By Robyn Hood (first published in the TTEAM Connections Quarterly)
Think you’re too busy for TTouch? Think again!
Here’s how to change your horse or dog’s attitude, behavior and performance in 10 minutes a day, or less.
Most of us lead very busy lives. Horses and dogs may be a form of stress release for us, good friends, a hobby or even a career.
One of the unique aspects of Tellington TTouch is that you can focus on one area of the horse or dog for a few minutes, and in this brief time often make significant changes in your their overall behavior, health and/or performance that go far beyond the area worked.
When you add up the time not spent dealing with behavior, health and performance problems—such as less resistance and increased willingness to learn—you’ll really see the “payoff’ in those few minutes invested each day.
As a bonus, with horses, you will probably discover that you save at least 10 to 20 minutes of warm-up every time you ride.
Here I will give you suggestions for seven 10-minute TTouch sessions—one for each day of the week—on various parts of your horse or dog. This inital post will cover ideas for day 1 and 2.
I suggest that you select one of the sessions and spend only 5 to 10 minutes before riding (or even if you can’t ride) or at any time with your dog.
With both species spend some minutes going over the bodyVERY slowly with your flat hand.
Notice if this flat-hand exploration shows any areas where your animal moves away, flinches even slightly, fidgets or seems sensitive, if you notice this you could use the back of your hand in those areas and then find some TTouches that are acceptable to your animals.
You’ll likely see a change in attitude and often in movement in one week just with these subtle exercises. Feel free to do them in any order, and don’t fret if you can’t do them every day.
Even two to three days per week will make a difference.
Because TTouch affects the body at a cellular level, even a single session is likely to “stick” on a long-term basis.
We’ll start off our week with mouth work.
As you may know, tension in the mouth often reflects tension in the body as well as emotional tension.
We work with many horses with tight lips or rock-hard chins. You may have heard us describe the mouth as the “gateway to the emotions,” and there is a great deal of research backing up this statement.
The mouth is directly connected to the limbic system, the brain’s emotional center.
It’s quite possible that if your animal is nervous, “stubborn”, stressed or aggressive, working this area of the body can unlock the door to improved relaxation and responsiveness.
It can also make de-worming, checking teeth and bridling much easier.
Working every part of the mouth and chin. Keep one hand on the halter’s noseband as you work with the other hand. Start with the outside of the chin and the entire flat of your hand.
Gently move the chin in large circles. You might find your horse reaching forward with his chin, moving into your hand.
Notice how the throatlatch area opens as the chin moves for- ward, which also aids in releasing tension in the neck.
Move on to Clouded Leopard* or Raccoon TTouches* and carefully explore every inch of the chin area using theses connected touches.
Remember to pause and breath every so often. If your horse seems unsure about contact around this part of the body, slow down, lighten the pressure, or move to areas where they are comfortable and slowly work back towards the mouth. Allow the horse to tell you what they are okay with and listen to their smallest signals of concern.
This usually goes a long way to helping improve trust and acceptance without force or fight.
Dog’s mouths are affected in similar ways to horses physiologically. The shape of the mouth and lips are obviously different which requires different contact than with with a horse
It is best to start from the back of the dog’s head and work towards the mouth.
Spending even a few moments at a time can help a dog become more accepting of contact around the mouth.
Besides the emotional balance it helps with the practical aspects of care such as teeth brushing, veterinary exams or just being able to examine your dog’s mouth.
Work towards getting your dog to rest her chin in your hand and then you can either use your thumb to make circles on the gums or your index finger.
Be sure to wet your fingers if your dog’s mouth is dry.
As with the horses, if your dog is apprehensive about being touched here, slow down, pause, and start where they are comfortable. A little goes a long way where the mouth is concerned.
Horses and dogs alike LOVE the Zebra (Zigzag).
It is a great way to introduce yourself and TTouch to animals, relax an animal and connect from front to back.
This touch has the sensation of scratching, which may seem familiar and safe to an animal, but you don’t stay in one spot.
Start on the neck with your fingers curved so that your thumb and index finger are touching. Make a light contact with your nails.
As you move your hand away from your body, open your fingers, increasing contact with your nails.
Draw your fingers back across the hair to bring your fingers back to the curved position.
Zebra can be used lightly under the belly to help bring a horse’s back up. Be sure to start by stroking the belly to ensure that your horse is not overly sensitive.
If they are very sensitive under the belly you can use the back of your hand and move back and forth with your knuckles.
Repeat this motion as you move back along the body in a zigzag pattern.
Be sure to pay attention to your animal’s response and change the pressure, speed etc if there is any concern. This can be a great way to check out all parts of the body without staying too long in any one place.
After a few minutes move on to Lick of the Cow’s Tongue.
The Lick of the Cow’s Tongue got its name because this movement is typically made across the lay of the hair, which gives a sensation that of being licked by a cow’s rough tongue.
“Lick” with one hand while the other rests lightly on the horse to maintain the connection.
Start under the belly with curved fingers spread slightly apart. Slide your fingers across the belly, up onto the barrel and across the back.
Feel the movement coming out of your feet rather than just using your hand and arm.
It really changes the quality of the touch for you and your horse.
Be sure to start gently and see what pressure your horse enjoys.
You can also use Lick of the Cow’s Tongue across the neck, finish by running your fingers through the mane, across the shoulders or hindquarters and between your horse’s hind legs.
On the hind legs, first be sure your horse is comfortable being touched on the inside of his gaskins.
You can also use both hands on the hind legs – one hand on the outside and one on the inside.
With curved fingers, gently stroke across the gaskin area. Horses that are tight in the back are often tight between the hind legs.
This is also good preparation for horses who are sensitive about blanket straps. If your horse is sensitive, use flat fingers instead of curved.
With a sensitive horse, you may wish to start after riding when the muscles are warmer, or with a sock or sheepskin mitt over your hand.
In our next post we will continue with more easy ideas that can be seamlessly combined into your daily routine. Remember that every animal is different and it is up to us to figure out the best place to start for that individual being!
* The Clouded Leopard
* The Raccoon TTouch