way a Buddhist approaches life: “giving, discipline, generosity, patience, compassion, skillful means, wisdom, harmony, that’s what Ray has been teaching.”

At the heart of Ray’s teaching are lessons about giving, discipline, awareness, compassion, stillness, concentration, and intelligence, the Buddhist paramitas spoken in a western dialect. But how did a rough-hewn cowboy learn these things? Ray answers: “It didn’t come easy. I didn’t just scrape off the top and there it was. I dug and dug and tore my hair out. But I owe it to the horse to work this hard, because I used to do things the true grit way. Not out of meanness. Just ignorance. I guess I saw too many Charlie Russell paintings. I didn’t know there was another way.”

When asked how he made this happen, he answered, “Oh, I just work with the mind.”

Hunt often gathered trainees around at the end of a clinic to tell a story:

A guy said, ‘There’s no use going to those Ray Hunt clinics, all he does is work with the mind.’ Well what the hell else is there? I like to think it’s 80% mind. You might have to do quite a bit physically, but once the mind is in tune, it takes almost nothing at all.

Inherent in Hunt’s “working with the mind” is an awareness, a stillness of his human agenda that would ordinarily cause a trainer to rush to achievement, to push the horse to accept more and more intrusions from the human world. In Hunt’s case, he remained still. He didn’t force an agenda.

I don’t have a time limit on this. It might take a minute, it might take five years. Sometimes you have to keep offering different things. You don’t want to drag it out of them and kill their desire and grit; you just turn it around, you turn it into life,” he says as the young sorrel stops bracing against Ray and turns smoothly. “There he goes,” Ray says, making sure the students see the change.

I am reminded of a basic Tellington TTouch® tenet, don’t force your agenda. When working on the basic body exploration of a horse, or when working to relax the body and the mind, it doesn’t pay to have a specific goal in mind. Erasing what you’d like to accomplish from your mind and being open to what actually occurs leaves open a huge window for success. You just have to be mindful enough to see when it occurs. A lick, a chew, a subtle drop of the head. The lowering of the eyelid. A sigh. Slowing respiration, cocking a leg. All the signs a massage therapist or skillful trainer looks for when waiting for a release. These are the proof that relaxation and acceptance have occurred.

I’m wondering how this attitude and Hunt’s transformed into the thinly veiled dominance and force based on “equine body language” one sees on RFD TV today.

In a training last week at Cedar Creek Stables and RIDE WITH PRIDE, there was a horse who would not allow any work on his right side. He would barely allow a person to approach him from that side. He had a history of injury to a right front leg, and this was causing difficulty going to the right, making it difficult to work in the arena as a therapy horse. Many current NH trainers might say, “I’m going to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing very hard for you,” which is a politically correct way of saying, “I’m going to force you to move to the right using these handy-dandy natural horsemanship steps.”

In last week’s training, a participant unwittingly demonstrated this tenet. At first she expressed frustration at not being able to work on the horse’s right side. Sandy Rakowitz assured her that all things come in time, and left it at that. The lady stopped trying to get to his right side and continued with the next steps in the clinic. Toward the end of the day, she reached over the horse’s back and began to TTouch him from the left side. She slowly worked his right withers from a non-threatening place at his left side. She noticed two things.
1) He allowed it, even seeming to enjoy it, and
2) his muscles, which had been extremely tight and tense in the early part of the day, had relaxed with all the work that had been done on him during the course of the day.

This isn't a really great photo, but it shows the clinic participant reaching over the back of the horse, TTouching the withers on the right side. You can see that the area has undergone some stress in the past because there are areas where hair is missing and others where the hair has turned white. The musculature beneath was very tight.

This was a perfect illustration of the cumulative effect of Tellington TTouch and the fact that if you allow yourself to let go of an agenda (getting to that right side come hell or high water), you just might achieve it at some point. It also reveals how beneficial it is to try something different. Sticking to dogma rarely produces those serendipitous results.

I am again reminded of a story Linda once told me about a training in Europe. Someone brought her a horse who refused to be saddled without resorting to extreme measures. They had tried everything. What could Linda add to the mix that might allow them to saddle this horse without suffering grievous bodily harm? Linda took the saddle, walked to the off (right) side, and carefully placed it on the horse’s back, and attached the girth. No muss, no fuss. A simple demonstration of the benefits of doing things another way. It wasn’t some magical training dogma. Linda had no idea whether this was going to work. if it hadn’t, she would have had to come up with another idea. Her flexibility in dealing with the issue was the magic. Her observation of the horse’s issues with being worked on the left side was the magic. The mindful observation of the horse. Her willingness to open herself to the horse in front of her without a particular “fix” in mind.

“I don’t have a time limit on this. It might take a minute, it might take five years. Sometimes you have to keep offering different things. You don’t want to drag it out of them and kill their desire and grit; you just turn it around, you turn it into life,” he says as the young sorrel stops bracing against Ray and turns smoothly. “There he goes,” Ray says, making sure the students see the change.

I am puzzled by how the horsemanship world has moved away from this revolutionary method of horsemanship to a more results-driven approach that subtly encourages dominance. Is it expediency? is it a fundamental character of human nature? Are we just lazy and in a hurry? I am very interested in your take on how and why natural horsemanship has changed over the years and across the continents.

For the complete article, click here.

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Just Hold Your Horses!

Just Hold Your Horses!

That one episode of Parelli Natural Horsemanship on RFD TV has had me thinking for days. All it takes is for one seed to be planted and off we go, eh?

Linda Parelli demonstrated one exercise for going to get the horse that encapsulates so much that is right about horsemanship. She carefully showed how to walk out into the paddock, field or barn to get the horse for riding in a way that maintains or builds a horse’s confidence. She spoke a lot about confidence, because that’s a Parelli trope. But it kept occurring to me that it’s not just about confidence. It’s about seeking to establish and maintain equal footing in the relationship with the horse.


I know I’m as guilty of this as the next person. We grab a halter and stride purposefully out to the stall, filed, paddock, one intention, very clear. We march right up to our horse, pop the halter on and march back to tack up. In a way, this is imposing our will on a horse who might have had other plans. It can leave the horse feeling gobsmacked and kidnapped. Realistically speaking, of course, we can’t just say,

oh Dobbin, I know you were counting on lazing and grazing all day, so I’ll just mosey back home and pay my bills instead of working on those lead changes.

We ride horses for a reason. Notwithstanding PETA’s arguments, we have to get stuff done.

Linda Parelli demonstrated her method of going to get a horse for work. The essence: hold your horses! Don’t be in such a hurry that you can think only of your purpose and forget to build the relationship and the horse’s confidence. I would add that oftentimes we are not really thinking about what we are doing or how we are doing it at all. Our minds are someplace else. Parelli approaches the horse slowly, making eye contact as soon as she is within range. The moment the horse notices her, she stops. If the horse looks or turns away, or in the worst case scenario, runs or walks away, she stops in her tracks and waits for eye contact. This allows the transaction to happen on equal terms. How often we forget that this is an interaction between two beings. It’s not grabbing a grocery item off a shelf! When eye contact is re-established, she moves forward with the same slow deliberation. She speaks softly to the horse in greeting. Once she is beside the horse, she doesn’t just slap on the halter and make off with him. She takes a moment to scratch or rub some itchy spots, to greet him as he’d like to be greeted, and then gently puts on the halter. The horse will be glad to see her next time, especially if there’s a touch-oriented greeting, or an occasional cookie. For she has made the initial contact one of equality rather than a forced intrusion. She doesn’t then march off to the grooming stall with only her purpose in mind. She and the horse walk together. There is touch. This is the equine version of conversation. There is play (Parelli games on foot). It’s a peaceful and cooperative transition from separation to togetherness that is diametrically opposed to striding into the paddock, haltering and yanking the horse back to the barn.

Though less easy to encapsulate in a paragraph or two, Linda Tellington-Jones’ TTouch and T.T.E.A.M. method of making and maintaing intimate and respectful contact with a horse, and ensuring that calm and effective learning can take place is even more effective in creating a mentally and emotionally stable learning environment. Or a calm mind for hacking. At some point, I will write about this in detail. Suffice it to say that touch is the salient word here. Just as Parelli centers her greeting on awareness and touch, Tellington TTouch focuses on touch as the medium of communication for all of horsemanship.

Equally important in Parelli’s and Tellington-Jones’ methods are taking the time it takes to get the job done. I have so often wanted to shout at myself and others: “Just hold your horses!” We need to spend more time with tasks that at first might seem menial, unimportant. But what is more important that establishing a secure bond? If you’re at all familiar with attachment theory (in human developmental psychology), you know that youngsters need a secure relationship with their adult caregivers in order to develop normal social and emotional development behavior. It is my belief that this is the basis for much of modern horsemanship’s “friendly” and “join up” concepts, as espoused by trainers such as Frank Bell, Pat Parelli and Monty Roberts.

This change of purpose from the immediate, human gratification of getting the horse for the work we have planned, to a perspective-altering “using-the-getting-of-the-horse-as-a-teaching-tool” is an easy one to make. And holding your horses has far-reaching benefits for the relationship between human and horse and the social and emotional development of the horse, which can only increase his learning and performance.

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Mindful Monday: The Mindful Horse

Mindful Monday: The Mindful Horse

There was a Clinton Anderson Clinic in town last week.
And I watched my Pat Parelli videos again last week, too.
And as readers know, I’m a student and employee of Linda Tellington-Jones.

I’ve been thinking about those round pen sessions between new horse and trainer. Neither has seen the other before, and it’s a neck-and-neck race for dominance and submission. You’ve all seen them. They get you on the edge of your seat every time. In its extreme form, The Race To the Horse comes to mind.

Who Could Resist This Face?

Who Could Resist This Face?

I attended a Clinton Anderson Clinic in Ogden Utah in 2005. It was so cold we turned blue, but I went both days, and stayed all day. And boyo, does he get the job done. At first, long before I knew there was another way, I was totally enamored of his Aussie accent, his long legs and his, shall we say, confident way with horses. Now when I watch, I still admire some of his techniques, but I cringe at the dominance inherent in his manner, and the lack of time he allows the horse to stop and think. If I watch the horse carefully, I can feel the rapid heartbeat and lack of true understanding in his heart. He sees what Clinton wants him to do, and, like the intelligent animal he is, he does it. But he does it because he has NO CHOICE. The sheer dominance of the human being he is corralled with allows no time for a true partnership to develop. He also does it because he has been allowed NO TIME TO THINK. When Clinton Anderson says,

Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult,

he allows no time for the horse to pause and come to the conclusion himself. Clinton Anderson’s entire basis for training is all about “Yes Sir, yes Ma’am” and gaining RESPECT. Moving the horse’s feet gains that respect. This is a useful thing and a big plus in the safety department, especially for the novice rider. It’s just that there’s so much testosterone involved. Hasn’t he noticed that the majority of pleasure riders are female? Where are most of us going to come up with that much masterly manliness in the face of a barging horse? No novice I know could accomplish what it takes to master Clinton’s methods and get that respect on the ground and in the saddle, including myself. It takes time. And in that time, you have lost something valuable. The horse’s trust and partnership, and his ability to pause and think for himself.

The Showman

The Showman

Pat Parelli always won my respect and admiration by talking about partnership with the horse. In his videos, he stresses

always allowing the horse to be right,

and giving him adequate time and physical space (this is important when you have a scary horse) to make the desired decision. Longeing a horse toward a tree comes to mind. After two or three tries, the horse comes to understand that he is to avoid the tree and stay on a semi-circular path, because he gets no slack to go around the tree. Pat does not run screaming at the horse, or yank the lead to pull the horse from behind the tree, but merely allows the horse time to work out the issue on his own.

To develop the horse’s responsibility rather than making him a mindless puppet.

This is confidence building at its best. That’s progress toward building a mindful, thinking partner to ride with. Like others, however, I have some amorphous problems with the Parelli method. And no, this does not include personal problems with the Parelli “PR Machine.” As far as I’m concerned, he can suck in as many riders as he wants with that enormous and charming ego as long as they learn something. Heck, I bought some videos. I’m just as guilty of getting trapped in the PR buzz as anyone else. I’ve learned a lot from him, though probably not in the way that he intended. Admittedly, my problem could come from my own ignorance and lack of exposure to the right kind of horsepeople. But I have never yet seen a Parelli student whose horse stood quietly under saddle, and was able to walk, trot, canter and gallop according to his rider’s wishes, or make safe and sane transitions among gaits. But they were very good at moving that green ball around the round pen. Again, probably my lack of exposure to the trainees. If you happen to be reading this and you are one, please feel free to put me solidly in my place. In fact, I really welcome this. I want to learn more.


Linda Tellington-Jones at her Wedding to Roland Kleger. Photo ourtesy Gabrielle Boiselle Edition Boiselle

Time and time again, I have heard Linda Tellington-Jones decry the use of longeing as a horsemanship tool, reminding us to,

Have the grace to stop running your horse around in circles and allow him time to stop and think about what you are asking him to do.

Like Pat Parelli, Linda is a founding member of the Anti-Longeing Movement. To her, it just doesn’t make sense to run the horse around in circles until he is so exhausted he cries “Uncle” and turns in defeat, head down, to face you.  Linda would rather make friends. Though she does not refer directly to mindfulness, Linda’s training method, the Tellington TTouch Equine Awareness Method, stresses, you guessed it, awareness on the part of both horse and rider/ground trainer.  And the good thing is, any idiot can do it. If this were not true, then I would not be writing about it, because I am any idiot.

At every stage of training, T.T.E.A.M. is all about the pause. The pause to allow the horse to think and make the desired decision to either stop, turn, move in the right direction, get the right lead, whatever the rider is asking for. And I stress asking. Never is there a yank on the rope or an aggressive switch of the whip. Linda’s Playground for Higher Learning, a kind of gymnasium for horses, can be set up in under an hour in any ring. It is worked in hand and under saddle, with the same goal in mind: a horse in hand or beneath you who is capable of independent but parallel thought. A thinking partner.

I’ve been lucky enough to see that the results of working the Playground for Higher Learning translate to under saddle and outside the ring. Because of the added benefit of Tellington TTouch and its effects on the brainwave patterns of the horse, his ability to learn calmly and to remember what he has learned is significantly enhanced. You don’t have to carry the green ball outside the ring and start over.

What about when you are faced with a monster of a horse you can’t handle this way, you ask? (First of all, I’m not talking to trainers here. I have no business doing that. If you’re the average rider, like me, and dealing with your own horse, who proves too difficult or dangerous to handle or ride, get a new one, but not before you find a safe and permanent home for the one who’s too much to handle.) Being a T.T.E.A.M. practitioner-in-training only, I can’t answer this question with any authority. My advice, based on hours of watching T.T.E.A.M. professionals do this, is, get help, the same way you probably would in any case. I’ve seen pros double and triple team a scary horse, TTouching for trust until the “monster” was drooling in relaxed delight. This does not mean that the horse became a marshmallow in the next steps in training, but they had something to fall back on when he became unruly again. And each time they would fall back on it, a little it more trust and relaxation developed until the horse understood that there was no battle for dominance. Over the course of even just an hour, a horse would gradually come to understand what was being asked.

“Stop and think. There’s nothing to fear. No equine dominance model is being used here. We won’t insult your intelligence by trying to fool you into thinking we are horses. Let’s just be friends. and try some fun stuff.”

Before you know it, all this play on the ground and under saddle turns into a partnership with true mindfulness on the part of both horse and rider.

I can’t imagine a safer, more satisfying and fun equine partner than a mindful one.

I am interested to know what readers think of the most popular horse trainers out there. And why. Where have you gotten your most trusted methods?

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Mindful Monday: On Mistakes

MINDFUL MONDAY image courtesy growabrain@typepad.com

NB: This was set to publish itself yesterday. I must have made a mistake somewhere, because I discovered today that it did not. Timely mistake, timely subject.

Mistakes–we all make them. Things we wish we could undo. Regrets. Minor stuff: giving the wrong cue for a lead or accidentally digging in a spur. Yelling at our kids or spouse when speaking in a softer tone would do just as nicely. Major stuff: losing our temper and whacking a horse with nippers. Yanking hard on the lead when the horse fails to go where you want at the pace you want. Family transgressions we don’t even want to remember. Sometimes we overlook our mistakes, or believe we have been correct in our behavior. Sometimes we are wracked with guilt over them. The Dalai Lama himself has written about how as a young man he aimed his slingshot at a bird. Fortunately, he did not hit it, but he remembers the momentary impulse.

The lucky thing is we have a choice with regard to the mistakes we make: looking back, whether it’s instantly afterward or after some time has elapsed, it’s how we view our mistakes that makes a difference. In our lives and in those of our horses. We can look back with regret and feel guilty and ashamed of what we have done or we can reconcile ourselves with the fact that what we know now helps us make a change for the better. The key to the latter is holding an inner softness, an acceptance of ourselves as fallible human beings. Looking gently and honestly at ourselves. As Pema Chödrön says, “The first step is to dive into the experience of feeling bad. Make friends with that feeling.” Tara Brach (author of Radical Acceptance) echoes this sentiment with this statement: “We cannot be accepting of our experience if our heart has hardened in fear and blame.”

The concept of motivation or intent is most relevant here. Mindful decisions, made with genuine intention to do the right thing rather than take the easy way out should not weigh on us, even if they turn out to feel wrong. A case in point: a friend had her horse euthanized for an episode of colic. A later necropsy revealed euthanasia to have been unnecessary. The colic could have reversed itself with treatment. Her guilt and remorse over this decision was huge. Yet, at the time, under the duress of saving her horse from agonizing pain, she made the best, most informed decision she could. In time, she was able to “make friends” with her mistake, to see that she made it in the best interest of her horse. To allow herself a softness and acceptance of grief over the decision, but to relinquish self-blame and guilt.

Things we do in the heat of the moment, however, without the proper knowledge, forethought or mindful care, are less easy to forgive ourselves for. When I first learned to ride and care for horses, I was taught cowboy horsemanship. I cringe at the terrible things I did to horses in the name of horsemanship. But I have learned to accept them as a part of my experience. I no longer feel guilty about them because I know that the horses hold me blameless and I now know better. Everything is impermanent: even our mistakes.

Animal experts, including Linda Tellington-Jones and Temple Grandin, assure us that animals live only in the present moment. Despite what Disney would have us believe, guilt and grudge-bearing are exclusively human traits. We anthropomorphize our animals when we feel guilt about our mistakes or believe that, for example, a horse is out to get us. Buddhist thought shores up this idea by saying that it is only those us us who have been blessed by a human birth are haunted by images and occurrences of the past, and who separate ourselves from intimate contact with now, this moment, by discursive thought and our judgment of it. Evidence suggests that animals do not.¹ Anthropomorphism is evidence of deep love for our animals. So are guilt and worry about them. But really, they harken back to our own ego, our desire to make our animals “just like us.”

In terms of making mistakes with our animals, feeling that they are “just like us” limits our ability to deal with them realistically, and to deal with our feelings about any errors we may have made. Holding on to our mistakes instead of finding that soft spot in ourselves, accepting that we are human and will err, allows us to move forward and make every moment new, as animals do. Fresh clarity and new opportunities for communication and bonding arise when we let go of our feelings that we have let our horses down. Or that someone in the past has abused out horse.

Right now, it’s just this horse, this person. Two open hearts. Nothing else is necessary.

¹ For those who tend to hold on to even their horses’ previous trauma, because it manifests itself in today’s behavior, experts remind us that it’s not the actual trauma or the memory of the trauma that the horse is holding on to. Any related behavior is a conditioned response to similar stimuli.

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