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Alternative Definition of Tellington TTouch In Light of Recent Findings in Neuroscience

Alternative Definition of Tellington TTouch In Light of Recent Findings in Neuroscience

By Kim Carneal and Caroline Larrouilh

The Tellington TTouch Method® is a holistic approach to physical, mental and emotional wellness that seamlessly integrates body work and in-hand work (ridden work in the case of horses), promoting a state of homeostasis (or coherence*) in both animal and handler.  Maintaining a stable physiological and emotional state under varying types of stresses is the ultimate goal of all organisms. TTouch has a direct effect on the natural physiological responses necessary to achieve homeostatic equilibrium.

TTouch is the first integrated system of touch and in-hand work to consciously and systematically recognize and honor inter-species communication, seeking to create a relationship between animal and human based not on dominance or the “alpha” model, but rather on the acknowledgement of the animal as an individual. Instead, the Tellington Method teaches the handler to lead by example: to approach and work with the animal with respect and empathy; to break information into manageable bits based on what we know about the way animals’ brains and emotions work; and to give them time and space to process what is asked, using feedback from the animal to guide the next step. The Tellington Method teaches the handler herself flexibility and open-mindedness when seeking solutions, requiring that they adapt creatively to the situation to help the animal learn new behaviors. The Tellington Method thus differs from more dogmatic, academic training approaches with circumscribed toolboxes that rely on ethology-based dominance or fear to force obedience rather than engaging the mind of the horse.

In each of its applications, the Tellington Method allows for an animal and handler to connect at a cellular level, experiencing a state of harmony characterized by a calm, focused awareness and trusting confidence in each other. Each species reaches emotional and physical homeostasis individually and as a unit.

the electromagnetic field of the heart is responsible for generating heart coherence

image courtesy nashvillemeditation.com. the electromagnetic field of the heart is responsible for generating heart coherence

This degree of calm, engaged trust in mutual homeostasis (or coherence) greatly enhances the learning capability of both animal and handler. Research has shown that new skills are more quickly and easily learned in a state of calm, and are better retained and more easily generalized, or applied over a range of different situations. New scientific research about mirror neurons† may explain in part why the Tellington Method is so effective. Its exercises are thought to awaken mirror neurons in the brains of both animals and humans through both the sense of sight and touch. The sense of touch, along with the physical proximity and handler state of mind, is thought to further enhance the capacity for cooperative learning and performance via heart coherence. Heart coherence in turn effects an empathetic experience while increasing levels of neurohormone oxytocin (calm connection through physical contact) and decreasing cortisol (stress) in both animal and handler.

Mirror neurons are a large part of how we relate to others

Image courtesy http://student.biology.arizona.edu. Mirror neurons form a large part of how we relate to others. Discovered by Marc Iacoboni, they are literally responsible for the old saying, "monkey see, monkey do."

A key difference between the Tellington Method and others is that many of the benefits for the animal are handler independent and reciprocal. TTouch at its foundation is not a one-way endeavor like some methods of animal training, “do it my way because I am lead mare” or massage where the recipient is passive and the massage therapist is active, but interactive because heart coherence, neurohormone levels, and mirror neurons amount to cellular coherence in both beings.   TTouch works on the entire body, brain and mind of both species involved. TTouch benefits both animal and handler all the way down to the cellular level.


* coherence–consistency, cohesion. From Dictionary.com:
coherence  (kō-hîr’əns, -hěr’-) A property holding for two or more waves or fields when each individual wave or field is in phase with every other one

mirror neurons–neural cells found in the premotor cortex, supplementary motor area, primary somatosensory cortex, and the inferior parietal cortex of the brains of humans. While studies have not been conducted on horses, it is believed that most mammals share both similar brain structures and the capacity for mirror neuron function. In monkeys, functioning mirror neurons have been found in the inferior frontal gyrus. See Rizzolatti, Giacomo; Craighero, Laila (2004). “The mirror-neuron system”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 27: 169–192.

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Shock and Trauma and What YOU Can Do (This is Another True Story)

I should start carrying rubber gloves in my glove compartment. I am a veritable magnet for accidents and sudden serious illness. I’m posting this not to invade the privacy of the lady I helped yesterday but to alert you to the fact that you don’t have to feel helpless in the face of an accident or sudden illness, wishing in vain that there were a doctor or nurse present. There is something YOU can do to help.

Just yesterday I was returning to Linda’s house after going to the post office when I turned a corner in my car to see a horrible moped accident. A tourist, wearing just a bicycle helmet, careened at top speed (maybe 35 mph?) into the curb to avoid an oncoming car and crashed in a most spectacular way. Off came the helmet, with predictable results.

I was the second out of my car, handing my cell with 911 pre-dialed to a recent arrival who would otherwise have been a rubbernecker.

After assessing her condition and the degree of her consciousness and severity of her wounds, I was able to delegate tasks to her husband (a very cool customer considering) and others such as holding tourniquets and pressure, and get to work while we waited (ten minutes or more!) for the ambulance.

My nursing background enabled me to help in ways that a lot of people who want to help in situations like this dare not offer. But in the end, it was not education or specialized training that saved this woman’s life. Tellington TTouch Ear Work has been proven time and again to prevent accident victims and those suffering from severe sudden illness from going into shock. It did not let me down yesterday. I was able to prevent this gravely injured woman from going into shock and possibly dying from it before she received EMT assistance.

The ear has been used as a mirror of the whole body in the application of acupuncture for many centuries. Working the ear in many modalities is a time-proven method of affecting the autonomic nervous system.

Here is what to do:

If possible, sit at the head of the victim. If it’s not possible, get as close as you can to be able to grasp their ears, one in each hand. This sounds funny, but I assure you, it’s not.
Grasp the ears between thumb and fingers with enough contact or pressure to be able move them away from the head.

Make a TTouch Circle with one or two fingers (depending on the size of the ear and your access), sliding the finger to stroke the ear. You will be making a total of four circles and strokes per ear. Begin at the lobe with the thumb posterior and still. The index finger is anterior (in the front). Make the TTouch Circle with the index finger, folding the index finger as you stroke the ear in an upward direction. Repeat the motion a second time, beginning at the entrance to the ear canal, again making a gentle TTouch Circle with the index finger in motion and the thumb in back to stabilize. Make the third TTouch Circle about 1/4 inch higher now, again stroking upward and outward. The fourth TTouch Circle is identical, covering the rest of the ear, being very careful to complete the fold at the upper margin of the ear. *

NB: Depending on your angle you will have your thumb behind the ear and fingers in front, or vice versa. It does not matter.

In cases of shock, or to prevent imminent shock, move rapidly, so that the entire circle and stroke takes about 2 seconds.

Continue until and even after rescue has arrived. If you can, accompany the victim in the ambulance and into the ER until they are stabilized.

Most EMTs and ER doctors are unaware of this complementary care technique and you may be the one to save the victim’s life. As you may know, shock kills. Often it is shock that kills rather than the wounds or illness, which might not be life-threatening. This is the fourth time I have used this simple technique to either save a life or to intervene in a medical emergency. And I’m just one person. There are literally thousands of case histories of the application of this work from around the world.

I hope you don’t ever need it, but it’s a good skill to have.

There’s a lot more to the story, but suffice it to say that it was a long day, there was a lot of laundry to be done afterwards, and I have a bit of my own road rash to deal with. Ruby Beagle was very put out indeed after being asked to wait in the car during the incident and to accompany me as we followed up. She got a biscuit. I got a cup of tea. ANd I hope that the lady who had the accident will eventually get to go back on a cruise ship and go home without permanent injury.

* from TTouch for Healthcare: The Health Professional’s Guide to Tellington TTouch by M. Cecelia Wendler, RN, PhD, CCRN and Linda Tellington-Jones

© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal

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Off-Topic: DVD Review  Tellington TTouch For Happier, Healthier Cats

Off-Topic: DVD Review Tellington TTouch For Happier, Healthier Cats

The DVD, Tellington TTouch® for Happier, Healthier Cats promises to show viewers how to develop a closer bond with their favorite felines using Tellington TTouch. Does it deliver? You bet!

Using her study with Moshe Feldenkrais as the foundation upon which Tellington TTouch was built, Linda Tellington-Jones reveals the many ways in which simple loving touch can enhance essential nonverbal communication between you and your cat.

We often ask difficult things of our cats without realizing it–we ask them to submit to touch that can be threatening and at times painful. For example, pet cats visit the veterinarian for examinations and vaccinations, the groomer, and undergo nail clipping and de-clawing, among other often traumatic experiences. These events often include rides in the car, which can induce carsickness and fear of containment.

We understand the need for confinement and these kinds of touch, but our cats may not. Tellington-Jones shows viewers that, with a few minutes a day of mindful touch, we can prepare our cats for virtually all the handling they will receive by using the form of nonverbal communication known as Tellington TTouch.

Using a variety of cats who live in a single home, Tellington-Jones demonstrates TTouch at work on a number of different feline issues. From behavioral to physical health and trauma related problems, this video shows Tellington-Jones using TTouch for a broad range of issues common to cats and other house pets. You can help your cat find greater comfort, sociability, and a better quality of life. It is essential that you consult your veterinarian before undertaking any form of home care for your cat. However, armed with these skills, owners are no longer dependent solely on wellness practitioners.

dvdHHcats2Situations and issues covered include:

• Shyness
• Stiffness and arthritis in older cats
• Illness
• Injury
• Shock
• Post surgery
• Carsickness
• Fear of the veterinarian and groomer (including immunizations, vet procedures, and nail clipping)
• Fear of containment and restraint
• Dislike or fear of being handled
• Aggression
• Introduction of a new cat into household
• Transition to dying

Other interesting and useful tools include using a towel wrap and the Tellington TTouch wand for engaging a shy cat in play as an introduction to touch. These techniques increase both the cats’ sense of play and range of safety. The sessions are fascinating to watch.

Throughout the demonstrations, Tellington-Jones stresses the importance of the aspect of preparation in the care of our pets. Loving owners spend a great deal of time caring for their cats but often fail to prepare them adequately for experiences that need not be unpleasant. With the TTouches and techniques demonstrated in this video, viewers can do their homework during daily petting sessions.

In addition to basic instruction on how to do the TTouch*, Tellington-Jones introduces:

• Noah’s March, the respectful, comforting stroke many pet owners use instinctively to greet and comfort their animals. This stroke is used as an introduction to a TTouch session, to comfort a cat when s/he becomes agitated, and at the end of a TTouch session.
• Raccoon Touch, the small circles with the tips of the fingers
• The value of toning or crooning to cats as your work with them
• Lying Leopard TTouch, very soft circles with the supple hand
• Clouded Leopard TTouch, very soft circles with the cupped hand in the shape of a paw

The video follows each cat through a series of short (a few minutes each) TTouch sessions. Descriptions and feedback from their owner helps viewers understand the possible roots of the cats’ problems, as well as to gauge their progress. One of the advantages of viewing sequential sessions is the ability to see the cats’ reactions and changes in their behavior from session to session. Within the framework of a single, five-minute, introductory session, several of the cats show obvious improvement in their willingness to be handled or TTouched in areas where they previously showed pain or refused contact. Tellington-Jones uses this opportunity to reiterate an important message: feline behaviors and attitudes are often influenced by hidden discomfort.

Each subsequent TTouch session, in which Tellington-Jones patiently works closer to any problem area, shows clearly not only improvement in specific pain and behavioral issues but also in relaxation and willingness to be handled.

bkGITcat2There are benefits to practicing gentle restraint and comforting, soothing touch with your cat at times when it’s not necessarily their idea. As preparation for the times in their lives as pets when others will have to hold them and touch them, Tellington TTouch can provide a toolbox full of techniques for practice. I highly recommend this DVD, especially in conjunction with the book, Getting in TTouch with Your Cat: A Gentle Approach to Influencing Behavior and Health.

Warning: the side effects of using Tellington TTouch include improved nonverbal communication between human and feline, increased time spent together, and a sense of appreciation and wonder at the opportunity to share our lives with cats.

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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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Video: TTouch Rescues Michael Vick’s Alf

Rescued from the horror of the Vick dog fighting kennel, Alf overcomes his fears with the TTouch Method by Practitioner Kathy Cascade.

If you are at all interested in seeing what TTouch for dogs looks like, visit Kathy’s YouTube channel


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What Exactly Is TTouch®?

What Exactly Is TTouch®?

What exactly is TTouch®, and what’s so special about it?

Some folks just hop on and go. Others are passionately loyal about the training and horse care methods they follow.

I’m a cherry-picker myself. When you’re out there researching horsemanship all the time, you find a lot of good stuff. I’m not going to assert that I’m an expert at any of it; in fact, I’m not a very talented rider. As they say, those who can’t do write about it.

As an adjunct to training in any tradition, TTouch is my all-time favorite. TTouch is a mindful approach to horsemanship.
Almost every day I see some potential application for TTouch.

But I didn’t fully understand the value and import of TTouch right away. I didn’t start getting it until I’d done a bit of research. In addition to seeing that something works, I want to know how: I always demand lots of scientific proof for any claim of benefit. In the case of TTouch, I got proof in the form of hard data and personal experience.

The foundation of TTouch is awareness. The basis for TTouch is the touch circle, similar to massage, called the Clouded Leopard. (The different TTouches are named for animals Linda has worked on all over the world.) The Clouded Leopard involves the supple application of the pads of the fingers (softly curved hand) moving the skin in the circle. It is so much more difficult to describe than it is to do. If you really want to see it done properly, go to The Tellington TTouch YouTube Channel

Read more…

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