From Linda's Desk
Linda Tellington-Jones, PhD (Hon)
TTEAM Connections Volume 12 Issue 3 July-September 2010
As usual it’s a challenge to choose which of the rich experiences of the past months to share with you.
I’ll start with the weeklong TTEAM Training in Los Osos, California at the dressage stable of Barbi Breen-Gurley. I first worked with Barbi more than 20 years ago with a mare who won the Horse of the Year award in 2nd Level dressage. In the ensuing years Barbi has trained seven horses to the Grand Prix level – a remarkable accomplishment. With co-author Janet Emmons, Barbie has written and self-published an informative, fun and creative book entitled, Enlightened Riding. You can order it directly from www.enlightenedriding.com.
In the fall of 2008, Barbie brought three horses and her friend and student, Christine Sugarman, to my weeklong training in Bodega Bay, California. Her primary reason for coming was to get help with her Grand Prix horse, Octango, nicknamed Tango. He had the talent to be eligible for the U.S. dressage team except for his tendency to spook during competition. He was exceptionally reactive to movement outside the dressage arena and has had the tendency to stop dead in his tracks and run backwards in response to movement outside the arena. To have such a talented individual and put so many years into the development and then have your test blown by something as seemingly simple as the steward sitting in a chair at rings edge bundled up with a oversized coat, is incredibly frustrating.
Barbie could only personally stay for a couple of days because of teaching commitments, but she left the horses and they were worked daily with lots of TTouch and work through the Playground for Higher Learning. In the beginning Tango’s head shot in the air like a giraffe whenever horses moved around the outside of the arena. But that began to shift by the 3rd day.
By teaching Tango to lower the head and lengthen his neck without the aid of draw-reins or martingales or tie-downs, first from the ground, began to shift can shift his behavior. As Robyn so astutely observed many years ago, “High-headed indicates high-stung.” Change the habitual high-head carriage and behavior changes. After a several days of ground work in the labyrinth with his neck level, and standing quietly for TTouch in the middle of the arena with lots of activity, Tango discovered a new posture that changed his mental, physical and emotional balance. And along with balance comes trust. And with trust a horse stops reacting and spooking.
When Barbie returned on the last day of the training I had her ride Tango to practice lowering his head from the saddle by giving him a longer rein than usual and doing TTouch up his neck.
A month after that clinic Barbie sent this photo and wrote that she was seeing some improvements at home. Her comments: “Attending the clinic reminded me of several exercises I had learned from Linda 20 years ago. I have implemented a number of them on my horses since the last clinic. I know the high value of this work but it has just been easy not to take the few minutes to implement them. I am keeping to my commitment now and I know it is bringing greater awareness and relaxation to each of my horses. I have noticed Tango is braver since the work with Linda. We are doing some construction around my arena and it troubles him. He is letting it go much faster and focusing on me more consistently. I am so please about this, as becoming frightened and running backwards has been a behavior that has haunted us both through all the 10 years I have been training him. I am very encouraged and look forward to even better progress with him in the months ahead.”
I agreed to teach a week-long training in March of 2010 at her training center, Sea Horse Ranch in Los Osos, California. There we could work with some of Tango’s spooking habits at home. That week Tango got lots of TTouch on his body to reduce tension, work on the ground, and work under saddle using a variety of our training equipment: the snaffle bit in combination with a Lindel (bitless bridle) and the Neck ring and Balance rein; in addition to the Training bit. Under saddle we created many distractions like the ones he had spooked at during competition. His confidence and trust increased progressively during the week and has continued since March as Barbie goes on with the program.
The Role of Cross-ties in Creating Stress
Often undesirable behavior can be exacerbated by cross-ties. At three top stables I’ve visited in the past year I’ve found cross-ties that were set extremely high in my opinion. In all three barns several horses were displaying signs of extreme stress whenever they came into the saddling area and were hooked onto the cross-ties. Half-rearing, pawing and head tossing were clear signals that the horses were very uncomfortable. Nobody had stopped to realize that the behavior was creating mental, physical and emotional tension that negatively affected performance. When the cross-ties were lowered or the horses were turned to face in a different direction and allowed to eat out of a rubber tub at chest level, the horses became calmer in the saddling area as well as under saddle.
If you use cross-ties consider making them adjustable so that your horse can relax and lower his neck at least to level. And pay attention to the attitude of your horse to grooming. How you groom will depend how your horse responds when you swing a leg over the saddle – tense or relaxed. It’s up to you.
Christine Sugarman’s Report
So often after a training is over I go on to the next event and don’t hear how the riders and horses are doing. Of course, we all get so busy that often participants just don’t have the time to stay in touch. So it was with much pleasure that I read the following progress report from Christine Sugarman after her third week-long Tellington Training.
“Dear Linda, I have been meaning to write you and tell about the many positive changes at Sea Horse Ranch since your training. Today I went on a trail ride with Jeff and Barbi - While Vin and Whisper were being saddled I looked over to see the two horses standing quietly in the lowered cross-ties with calmness and only an occasional half-hearted paw (more for a carrot than anything) I was thinking about how the horses in cross-ties were so frantic before and that I needed to write you and tell you.
This change has been huge for the horses, as you knew it would be.
“We still work with Tango on his fear issues, using pool noodles and umbrellas and plastic. Jeff tries to find time for bodywork with him before his classes. Barbi tried a different saddle and Tango changed dramatically, becoming much freer in the shoulder and somewhat bolder. I think this must align with your belief that pain was somehow involved in his extreme reaction to unexpected movement. Although there was no obvious pain from the prior saddle, and Barbie had regular fittings, the saddle change helped a lot. It must have somehow caused a pinch during movement (particularly half-pass).
“Barbi and Tango have really improved and her scores have gone from 63-64 regularly to 70 in her last three shows!!!
“As far as Raphael and I go: Between the Tellington TTouch work; especially the clinic at the ranch where I learned to used the Tellington training bit to let go of him; the work at the cros- ties and my new awareness of my role in our partnership we are at a whole new place of serenity and calmness together. I took your advice and fed Raphael for a few days at the cros- ties, and just let him stand around outside the cros- ties a few times and nibble grass. It has been enough to break the old pattern of being so upset in the cross=ties and now he is 90% improved and I am able to saddle and bridle him with 80% more ease.
“With the use of the Tellington training bit, I am able to ride him on a loose rein with a low stretched neck. This has transferred over to riding with the snaffle and when I start and finish my lesson I am able to walk into the arena with a loose rein and finish on a loose rein. I now have complete confidence in him and while there are still issues to work on - I do so with a whole new attitude-free of anxiety or fear.
“The training bit allowed me to break a long standing habit of riding Rafael with a "death grip" thinking I needed this to "control him". Do you remember? You told me to let go of him. I was quite skeptical thinking I was in for an out-of-control ride. But I trusted you and let the reins loose and he softened! In one session I was able to learn to let go at the canter, allowing him to stretch down into comfort, and release the feeling that I needed to control him with tight reins. I have never had that feeling of needing to "control him” again. By continuing with the training bit we were able to develop a better partnership because a horse that is being held so tightly becomes tense and it is a vicious cycle - with the tension passing back and forth between us.
“It is good that some time has passed because I couldn't have known at the time how this would progress. It kind of gave me the chills when I read what you sent me, because it seems that at the time that I wrote it, it was a concept that I had just learned but today reading it, I can say that it actually has become a part of me. Its not that we have solved all our issues or that we don't still have some really messy rides, its just that now, when I get to a messy place I know I need to ride with Intention of Purpose; Holding a clear image of desired behavior or performance; and now I have faith in my horse.
“ Each of the training clinics I have attended with you has built on the one before. I certainly will be at the training in Santa Ynez with Raphael in tow. I really look forward to it. Thank you so much for thinking of me. I think of you daily when I do TTouches or when he stands quietly in the cros- ties.”
And just the day before I finished this report Barbi sent me the following update:
“Last weekend I was at a show in San Francisco. I was riding my Grand Prix Freestyle. Two-thirds of the way through it, three loose horses galloped adjacent to the arena back and forth three times. People were trying to catch them but they kept charging the other way. He didn't even miss his 15 one-stride lead changes!!! All the spectators were amazed at how focused he stayed on me. He was disturbed but stayed true to the ride. We got a 71%!!! We even won the Sportsmanship award for it!!! Now I don't think this horse ever could have pulled that off before your work Linda!!!
You would have been soooo proud of us!”
Journey to Jordan
One of my highlights of the last adventures on the road was our May trip to Jordan that was envisioned by our brilliant friend, Gabrielle Boiselle. (Check out her website at www.editionboiselle.com to see her spectacular photos.) Twenty years ago she introduced me to Princess Alia Al Hussein. During that visit Princess Alia organized a TTouch seminar, which I taught for Jordanian veterinary students in Amman. We have great photos from that visit and from our sojourne into the desert. It was a memorable trip and I was excited about going back. This time Gabrielle had a vision that I should help with the animals rescued by the Princess Alia Foundation - “established to promote the balance, harmony and respect for all creation”. One of the projects of the Foundation is a center to provide emergency medical treatment, rehabilitation and re-homing for animals in appropriate sanctuaries and work on issues such as the conditions of animals within the local zoos and the illegal trade in wild animals.
I was blessed to work with a wild desert cat, and two injured street dogs who were in the rescue center. I also met wolves, hyenas and lions that are being rehabbed. At dinner the first evening we were shown one of the most profound videos of the release of 3 hyenas into the wilds of Jordan I have ever had the privilege of seeing. When the first female hyena walked slowly out of the carrier, she gave me the impression that she was consciously savoring the connection to the earth. The awareness that emanated from her expression touched me at such a deep level I felt as though my bare feet could feel what her paws were experiencing. As I share this memory with you I am taken back to that moment and tears of appreciation and deep gratitude cloud my vision. I’m sorry you cannot have the experience of watching this video. It was removed from the website to be sure that no one could discover where the hyenas have been released. Not everyone loves this species that are native to Jordan. I happen to be a great fan of these beings and had the joy of personally interacting with a hyena in Israel some years ago. She had been hand-raised by a veterinary friend who has a wildlife rescue center near Haifa and I had the feeling she took to me as much as I to her. She also gave me a profound feeling of connection and consciousness that I observed in the released female.
The August 16th issue of TIME Magazine has on the cover the title “What Animals Think: New science reveals they’re smarter than we realized”. The Science section, written by Jeffrey Kluger, is entitled: Inside the Minds of Animals: Science is revealing just how smart other species can be—and raising new questions about how we treat them. About hyenas Christine Drea of Duke University writes, “A hyena by itself can take out a wildebeest, but it takes several to bring down a zebra. So they plan the size of their party in advance and then go out hunting particular prey. In effect, they say, Let’s go get some zebras. They’ll even pass up a wildebeest if they see one in the way.” Last year, Drea conducted a study of hyena cooperation, releasing pairs of them into a pen in which a pair of ropes dangled from an overhead platform. If the animals pulled the ropes in unison – and only in unison –the platform would spill out food. “The first pair walked into the pen and figured it out in less than two minutes,” Drea said.
Personally, I question why it is necessary to have those hyenas in captivity to do such studies. The biblical concept of mans dominion over beasts is, thank heaven, coming more and more into question and I am thankful to Princess Alia that she is taking it upon herself to improve the lives of those she can.
Please join me in sending appreciation and prayers for the protection of these to these animals because they are under serious attack in most areas of the world.
Several young lions who had been rescued by PAF had been flown to South Africa, and 3 wolves were established in a new home in a wild area close to the rehab center. When we were shown the video of the zoo conditions from which the wolves were rescued they were so disturbed I thought they could never be mentally rehabilitated. I’ve been fortunate to see Timber Wolves in the wilds of northern Canada and work with numerous wolves and 15/16th wolf, as well as Italian “Wolf dogs” who are bred for captivity.
These Jordanian-born wolves were very slight in stature and in the zoo from which they came they displayed the worst stereotypical behavior of wildly pacing and spinning back and forth that you could imagine.
Perhaps you can realize and share my delight that in their new home, which is only a short drive from the PAF medical center, this small pack looked well adjusted. They have a large area built on undulating ground on a gently sloping hillside covered with pine trees with good brush cover. When we arrived to visit the wolves the veterinarian in charge called and whistled and it took about five minutes for them to come. When they saw us they went into a frenzy of delight, rolling against the fence and licking us and each other. It was not at all what I had expected from wolves who came from such a horrific background. When we drove off they quietly watched us go and then trotted back into the forest together.
Princess Alia has been breeding Arabian horses for many years and she sends some of her stallions to compete in Europe. I worked with two stallions who had come back very stressed from their experience and were very mouthy, as is often typical. I demonstrated “Taming the Tiger” to her staff so that I could safely work on the mouths. Princess Alia translated for her staff and then practiced on the Half-Arab endurance gelding belonging to her son. I showed everyone the belly-lifts, mouth and nostril work for stress reduction and the Ear TTouches to speed up recovery. I was surprised when the male staff of Princess Alia got into the TTouch for themselves after I showed one of her guys how he can ease the discomfort in his sore lower back with TTouch.
TTouch for Riders
In the July TTEAM Training in New Mexico we had a very talented 16-year-old student named Claire in my class. She had been learning TTouch for her Thoroughbred gelding who has a weak area on his back and was dragging a hind toe. Interesting that Claire also had a sore lower back with a 6-level ache that was really bothering her from the standing we were doing while TTouching the horses. Claire habitually stand with an arched back and told me that she has this pain almost everyday.
Between work on the horses I did about four minutes of Clouded Leopard TTouches on her lower back in a standing position and when I finished the pain was completely gone. I began with Noah's March with a 4-pressure Clouded Leopard TTouch and did some 3-pressure Raccoon TTouches with PAWS after each TTouch in the loin area. I followed that with Octopus TTouches on her legs and she could not believe how light her legs felt. The pain did not return for the entire day and the next day, although I did only a few minutes of TTouch between horses, she remained pain-free.
Of course, I showed her how she can reach back and do TTouches on her own lower back. Being able to apply TTouch to ourselves to reduce pain or relive stress is one of the greatest gifts of the Method.
During the Santa Fe TTEAM training I had everyone doing the "Lick of the Cow's Tongue" in a circle at the end of the day as I often do. The following morning came the report from one participant that the 5-level pain she had been feeling for weeks had disappeared and after that group exercise her back still felt fresh with no pain the following morning. I really appreciate the self-help and the hope TTouch brings.
Among the many memorable moments of these months is an experience I had of working on two senior dogs during the Companion Animal training in North Carolina in April. I had the pleasure of staying with Jenn Merritt and her husband and their 3 brilliant dogs for almost two weeks. As I have done each time I teach in North Carolina, I taught an evening seminar to raise funds for the animal shelter where we do our training. One of the dogs I chose to work with was Jenn’s dog, Blue, who is 15 years old and is three-legged. She lost her leg many years ago from a car accident and thanks to Jenn’s excellent care, gets along really well. I was very proud to demonstrate on her to show how much TTouch has helped her to stay strong.
What made the experience memorable was the comparison with another 15-year-old dog who had not had the benefit of TTouch. A woman who had recently rescued this older dog and was essentially giving her a form of hospice care brought her to the evening. The dog was not strong enough to walk and was carried in and put down on a blanket. When I saw her lying so listlessly I asked if I could bring her up onto the table to give her some TTouch.
You would think after working on so many animals over all these years I could not be surprised, but I was amazed that after about 20 minutes of work, this dog began to respond and by the end of the session she was strong enough to walk out on her own and walked to the car. A few days later her care-giver attended another fund-raising evening I did, this time for a therapeutic riding center, and told me the dog has actually been running around and it was as though she had a new lease on life.
In that same training we had three dogs with “turn-around-tails” that were really remarkable. The first was Yuki and I wrote about her in the last newsletter. According to Christina she is still doing well. I consider myself her Auntie and so I call to check up every few weeks!!
Another dog was a 160-pound deaf Great Dane named Einstein. He came to the client day because he pulled terribly and due to the deafness he did not respond to voice commands. His person had seen dogs abused with head collars so she would not consider using one. Lisa Sellman did a lovely job of relaxing Einstein with a TTouch session and then we put the super balance leash on him and I taught him to stop and slow down using principles of half-halts across the chest. He got it! Three days later he came back to the advanced training to check out her progress and he was really super and not pulling at all. The last dog I am going to leave you in suspense about or this report gets way too long to read. It’s about a black lab type named Herald. For 5 years his family could have NO guests in their home because he had bitten a person and he barked uncontrollably when visitors attempted to come in. Both husband and wife love this dog and were terrified he would be taken away and euthanized if he had another incident. We have great photos of this turn-around-tale for the next issue.
I’d like to leave you with a thought to mull over.
On page 105 of the book, Spontaneous Evolution by pioneering biologist, Bruce Lipton and political philosopher, Steve Bhaerman, there is a reference to the book and video by British biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. “In Sheldrake’s experiment, which was videotaped for Austrian TV, video cameras with time codes were simultaneously trained on dog owner Pam Smart, who was out of her home, and her homebound dog, Jaytte. At a random time, unbeknownst to either Pam or her dog, she received a call on her cell phone telling her to return home. At that very instant, Jaytte ran to the door to await her owner. Similar results were confirmed in over one hundred videotaped experiments.”
I believe that our animals communicate to us in so many ways most of us miss much of the time. The level of intelligence and knowing that our dog, Rayne displays often stuns me. Tonight was typical. Roland and I rarely eat beef anymore but tonight we had a steak and it had considerable gristle on it, which I put aside for Rayne. Now this only happens a few times a year. But when I finished eating and prepared to take the plate to the kitchen, Rayne stood up on the side of my chair and put one paw on my leg with the absolutely clear message that she would like to have the meat now and not with her breakfast. Her language could not have been clearer if she had verbalized her wish!!! This sort of conscious communication she gives me occurs many times a day.
I think its time to share more of our wonder stories about our relationships and connections with our animals. I am deeply moved and touched by the level of consciousness I observe. I am thrilled that finally science is beginning to wake up to what many of us have observed all our lives but were scoffed at or ignored or shut down our powers of observation because it didn’t seem possible.
And I am not just talking about dogs or cats or birds. I’ve had many profound connections with horses and I think its possible with many animals. We humans are the ones who limit the connections. Last week we spent time at a mango festival visiting with a woman beekeeper. After listening to her talk about the conscious actions of the bees made we want to know and connect with bees or ants and other small being. Humm, Maybe it’s just a question of intention and holding the knowing that it is indeed possible.
So if you have profound connections or thoughts about it, lets share on Facebook and spread the message around the world.Blessings and Aloha and Heart Hugs, and please pass my greetings along to your four-legged, furred, feathered and finned friends. Linda