Tellington TTouch Training™

TTEAM Training with Robyn Hood at the Icelandic Horse Farm

a report by Paula Loewen

TTEAM Training at the Icelandic Horse FarmDuring the first week in August, I attended another TTEAM training at the Icelandic Horse Farm. Robyn Hood and her capable assistants taught us about the different TTouches and the TTEAM ground exercises -- including the different leading positions neckline driving, and ground driving. We also explored the way that the connected groundwork exercises like the caterpillar and the shoulder press complement the TTEAM work, helping both horses and their riders. [See more photos from this training below.]

But what stood out for me was the broad range of experiences that the participants brought to this clinic. We had participants who were new to TTEAM, participants who   hadn't ridden since they were kids, and participants who are quite experienced in the work. Everyone was able to learn and grow together:

This was my third clinic - I had had one previous horse clinic, and one companion animal clinic. Each time, I have more confidence in applying the techniques. This time, I was able to work on a friend's injured dog. He had a massive leg cut, and I was able to provide comfort and enhance healing. Not exactly a horse, but I also used some of the new TTEAM approaches we used on my young horse, Vinur. He tends to rush on the trail. After 20 minutes of TTEAM work, he went out on the trail, and was totally calm. The great thing is that the techniques work even in relatively inexperienced hands. ~ Vera Alexander

Five of the clinic participants were from Central Alberta Special Equestrians (CASE), a therapeutic riding group from Red Deer , Alberta . Rhianne, an instructor with CASE, explains how the integration of TTEAM and Connected Riding/Groundwork is already making a difference for her, and for the horses in the program:

I'd love to share my experience since taking part in my second TTEAM clinic! I had even more fun this time than I did the first time I went, and will continue with TTEAM and TTouch at Robyn & Phil's because of the incredibly positive ambiance and environment.

Since returning home I find that I am much more relaxed in all aspects and while being with horses: from catching, to riding, to dealing with spooky horses and spooky people.

Now that I am more familiar with 'neutral pelvis' I feel myself becoming more confident in all of my actions and I've found that I'm breathing more consciously, more fully and more naturally. Because of this I react less and have started to think more - just like the horses! It's wild how I've been around horses for the better part of 20 years and now am feeling the most comfortable with them, almost connected by some means.

Of course it's not all about me. We [the group at CASE} have made a decision to always lead with either the snap of the lead line clipped to the side ring of the halter or with a soft lead, which has made a HUGE difference with just us leading horses. Imagine what it will do for our clients in our program!? Also, the combing of the lead and the reins will be something easy to integrate into our volunteer programming with huge results.

I could go on and on about what a difference I've noticed, but I'm afraid they'd have to rename the newsletter 'Rhianne's Blathering'. ~ Rhianne J. Weghnnar

CASE actually brought horses with them to the clinic, and this gave us all an opportunity to learn more about this challenging equine job. These horses have to be able to stay in emotional and physical balance even when their riders and handlers are not that experienced or balanced themselves.

One of the CASE horses, Hannah, had a few challenges in this area. When the clinic started, there was some concern over her tendency to get uptight and reactive when other horses were in close proximity. To help her move beyond this concern, we did not push Hannah too quickly. For the first couple of days, we simply allowed Hannah to have the space she needed, bringing her into the arena alone to experience the leading exercises, TTouches and Connected body work.

As her comfort level grew, we introduced new stimulus. On the third day of the clinic, we chose to neckline drive her. We introduced her to the body wrap and necklines in the smallish indoor arena, and we had one other horse (a horse she knows and likes from Red Deer ) inside with her. She was fairly calm, and so we started to drive her, inside the arena, and outside, as well. When it was clear she was comfortable with this, we had another group of handlers ground drive their horse past Hannah, starting by giving her lots of space, and building to have the other horse passing closer and closer. Hannah was able to stay focused on her handlers, and amazed us all with her confidence: she didn't get upset with the other horses once, which was, apparently, quite a step for her!

Another horse from Red Deer is the Rocky Mountain mare Cuddles. Her Mom, Karen gets around for the most part in a scooter. Cuddles is perfectly comfortable being led from the scooter, but ground line driving was not a simple matter for Karen! To help Karen drive her horse, we all needed to change our way of thinking about holding the driving lines, so that Karen could drive her scooter and her horse, all at once. In the end, Karen found a way to hold the lines that worked for her and for her horse, and even though she didn't have a textbook “bridge” in her lines, she safely and effectively provided Cuddles with a new experience. All week long, everyone at the clinic commented on how much we appreciated the fact that Karen was so willing to help us find new ways of thinking about what we do with horses and people; we all expanded our horizons!

Coming to the clinic, Karen had not actually ridden Cuddles for 3 years, and she wanted to bring this element back into their relationship. Sue Falkner-March is a wonderful Centered Riding instructor who also uses Connected riding theory in her approach. Under her tutelage (and with the help of assistant instructors Jo Buckland, Barbara Owens, Laura Faber-Morris and Mandy Pretty), Karen got back up on Cuddles and found ways to ride in comfort once again.

Violet van Hees, a TTEAM Practitioner and Feldenkrais practitioner, who took part in the clinic with her daughter Kirstin. Violet gave Functional Integration Feldenkrais lessons to several people in the training. She tailored each person's lesson to find something that would be helpful for their situation and she was right on the mark with everyone. The experience helped people relate to the connection between TTEAM and Feldenkrais. Sue also challenged the rest of us to ride in neutral pelvis, and to use images to help us do so. For example, Sue taught us to think of ourselves as evergreen trees that grow up towards the sky and down into the ground at the same time. Several of us found that when we thought of this image, we would “centre and grow,” and so rebalance ourselves, and our horses. It was quite wonderful!

On the final day of the clinic, the lessons were less formal and we all had an opportunity to play with what we had learned. A couple of the outside horses were ridden bridleless, with a TTEAM neck ring. I have to say, watching the transition in horses and riders was amazing, as they accepted the new freedom, released the old tension, and found huge smiles. Karen and Cuddles rode again, and Hannah successfully worked in an outdoor arena with many horses and people milling about. And everyone commented on how much we would all take home with us. I think Linda Eddy sums it up really well:

I just want to talk about developing a relationship with your horse. I just returned from Icelandic Horse Farm in Vernon , B.C. where I attended another outstanding TTouch/TEAM clinic. We worked on a lot of touches and ground work, incorporating Connected ground work. We also did Centered Riding with Sue Faulkner-March. I was reminded how much this work offers to our bodies and to our horses. I got home feeling so much better about my relationship with horses. Pretty immediately my wonderful young horse Brana caught onto some of the new ground work I learned and seemed happy and interested with all of it. In fact, after I worked her the first time, I was happy to see that she is offering freework--doing S-turns, circles etc. without physical contact with me. It was so touching it made me cry. She then happily offered me nice gaits under saddle. I really hope all of you have an opportunity to explore this work. ~ Linda Eddy

I certainly have to agree with Linda, and I can't wait to go back for another clinic! In the meantime, I am, like Vera, Rhianne, Linda and all the other participants, exploring the work with my own horses and in other areas of my life, too.

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Photos from "TTEAM Training with Robyn Hood at the Icelandic Horse Farm"


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