Tag Archives: proprioception
Good Boy, Poky!

Good Boy, Poky!

Good Boy! Now we're moving!

Good Boy!

TTouch® for the Poky Horse

Riders and handlers have lots of effective tools for working with the slow or unresponsive horse. Here are some that have worked for me.

Start with TTouches for Trust. No work you do will yield more important or powerful results, which apply over a broad range of issues. Once you have established yourself in the role of loving partner in the dance of contact (and this applies to both groundwork and in the saddle), the horse will trust you more when you ask him to go forward.

TTouch in the barrel area where your leg meets the horse:
1. Tiger TTouches with one-second circles at the location of your leg will bring awareness to the horse’s side, helping him be more responsive to touch there, and as a result more responsive to the leg aid.

2. Lick of the Cow’s Tongue Comforts the horse while returning the concept of contact without cues. If not all contact includes cues, the horse will have to listen more carefully when a cue comes. This increases responsiveness.

3. Abalone TTouch is useful when a horse is very sensitive to contact with his barrel. If he balks or sucks back at contact with the leg, gentle Abalone or Coiled Python Lifts add yet more awareness of contact with that area.

On the Ground. T.T.E.A.M. Groundwork offers riders the opportunity to assert gentle leadership while opening the horse’s heart and mind to new ways of moving. It differs from traditional natural horsemanship in that the handler works close to the horse and there is a lot of physical contact.

The easy-to-construct collection of playground activities, called the Playground for Higher Learning is designed to give the horse time to pause and think. I’ve mentioned before how important it is to the learning process to try non-habitual tasks. In performing non-habitual tasks, horses, like people, achieve a higher degree of attention. If the handler keeps cool, the horse’s level of anxiety is low and there is space to learn. There is no need for endless repetition for learning to take place.

Anyone with five minutes and no tools at all can make most of these obstacles. It helps if you are a scavenger. Anyone with a hammer and nails and some spare wood can make the rest in about an hour. Why bother with construction or lugging around cavalettis? Why bother waking around with the horse in the ring when you could be riding? To some, this sounds like a waste of time and energy better spent in the saddle working directly on Poky’s problem. Changing up the work to include non-habitual movements eliminates stress. With no stress and the increased attention to the handler’s cues, Poky can learn new ways of interacting with the environment and of using his body. You and Poky are effectively playing. Have YOU ever forgotten anything you learned while playing? Here are some Tellington TTouch Playground for Higher Learning ideas:

1. The fan, cavaletti, and pick-up-sticks. All you need for these fun and instructive playground games are cavaletti, or ground poles. Don’t use the round ones, as they might roll when stepped on , causing injury. Use the ones with lathed sides. With these exercises a horse described as clumsy or lazy learns to pick up his feet and give careful attention to length of stride. As the poky horse’s proprioception improves, he becomes a more responsive, quicker ride.

2. Labyrinth is like a corn maze made of cavaletti. Proprioception is key here, but most important are transitions from stop to start, half walk to walk to stop to half walk again and so on. You can expect Poky to pay very close attention to your cues. No barging, bumbling or standing around. Who knew he would learn to do that? Imagine the applications under saddle.

3. The platform and teeter totter require construction. For every minute you spend in construction, you save ten in trailer loading alone. Benefits extend to tricky crossings and walking over new surfaces and crossing shadows and cracks.

Everything you and Poky do on the ground you can do under saddle. Extend your play to mounted work.

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A TTouch is a Touch is a Touch, Right?

A TTouch is a Touch is a Touch, Right?

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.

How to do the Tellington TTouch®

How to do the Tellington TTouch®

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:

Lying Leopard TTouch

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.

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How to Become Your Farrier’s Best Friend

How to Become Your Farrier’s Best Friend

Ever since a good old boy farrier lost his patience with my nervous Palomino quarter horse gelding and slapped him in the ribs with a rasp, I’ve been very interested in barefoot farriery. I had to be, because there was no way that knuckle-dragger was going near my horses again, and what I saw of local farriers’ work did not impress me. I don’t mean to make out like I’m a hoof expert. Oh no far from it. Or that I disapprove of shoeing horses. I don’t. I have as good a grasp as anybody of the interior hoof mechanism and the exterior hoof anatomy, and I can spot a crappy shoeing job from a mile away.

After scrabbling around for someone to put shoes on my horse and finding no one I’d trust, shoes were pulled and Mother Nature’s horse shoes (the natural hooves) were allowed to do the job she designed them for. I was very lucky that another boarder at the stables located Anne Buteau, the lovely and very patient woman who now trims Maira’s hooves every five weeks. Anne is a hoof care instructor for the Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices. Under her care, my horses’ feet have become healthy, tough, and able to withstand the rigors of fox hunting and trail riding. After a couple of years’ good fortune with barefoot and healthy horses, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to shoeing, but that’s not the subject of this post.

While Anne trims Maira’s feet, we often chat about horses and the different ways people expect their horses to behave for the farrier. When Maira first came to me in October of 2007, she was unable to lift her feet for more than a few seconds without fearing for her balance. Slamming a foot down was not an act of disobedience, but her effort to stay balanced. Horses, like people seem to prefer standing in balance. Raising and holding a leg off the ground is not a natural movement for them, and it’s only natural that it takes some practice to perfect. I have seen owners “get after” their horses for failing to stand stock still with a foot raised. I have seen farriers do worse things to horses than that guy did to my Palomino. After taking care of the pre-farriery basics every horse owner should do to ensure a safe experience for the horse and the farrier, it has been surprisingly easy to help Maira stand for trimming, and thus to be a thoughtful farriery client.

Most of what we ought to do to prepare our horses for the visit from the farrier/trimmer amounts to common good manners.

• First, I always make sure the horse is brushed and that I apply fly spray so that Maira will not be tempted to kick at a fly and accidentally take Anne out. Or swish her tail in Anne’s face. It’s basic good manners.

• More in the good manners department is to clean the exterior hoof wall, wipe off the fetlocks, and pick out the horse’s feet carefully so you don’t add that task to the long list of things your farrier has to do. I don’t hose them off, because it’s harder to rasp and file wet hoof than dry. Also, it’s nice to tie your horse’s tail up so that your farrier does not have to dodge it as she does the hind feet.

• I always have someone present to hold the horse for the farrier. I think it’s really rude to ask your farrier to hold your horse and do their job at the same time. Having a horse trimmed in cross-ties is fine if he’s an old hand at standing in balance for long periods without interaction with his front end. But not all horses are. A halter and a short lead can provide just enough stimulation and contact to keep your horse occupied. Having his head free will also allow him to use his neck and head to balance himself better, hopefully cutting down on those slam-downs.

If a horse needs it, there are many things you can do to help your horse stay in balance and behave quietly while getting a trim while you are there. I consider myself a part of the farriery team, and my trimmer considers me a thoughtful client.

Sometimes basic preparation is not enough, and you need to take a careful look at the reasons your horse is snatching his foot away, losing his balance, dropping his head, etc. Most often, it comes down to trying to maintain balance. Here’s what I have done to begin helping Maira stand quietly for the trimmer:

• Stroking with the TTouch Wand Since Maira appears to have little awareness of her hind legs and feet when anxious, and trimming time is anxiety time, I use the Tellington TTouch® wand on her legs to both calm her and bring her awareness to her legs. Research has shown that moderately firm stroking with the wand from throatlatch to hoof has a calming effect. Regular stroking with the wand (wanding) helps increase a horse’s awareness of her body. During trimming, wanding her legs had the effect of “grounding” Maira, of connecting her feet to the ground, and focusing her attention on her front legs while her hind feet were being trimmed, and vice versa. Distraction via focus! This was the first TTouch tool I used on her, and the first time I did it, it cut trimming time almost in half. I can’t say how it cut Anne’s frustration, but I know she left smiling, whereas the previous time, she was frowning and stiff from wrangling with Maira’s legs.

• Hoof Tapping According to Linda Tellington-Jones, Maira’s hind legs have poor neurological connection and she lacks significant awareness of her hind legs and feet, both proprioceptively and in space. Part of my “befriending the farrier” campaign will be to do daily hoof tapping. With the ball end of the wand, I will tap firmly all around Maira’s coronary band and hoof walls. I would like to remind her that her hooves are there. I would like to remind her how her hooves feel when someone touches them. I would like her to know that she doesn’t have to lift her feet every time someone touches them.

• Leg Circles and Other TTouches for the Leg Another tool in my Farrier’s Friend Toolbox is the Leg Circle. Increasing Maria’s balance and proprioception by lifting her legs about 8″ off the ground, and circling them in each direction a few times, and then placing them down gently, will help accustom her to having to lift and hold her legs up, and to learn to keep her balance while doing so. Octopus TTouch is also very useful for increasing horse’s perception of their legs, and it seems to feel very good, too.

• Back Lifts Teaching Maira to lift and engage her back will both strengthen her and enable her to steady herself during trimming.

More common sense good manners to put you on the farrier’s friend list: During the shoeing/trimming, I stand at Maira’s head, with a lead. I hold a few treats hidden in my pocket for random dire moments. I carry a fly whisk and swish away the flies so that she won’t be tempted to, and I keep Maira’s head up and straight ahead.  If I do TTouch ear work and TTouch her face, neck and head, and throw in some hair slides on her mane and forelock, I can use this time for communication and bonding. Granted, this means I can’t jabber mindlessly with the trimmer. But since I’m her new best friend, she often takes me out to lunch, and we can chat there.

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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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