TTouch® for the Poky Horse
Riders and handlers have effective tools for working with the slow or unresponsive horse. Here are some that have worked for me.
Start with TTouches for Trust. No work you do will yield more important or powerful results, which apply over a broad range of issues. Once you have established yourself in the role of loving partner in the dance of contact (and this applies to both groundwork and in the saddle), the horse will trust you more when you ask him to go forward.
TTouch in the barrel area where your leg meets the horse:
1. Tiger TTouches with one-second circles at the location of your leg will bring awareness to the horse’s side, helping him be more responsive to touch there, and as a result more responsive to the leg aid.
2. Lick of the Cow’s Tongue Comforts the horse while returning the concept of contact without cues. If not all contact includes cues, the horse will have to listen more carefully when a cue comes. This increases responsiveness.
3. Abalone TTouch is useful when a horse is very sensitive to contact with his barrel. If he balks or sucks back at contact with the leg, gentle Abalone or Coiled Python Lifts add yet more awareness of contact with that area.
On the Ground. T.T.E.A.M. Groundwork offers riders the opportunity to assert gentle leadership while opening the horse’s heart and mind to new ways of moving. It differs from traditional natural horsemanship in that the handler works close to the horse and there is a lot of physical contact.
The easy-to-construct collection of playground activities, called the Playground for Higher Learning is designed to give the horse time to pause and think. I’ve mentioned before how important it is to the learning process to try non-habitual tasks. In performing non-habitual tasks, horses, like people, achieve a higher degree of attention. If the handler keeps cool, the horse’s level of anxiety is low and there is space to learn. There is no need for endless repetition for learning to take place.
Anyone with five minutes and no tools at all can make most of these obstacles. It helps if you are a scavenger. Anyone with a hammer and nails and some spare wood can make the rest in about an hour. Why bother with construction or lugging around cavalettis? Why bother waking around with the horse in the ring when you could be riding? To some, this sounds like a waste of time and energy better spent in the saddle working directly on Poky’s problem. Changing up the work to include non-habitual movements eliminates stress. With no stress and the increased attention to the handler’s cues, Poky can learn new ways of interacting with the environment and of using his body. You and Poky are effectively playing. Have YOU ever forgotten anything you learned while playing? Here are some Tellington TTouch Playground for Higher Learning ideas:
1. The fan, cavaletti, and pick-up-sticks. All you need for these fun and instructive playground games are cavaletti, or ground poles. Don’t use the round ones, as they might roll when stepped on , causing injury. Use the ones with lathed sides. With these exercises a horse described as clumsy or lazy learns to pick up his feet and give careful attention to length of stride. As the poky horse’s proprioception improves, he becomes a more responsive, quicker ride.
2. Labyrinth is like a corn maze made of cavaletti. Proprioception is key here, but most important are transitions from stop to start, half walk to walk to stop to half walk again and so on. You can expect Poky to pay very close attention to your cues. No barging, bumbling or standing around. Who knew he would learn to do that? Imagine the applications under saddle.
3. The platform and teeter totter require construction. For every minute you spend in construction, you save ten in trailer loading alone. Benefits extend to tricky crossings and walking over new surfaces and crossing shadows and cracks.
Everything you and Poky do on the ground you can do under saddle. Extend your play to mounted work.
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