Elements of Leading with the Tellington TTouch Method – Clarity of Intention
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.
Imagine yourself entering a busy office building without knowing where you are supposed to go. You look around, spot the reception desk and ask. The busy receptionist is juggling a phone, stacks of files and chatting with another staffer. Without making eye contact, he gestures in a direction and says “over there”.
This vague and nonspecific direction leaves you feeling unsure, and you wander roughly in the direction he pointed but feel no certainty whatsoever that you are going to the right place. You walk in a tentative manner, looking around for clues where to go.
This is the feeling I think a lot of horses have when we work with them. They know you are expecting something of them, but aren’t really sure exactly what it is. This lack of clarity will very likely unsettle a nervous horse, put a bored horse on the hunt for some excitement, and cause a quiet horse to check out entirely while he waits for you to ask for something.
If you are like me and most of my clients, you have a busy life. We are a lot like that receptionist, constantly multi-tasking and juggling a variety of distractions. However, when we arrive at the barn we can create a practice of single-tasking when we engage with our horses. This is certainly the best option for safety. When we are fully present with a horse we are much more likely to spot the early signs of trouble. Additionally, being present with your horse will help him know you are there to look out for him so he can relax.
One of the tools we use in the Tellington TTouch Method is the wand. This stiff white dressage whip has many functions, one of which is for communication. I use my wand as a tool to clarify my intention to the horse, creating a clear intended line of travel. Depending on the distance I hold from the horse, either the button end or the tip will create an imaginary line for the nose of the horse to follow.
Many times, new students of the Method will be skeptical of this idea at first. However, a horse quickly learns to watch and follow the wand, and most horses find it very interesting to engage with you in this exercise. Give it a try and see how your horse appreciates the clear direction from you.
One of the things that will help you develop this skill will be to set up an obstacle or two from the Playground for Higher Learning. Not everyone can have a full Playground set up all the time, but you can become very creative with random objects you might have around the barn. Even a trash can or a single pole can used as an obstacle to walk around. You can come up with a pattern of travel in relationship with almost anything. As long as you create a clear plan in your mind, then communicate it to your horse step by step, you will both be in sync.
Flower Essences to help you be present with your horse
My favorite flower essence formula to help keep my mind from wandering is Mind-Full from the Flower Essence Society. This formula is a mixture of flower essences including Madia for focused thought and Morning Glory for sluggishness. It also has a little essential oil of citrus and mint included for an extra boost. Mist on your tongue and around your head when you get to the barn, and keep the bottle in your pocket as you work. Using the formula 3 or 4 times during a session can really help keep you focused, and if you wish you can spray your palm and offer to your horse to breathe in. Take a moment to breathe together, get present, and then take the next step together.