What exactly is TTouch®, and what’s so special about it?
Some folks just hop on and go. Others are passionately loyal about the training and horse care methods they follow.
I’m a cherry-picker myself. When you’re out there researching horsemanship all the time, you find a lot of good stuff. I’m not going to assert that I’m an expert at any of it; in fact, I’m not a very talented rider. As they say, those who can’t do write about it.
As an adjunct to training in any tradition, TTouch is my all-time favorite. TTouch is a mindful approach to horsemanship.
Almost every day I see some potential application for TTouch.
But I didn’t fully understand the value and import of TTouch right away. I didn’t start getting it until I’d done a bit of research. In addition to seeing that something works, I want to know how: I always demand lots of scientific proof for any claim of benefit. In the case of TTouch, I got proof in the form of hard data and personal experience.
The foundation of TTouch is awareness. The basis for TTouch is the touch circle, similar to massage, called the Clouded Leopard. (The different TTouches are named for animals Linda has worked on all over the world.) The Clouded Leopard involves the supple application of the pads of the fingers (softly curved hand) moving the skin in the circle. It is so much more difficult to describe than it is to do. If you really want to see it done properly, go to The Tellington TTouch YouTube Channel
The purpose of the Clouded Leopard is to bring awareness to the site being touched. It is not massage, and is most emphatically not energy work. The precise mechanism by which TTouch works is as yet unknown, but the results are clear.
The Clouded Leopard is applied in a circle and a little more (imagine the face of a clock as pictured above), starting at 6:00, moving clockwise around the clock face to 6:00 and then more to around 9:00. One circle only, with a light slide across the skin to another nearby location, completes the TTouch. This simple touch brings awareness to the area being touched, and activates both hemispheres of the horse’s brain, both logical (thinking, learning) and intuitive (reactive, or instinctive.)
TTouch is called The Touch That Teaches for a very good reason. The circle and a quarter motion, moving the skin of the horse (or the person, the dog, the cat, any animal for that matter), effects verifiable changes in brainwaves. Why does this matter?
It’s not just that TTouch changes brainwaves. Almost any physiological input might change brainwaves. Its how it changes brainwaves that matters.
In a landmark 1987 study, Linda Tellington-Jones and Anna Wise of the Boulder Institute of Biofeedback worked with a “Mind Mirror” developed by Wise’s mentor, British psychobiologist and biophysicist Maxwell Cade. The “Mind Mirror” is an EEG (electroencephalograph) that differs from the traditional EEG in that it uses spectral analysis to simultaneously measure beta, alpha, theta and delta brain waves in each hemisphere of the brain. This seminal study produced fascinating results.
The Mind Mirror Study of 1987 revealed that,
We measured over a dozen students to determine their brain wave activity while being TTouched, rubbed, petted and massaged. Surprising was the fact that consistently, whether our students were being TTouched or TTouching a horse or a person, there was an activation of all four brain waves -beta, alpha, theta and delta – in both sides of the brain. When the person being measured was petted, stroked, rubbed or massaged, the relaxing alpha brainwave pattern was present, but never beta – the problem solving potential. Only with the circular touches were the beta brainwaves present.
ALPHA Brainwaves depict relaxed detached awareness, visualization, sensory imagery and light reverie. Alpha is the gateway to meditation and provides a bridge between the conscious and the subconscious mind.
THETA Brainwaves depict dreaming sleep and provides the experience of deep meditation when you meditate. Theta also contains the storehouse of creative inspiration and is where you often have your spiritual connection.
DELTA Brainwaves depict when present in combination with other waves in a waking state, Delta acts as a form of radar – seeking out information – reaching out to understand on the deepest unconscious level things that we can’t understand through thought process. Delta provides intuition, empathetic attunement, and instinctual insight.
The brainwave pattern Anna Wise calls the AWAKENED MIND™ (all four brainwaves activated in a certain pattern, all at once) combines the intuitive, empathetic radar of the delta waves, the creative inspiration, personal insight, and awareness of the theta waves, the bridging capacity and relaxed, detached, awareness of the alpha waves, and the external attention and ability to consciously process thought of beta waves, all at the same time. This brainwave pattern can be found during “peak experience” (or what Daniel Goleman calls, “flow”) and at times of creativity and high performance. The awakened mind is also the “light bulb” appearing at the exact instant of solving a problem, or having sudden insight.
But what does this have to do with horses and horse training? Once horses were hooked up to the EEG, that’s when it really got interesting! That’s when I started to believe that TTouch was for me.
My friends Sandy Rakowitz of the one heart healing center, a TTouch practitioner, Robyn Bernhard, LCSW, replicated the Mind Mirror Study in horses at the Virginia Neurofeedback, Attachment and Trauma Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. Using Robyn’s new software called the BrainMaster, they were able to show how TTouch activates brainwaves in both hemispheres of the brain.
Prior to this study, the role of activating the whole brain (left and right hemispheres) of horses in enhancing the ability to learn was not spoken of. Imagine now the implications for changing eyes, changing leads, diagonals, etc. The possibilities are endless, and TTouch can help with virtually every single application you can think up.
The results of Sandy and Robyn’s study are clear: The brain waves of people and animals can work synchronously in a state that facilitates learning when TTouch is used. I think this is an amazing discovery. This work is being duplicated all over the world, with humans and animals large and small. We are finding applications for youth at risk, nursing, therapeutic intervention, trailer loading (horses), EPM and neurological rehabilitation (horses), stress reduction (people and animals), and health and behavior (people). You can read articles about TTouch and each of these subjects and more at Research & Studies.
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