TSB author, horse trainer, and animal behaviorist Linda Tellington-Jones sat down with world renowned liberty trainers and performers Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado during the first weekend of Equitana in Essen, Germany. Linda, Frederic, and Magali discuss the ways Tellington TTouch, the specialized bodywork that forms one important piece of the Tellington Method, dramatically reduces stress in the sport or performance horse, as well as increasing the horse’s desire to work with you, in and out of the arena.
“[Tellington TTouch] is a way to ‘think’ about being with horses,” says Frederic, who rose to international fame alongside his wife, a dressage rider, in the hit show Cavalia. “It gives you a way to find what your horse likes, so you need only a light and momentary touch to relax him in a stressful situation.”
In the Equitana presentation, Frederic shares the story of Guizo, a young stallion who appeared in Cavalia when it was touring North America.
“I worked with Frederic and Guizo in Dallas, Texas,” explains Linda. “Guizo was the youngest stallion of the three who worked at liberty in Cavalia. He performed beautifully, but was concerned about the older stallions and had a tendency to bite at them. Frederic had been managing this by keeping Guizo slightly apart on the upper stage and asked me if I had any thoughts of how to give the stallion more confidence to stop this habit. I showed Frederic how Mouth TTouch can effect the emotional behavior of a horse by quietly working the outside of the mouth with the flat hand and then slipping the thumb into the mouth. At the same time it is important to hold the intention of the behavior you want—in this case, to hold the vision of Guizo keeping his mouth quiet, breathing normally, and relaxing around the other stallions (I discuss the idea of training and riding with ‘intention’ in depth in my new book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL).
“Working the lips and nostrils affects the limbic system—the part of the brain that controls emotions as well as affecting the ability to learn. It sounds so simplistic, but it worked! Frederic told me that the first evening he took maybe 30 seconds when Guizo entered the arena and spoke quietly to him, lowered his head a little, and slipped his thumb into the mouth. Guizo was able to work quietly together with the other stallions for the first time!”
“TTouch is good for the mind of the horse, and also the body,” adds Magali. “I warm my horses up well before a performance, but then they must stand backstage and may get a little cold, a little stiff. I do two minutes of work with the horse’s shoulders and tail [Shoulder Release and Tail TTouches] backstage, and just before riding I can promise you my horse is very relaxed, his back very fluid, able to do all the movements easily.”
Linda talks about the work she has done with Frederic and Magali, as well as over 20 other top dressage riders, trainers, and horses, in her new book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL, which is available now from the TSB online bookstore.
Check out this video of the session with Linda, Frederic, and Magali at Equitana! (Note: They speak in English and German throughout the video–there is great stuff here in both languages, so be sure to watch through!)