In Barney, the Unrideably Dangerous Horse, Sarah Fisher uses the body wrap on Barney. You can see it at work. I’ve been getting a lot of hits searching for information on the Tellington TTouch Body Wrap. It’s not a product, per se, but the use of ordinary ACE Bandages in a proprietary way.
Why wrap your horse with ace bandages? It looks strange, to be sure. But it works if you have any of the following problems:
• spookiness at objects or sounds from behind
• heaviness on the forehand
• problems entering small or confined spaces (like trailers)
• hollow backs
• strung-out striding
• hitting poles with front or hind feet
Think of the last time you wore something closely-fitted, but not too tight, like a leotard. Dancers wear them not only because they don’t interfere with movement, but also because they provide body awareness. The body wrap helps a horse in much the same way. For horses who have trouble with proprioception, it is thought that there is a glitch in the information relay system from various extremities to the brain and then back to the muscles. This prevents them from making the smooth, coordinated movements we value so highly.
The body wrap enhances his internal “picture” of his body as it moves, just as a leotard provides feedback to a dancer as s/he moves. Each feels the fabric stretch a little here, ease a little there, revealing how and when their bodies are moving.
Nervous horses and horses in the process of spooking are often said to be “out of their bodies.” In flight mode, for example, their brains literally block out input from their feet, legs and sometimes their hind ends. Using a body wrap that encompasses the hindquarters helps a horse to maintain awareness of the hindquarters through pressure touch. This light and non-constricting pressure feedback is calming and thus can be helpful in situations that might normally cause concern for a horse such as entering a trailer or standing for the farrier.
Recent research on body-mapping supports the thesis that this type of feedback is helpful to both people and horses. In one recent study, providing close-fitting leotards to sufferers of anorexia nervosa helped to improve the body mapping capabilities of sufferers such that they were actually able to see themselves as they truly appeared.* Wearing the leotards 24/7, they began to eat more appropriately.
It immediately becomes obvious how helping a horse “map” his or her body more clearly while standing still or in motion would help them to move more smoothly and connectedly. If front end and hind end are working in a coordinated manner, and all four feet can be felt and controlled with ease, there is no need to rush. If the horse is made aware of the muscle movement of the shoulders and chest as the front legs move, while at the same time being made aware of the relation of the movement of the hindquarters, it is easier to come through from behind without dropping the back.
A general feeling of “where the body is in space during movement,” the hallmark of proprioception, produces a much calmer, quieter horse who is able to attend more carefully to his or her movement on the ground and under saddle. I’ve seen it work, I’ve used it, and it is really fascinating.
My young mare, Maira was spooky from behind, and when spooking, raised her head very high (sometimes high enough that I had to grab mane), and scooted forward as if to evade the fearful thing, no matter its location. She was also rather uncoordinated at the canter, and kind of strung out, as well as almost always on the forehand at the trot. A few sessions with the body wrap gave her just enough feeling of herself that she “collected” mentally and physically to improve these negative aspects. Video of her trot is amazing–no more pulling herself along on the forehand!
Unfortunately I had to sell her before I got the chance to ride her out in the woods wearing the body wrap, but I’ve seen it help many a horse with spooking issues. Certainly it would have helped me avoid a few spectacular rodeo maneuvers caused by the sudden appearance of turkeys.
If you think your horses might benefit from trying the body wrap, get the wide ace bandages, and as long as they come. Look carefully at the photos above, and try tying them so that they are loose and soft, but comfortably in contact with your horse. On the hindquarters, loop the wrap over the tail first, allowing the horse to get accustomed to having something back there before lifting the tail. Note carefully the location of the wrap in relation to the hindquarters. Do not let it slip too far down. The idea is to give the horse a sense of the movement of the legs and haunches, not to irritate. Allow the horse to stand a few minutes while running your hands over his entire body. Doing a few ground exercises while wearing the wrap helps to focus the horse. You can even use them in mounted work, tying each portion of the wrap onto the D-rings of the saddle. Ask an objective observer to note whether they see any changes in your horse’s way of going. You can easily be the judge of whether or not any unwanted behaviors change.
A few sessions can make a long-term change. It never hurts to use the wrap from time to time to boost the proprioceptive memory of this flight animal. What mother nature breeds in by instinct cannot be completely erased, not should it be. But we can help our horses be more comfortable in doing what we ask them to do using the Tellington TTouch body wrap.
It works on dogs, too, by the way. Especially valuable is its use for fear of thunderstorms and fireworks.
* It is thought that one of the main issues with anorexia nervosa is the persons’ inability to see and judge their appearance correctly. Observers see sufferers as sickeningly thin; they see themselves as truly obese. If you want more information on the new science of body and mind-mapping, drop me a line and I’ll point you in the right direction.
© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal
If you like what you have been reading, please subscribe to the RSS Feed, and visit Bloggers Choice Awards to vote for Enlightened Horsemanship Through Touch.