“How the horse responds during training can be influenced not only by its affective state (mood) and arousal (alertness) level, but also by how attached it feels to the trainer,” says the August 2013 article from the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) Arousal, Attachment, and Affective State. Is the Horse in a Learning Frame of Mind?
Andrew McLean, PhD, Director of the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre (AEBC), and Professor Paul McGreevy of the University of Sydney, Australia, examined the complex combined impact that mood, alertness, and bond with a human can have on a horse’s training. McLean says that because horses possess the largest amygdala of all domestic animals, “… they have a very significant flight response…they are very fearful animals.”
As many of us have now learned from numerous clinicians and trainers, understanding how to temper the horse’s fear is of primary importance to those who wish to form an attachment or “bond” with their horses.
“One way to modify this fear may be in how we touch the horse,” the article says. “Historically, horse training hasn’t involved much touching of the animal, yet horses find security with one another through touch. Recent studies have shown the positive effects of grooming on lowering heart rate. Dr. McLean proposed that such primary positive reinforcement may be another tool in the training toolbox that can be used to overcome fearful insecurity in the horse. Touch may be an important way to develop attachment between human and horse.”
Renowned animal behaviorist and horse trainer Linda Tellington-Jones made her name as the founder of the Tellington Method, a three-part training system that centers around her now famous Tellington TTouch. Tellington TTouches are a collection of circles, lifts, and slides done with the rider’s or trainer’s hands and fingertips over various parts of the horse’s body. These TTouches have, over the last 40 years, been proven to enhance trust, release tension, increase flexibility, overcome habitual “holding” patterns that lead to resistance, and aid a horse in recovery from illness or injury. Linda has long maintained what Dr. McLean and Dr. McGreevy have asserted in their recent findings: that how we touch the horse matters in training. And, the right kind of touch can lead to enhanced learning and improved performance.
Try this Tellington TTouch:
Llama TTouch: Use the back of your hand, from where the knuckles meet the back of the hand to the fingertips, with the hand softly open (a less threatening way of making contact) to push the horse’s skin in a full circle-and-a-quarter clockwise, or in some cases, to stroke. Apply a very light pressure on the horse’s face, ears, or neck. This TTouch builds confidence in timid horses, soothes, nervous ones, and helps when you are approaching a horse you don’t know for the first time.
Linda is the author of numerous books. Her most recent is DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL, which provides innovative ways to improve performance and longevity in dressage horses. Linda is giving a Tellington Method for Dressage clinic at Ashwin Stables in Santa Fe, New Mexico, April 17-19, 2014. For information on how to attend or audit, CLICK HERE.
Linda tells you about her upcoming clinic in the short video below:
For more information about Linda’s book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL, CLICK HERE.