This past weekend I took part in a three day clinic with Linda Telllington, founder of the Tellington TTouch method of working with horses and riders.
“See the beauty. Do not go to the place of despair.” Linda said to us on the first day. So much is happening on our planet; wild fires, hurricanes! It is easy to go to the place of despair. But she told us to remember compassion, intuition and creativity. Since then I have reminded myself to “see the beauty”. And what better place to start than with horses. These beautiful creatures can bring us out of the place of despair.
The three day clinic with Linda Tellington was full of things to be learned about our horses, and ourselves.
Linda asked us if anyone had aches and pains. Every hand in the room went up. She suggested we express gratitude to our body. I thought this was such a good idea. I am now starting every day with giving thanks to all the parts of my body. Instead of grumbling that my body is old and not so good anymore I give thanks that my body has recovered from illness and injury and I am still here! My body has done very well.
Linda asked us to let our horses know that they are brilliant. Tell them! She suggested that if horses could live with us in our houses they would be much calmer. But that is not possible so we need to help them to be calmer. The TTouch body work can help with this. I am not going to describe the techniques here but if you are interested take a look at Linda’s book “The Ultimate Horse Behavior and Training Book.” This book has all the body work and ground work exercises clearly explained and illustrated. I have used this book extensively with my horse Biasini and I know it is remarkably effective.
One of the first horses we saw taking part in the clinic work in the arena was somewhat anxious. His owner had previously worked with a trainer who uses a well-known method of horse behavior control. But Linda was not happy with how the horse was reacting. She turned to us and said: “If I was this horse I would be crying.” She explained that the horse was confused and felt he was doing something wrong. Linda worked with her to use more gentle signals and calm the horse.
“We do not need to dominate the horse.” Linda told us. “We need to bring the horse to a place where they don’t have the instinctive response that could harm us. Dominating is about the ego of humans.”
“If you want to change your horse you need to change your mind. This requires a conscious effort to come out of your comfort zone.”
In the afternoon Biasini and I had our first session in the clinic. Biasini was not very cooperative being led by Linda. Linda showed me some techniques to make him easier to lead.
On the second day I rode Biasini. After a short warm up Linda suggested changing him to a bitless bridle. This Lindell bridle is not like a hackamore. It does not exert any leverage on the nose or pole of the horse, Linda also gave me a “balance rein” around Biasini’s neck. I would just use the ring finger of one hand on the rein. I rode around the arena, walk, trot, and canter. I was amazed at how effective the balance rein was… with no bit in his mouth.
On the third and final day Linda gave me a neck ring; a solid ring that goes round the neck of the horse. Then she took off the bitless bridle! Linda is very cautious about safety so she attached a simple rope round his neck and nose and walked beside me with the rope loose. I soon found out that if I pulled on the ring nothing happened. But if I used it in a give/take motion he responded well and would halt easily. If I did the same to the sides of his neck he would turn. We managed the turns in the labyrinth (a set of poles on the ground that requires 180 degree turns several times as you walk through it.) This give and take is exactly what I need to make my habit when riding with a bridle. This was a valuable lesson for me to find it in another way quite different from my normal riding routine.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to see this,” Linda said to me with a big smile. To the audience she said: “This is a happy horse. Can you see him smiling?”
I could not have had a better compliment nor could I have been more proud of my horse. To have Biasini come into the arena with people on chairs at the side of the arena, the labyrinth poles as well as another ‘star’ pattern of poles and we walked, trotted and cantered around all of this. We both had fun. For a previously spooky horse this was a triumph. And much of this success is due to my coach Belinda Trussell having introduced me to the Tellington TTouch methods when I first got Biasini. She had tried them and found they helped him so I followed along.
As Belinda said on the last day of the clinic: “It is a gift that the horses allow us to ride them. They do it out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Linda Tellington is now 82 years old. She has been working with horses and riders since the early 1960s. Her energy is infectious and she is tireless even after three days of leading this clinic. “I’m looking for joy,” she told us. She certainly brought joy to me and Biasini.