As a Tellington Method practitioner, I use the Labyrinth exercise with nearly every horse I work with. While I use it to help a variety of problems, I have found it most helpful for horses who are frightened and reactive. I have always wondered why the Labyrinth works so well. Recently, I have been studying the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and have noticed some correlations between releasing trauma in people and the Tellington Method work with horses.
The emotional experience is generally of short duration; emotions flow like water. The problem arises when we have not learned to allow the flow, and instead repress or bottle them up. When these long repressed emotions are finally acknowledged and allowed to move, they can move very intensely, like water bursting forth from a dam. Part of my work as a flower essence practitioner is to encourage people facing this daunting experience to recognize that the best way is to move through the experience rather than trying to avoid it.
In order to engage your horse and ask for a movement, you want to be very clear about the movement you are asking for. Many times, we are not really clear even in our own heads what we are asking and lack specificity in our directions. This creates a sense of confusion in the horse, and leads to frustration for both of you.
These techniques work with the horse to encourage his inherent curiosity and help him stay calm and present, thinking through a challenge rather than rushing through fearfully. The best part is once a horse has had a few positive experiences of working through a new situation with your assistance, he will be more likely to trust you as he is presented with the next one.
Most horse people are familiar with a technique called desensitization. This can be applied in a few ways, but the classic cowboy method is called “sacking out”. A young horse is tied tightly to a solid post, and the cowboy approaches with a blanket. He then rubs the blanket all over the horse’s body. The horse may struggle and try to pull away, but is held firm by the post. This process continues until the horse stops struggling and accepts the situation.
down. If he misbehaved by jumping around he may have been shanked or smacked. Many horses are frightened and confused by punishment and learn to hold still to avoid pain. A horse may freeze, becoming rigid and holding his breath, or shut off his awareness so he does not notice frightening things going on around him.
Many people have been instructed to correct biting or fidgeting by shanking on the halter, or smacking the horse in the neck with a loud “no”. It has not been my experience that this works to stop the behavior, instead becoming more of a cyclical action/reaction that repeats daily while the horse is handled.
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