Making contact with an animal is instinctual for many of us. There is something truly therapeutic about the feeling of soft fur against our skin. For me it is important that this positive feeling is reciprocated by the animal we are making contact with.
Becoming mindful of HOW we touch an animal is as important as the specific technique itself. As is observing our 4 legged friend’s subtle feedback during and after contact.
A wonderfully simple way to make positive, mindful contact with nearly any species is the “Zebra” TTouch.
Also known as the “Zig Zag”, this technique is very simple to learn and teach others.
I find that it is a TTouch that I often use when first making contact with an animal. I can easily adjust speed, pressure and how much of my finger tips, finger pads, palm or even the back of the hand I use.
It is fabulous to connect front and back end and increase circulation.
It is in the “Slide” Family of TTouches.
As you slide your fingers, imagine a zig zag pattern across the coat.
1. Place a soft/flat hand on the animal behind the ear ( or shoulder or wherever your animal is accepting of contact)
2. As you retract your hand towards your body, slightly curl your fingers inward.
3. As you extend your hand/arm away, flatten and opens your fingers softly.
4. Continue along the whole animal to the hind end and even down the legs, if acceptable.
5. Pause and breathe as you change direction with each “Zag”.
6. Melt off
The “Zebra” is a great TTouch for horses as well as dogs and cats.
I especially like to do short “Zebra”s under the saddle pad after a ride. I remove the saddle, leave the pad, and “Zebra” under the pad on both sides. This allows for air flow to gently decrease the temperature on the warm back. Much like putting on a layer before going outside, after working out at the gym, a few moments of “Zebra” significantly cools the back.
This tip came from Peggy Cummings of Connected Riding.
As with any TTouch, always remember the “9 Elements” as ways to adjust how you can find a starting place your animal enjoys, not just accepts.
- Shape & Quality of the Circle – while not specific to the TTouches in the Slide Family, this can relate to how smoothly your fingers travel across the tissue and change direction.
- Pressure – adjusting your pressure on the scale of 1 – 5 allows you to adapt the TTouch to the animal’s preference in that moment.
- Tempo – just like pressure, this is an easy way to adjust your technique to be acceptable and enjoyable to the individual.
- Mindful Pause – a pause as you TTouch or after you work an area goes a long way, read more about the Power of the Pause. It also gives the animal time to show you whether they are enjoying what you are doing.
- Connections – again, more specific to how one would connect Circular TTouches, this can be applicable to how you change direction and move to different parts of the body.
- Breathing – mindful breathing is incredibly important as a way to ground and relax you and the animal.
- Intention – words and thoughts matter! Keeping a positive or neutral intention helps you see the animal’s “perfection” rather than limitations.
- Posture – how you carry tension will be felt by the one receiving the TTouch. Be mindful that you are not in an awkward posture and that you keep your arm, wrists, and fingers in a relatively aligned, free position.
- Feedback – this is perhaps the most important element and one that should guide how you adapt the 8 others! Notice what your animal is telling you without words.
Let us know how you and your animal enjoyed the “Zebra”! We’d love to hear about it in the comments.