Story Stew for the Inquiring Rider

It’s challenging to describe the feeling you take home from a week-long Tellington Training so I was delighted with Kim Cox Carneal presented her unique take on the November training I taught at Skyhorse Ranch.

I enjoy a team process of teaching so I always have excellent co-teachers at my trainings. As usual I had a blast with the skillful assistance of TTEAM Practitioners Barbara Owens and Joyce Anderson. Both are very experience horsewomen and both have been involved with the Tellington Method for more than 20 years.

Barb breeds Icelandic Horses at her farm in Modesto and often assists my sister, Robyn Hood at the Canadian headquarters of Tellington TTouch Training where she and her husband, Phil Pretty have one of the largest breeding herds of Icelandic horses in Canada. Check out this magical breed at Ice Farm . Barb also teaches Peggy Cummings Connected Riding as well as Tellington TTouch Training.

Joyce Anderson lives in Virginia where she teaches Tellington workshops, does a lot of individual TTouch with horses and manufactures and sells Cloud Nine Saddle Pads. I have been using these pads, developed by Dr. Mathew Mackay-Smith, for more than 25 years. At the Paralympics in Atlanta these pads were responsible for allowing three riders to compete whose horses would have otherwise been eliminated because of sore backs. That’s a whole other story I must blog about one of these days.

But on to the stew.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Yesterday I made stew using a crock pot Linda lent to me. I’d never used on before. I like how a crock pot allows ingredients to simmer all day, combining the flavors , allowing them to mellow and deepen. I love making soup in all its incarnations: stew, broth, stock, potage, bisque, chowder. Well, you get the point. By now, I’ve probably made you hungry as well.

What in the world do Tellington TTouch Trainings have to do with soup? It’s like this. Each and every training is like the art of making a fine stew. There’s even a recipe. As with every recipe, each time you make it, the stew turns out delicious, but different. Here’s the recipe:

The first day of a training assembles the disparate “ingredients.” First, the setting: Beautiful Sky Horse Ranch in Valley Ford, California perches high above Bodega Bay on the Sonoma Coast. Standing outside the arena in the wind, I could feel the electricity generated by the hundreds of people who visit each year to learn about leadership and horses. Training participant Darcia Dexter, a newcomer to horses, says, “I love the setting of the ranch and can feel that Ariana Strozzi has set her intention on attracting a like-minded community.”

The physical setting isn’t the only factor that determines the atmosphere of a training. Caroline Larrouilh says, “The work itself, TTouch, along with its creator, Linda Tellington-Jones, offers a safe, nurturing place for the horse, where he is respected and appreciated for who he is, in that moment.” This attitude of acceptance and appreciation extends to the human participants as well. Like horses, humans learn best when they feel safe, relaxed, and content.

Now we have the rich broth of the stew: the setting, both physical and emotional, which surrounds and supports the added ingredients, giving them additional flavor. It bubbles and steams throughout the training. What’s next in our recipe for a Tellington TTouch Training?

The people, the horses, and TTouch itself comprise the remaining ingredients.
TTouch instructors’ personalities, their diverse backgrounds and array of life experience, combined with their creative teaching methods and personal interpretations of Linda’s vision of the work make for a diverse selection of ingredients. Add participants from all over the world, with their attitudes and levels of experience, and you have alchemy. When Linda herself leads a training, as she did at Skyhorse Ranch, expectations are high.

Caroline Larrouilh appreciates the variety of horses in the trainings, saying, “I have found that each training I have attended as been influenced greatly by the horses and the participants. The folks who attend and their backgrounds, attitudes and levels of experience, varying locations and amenities offer challenges and benefits, as well as their animals’, direct the tone and feeling of each training. What’s more, in each training, Linda has read more books, met more scientists, and overall connected more of the pieces that make TTouch so powerful.”

Darcia Dexter adds, “After having heard about Linda’s work for years, I was excited to learn from her directly. The reality of the training was that Linda set a tone of comfort, safety and community from the very beginning. She was approachable and accessible throughout the entire 6 days and led by example. It was great to be around this like-minded community and welcomed into it with open arms, like feeling part of the Linda’s Special 3H Club (Hearts, Hands & Horses). I am grateful for the absolute focus the TTouch team brought to making each meaningful and for the cheerful patience they showed as I sometimes fumbled around.”

Linda and Darcia Dexter practice ground driving

Our stew is becoming richer, more complete. A beautiful location, lively participants and instructors meet with excitement and expectation. What’s next? Horses. At Skyhorse Ranch, we met a really interesting group of horses: different breeds (from Warmblood to Icelandic), different temperaments, different issues. The first day, we were privileged to observe Octango (Contango x Platon), the Grand Prix dressage mount of Barbi Breen-Gurley. Barbi discovered that he responded so well, she arranged for him to stay for the complete training.

Caroline Larrouilh comments on the mix of horses, saying, “The mix of horses was great. Fancy and plain, young and old, competitive and pet, ebullient and cooperative. Each horse perfect, each horse with something unique to contribute to my learning experience.”

Elisha Kamberg leads her horse Deja Vu through hay bales while Paula Josa-Jones and Darcia Dexter show him pool noodles

Here’s what Barbi has to say about Octango’s participation in the training: “My horse is quite talented and a real giver. He tries very hard to please me. My main reason for wanting her to work with him is that he has had fear issues in the past where he would see something, usually that I did not see, and it would frighten him, causing him to run backwards at high speed. This had a disastrous effect on my scores while competing. He would recover and continue with the test without errors, but with tension.

“Linda worked on a number of exercises to help him ground his feet, implemented many TTouch techniques for body awareness and relaxation, and showed him exercises to build his confidence. These reminded me of several exercises I had learned from her years ago. I am pleased to say I see more brave behavior from him since then. We have been doing construction next to the dressage arena at my ranch, which really upset Octango before the clinic. I have committed to implement a number of them on my many of horses since the clinic. I know the high value of this work. It is bringing greater awareness and relaxation to each of them. I have noticed Tango is braver since the work with Linda. He is more calm and trusting that he is safe and can continue with his dressage work, thinking of me and not tuning me out to run for his life. I believe he will be much more reliable in the upcoming competitive season and we will receive the scores he really deserves without the tension from things that catch his eye and frighten him.
“We are doing some construction around my arena and it troubles him. He is letting it go much faster and focusing on me more consistently. I am so pleased about this, as becoming frightened and running backwards has been a behavior which has haunted us both through all the 10 years I have been training him. I am very encouraged and look forward to even better progress with him in the months ahead.”

Caroline Larrouilh adds, “I was struck again and again by the fact that Linda truly lives by the adage that she shared with us, “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” Watching Linda figure out the body or mind blockages and then rather than insist and up the ante, come up with alternatives that the horse could understand was inspirational and relaxing for me — never mind the horse! Each time there was a moment were I could clearly see the horse’s eye and body soften, he would sigh deeply and I could practically hear its relief that he was with a friend, not a foe and nothing would be forced on it. This was so interesting because it may speak to horses’ expectations as prey animals and how easily they get anxious and tense when faced with a new situation.’

All participants in place–human and equine, this stew is really cooking now. The pot is nearly full. We need to add a final ingredient before allowing the stew to simmer and develop the richness and depth of flavor required. And that necessary component is, of course, the subject matter–TTouch!

Darcia Dexter agrees, adding, “I love Linda’s integration of quantum physics and the Divine while simultaneously being grounded in nature through her gift of connection with animals.”

Caroline Larrouilh elaborates, “I enjoyed very much the ridden portion of the first day with Octango when its owner rode him with some coaching from Linda. It drove home the fact that Linda’s approach of using bended lines and lateral work to create relaxation and stretching down is exactly what traditional dressage training is about. It gave me food for thought in terms of how this work can be used to help dressage horses in their daily work, not just when a problem crops up. As we saw with Octango, TTouch is successful in helping the horse regulate his flight instinct and learn to process information differently. As to balance and flexibility, the ground work and under saddle work with its focus on the whole body is exactly what dressage horses need. I also thought that using exercises to encourage the horse to use both hemispheres of his brain and thus develop its ability to think, to develop his intelligence is worth researching further.”

❝Getting horses to think is not what you think of in classical riding and training.❞ — Linda Tellington-Jones

After a few days, this assortment of participants–both novice and experienced–, and instructors, steeped in the revolutionary concepts of TTouch and enjoying the beautiful setting of Skyhorse Ranch, are coming together to create something beautiful: learning. Like a delicious stew that has been allowed to “rest” overnight and develop its subtle flavors, these raw ingredients combine to create a product greater than the sum of its parts. Those new to TTouch, as well as those who have attended trainings before agree:

Jacqueline Winspear says, “The T-Team training was amazing. The range of TTouches Linda has developed offer a unique opportunity to enhance communication in the horse-human partnership. There were immediate positive changes in my relationship with my horses, and in their understanding of what I asked of them. But the whole experience of the T-Team training gave me so much more. I felt as if I had been drawn into a deeper understanding and experience of horses as companions of the spirit. It is a sense that will be with me forever and for which I have profound gratitude.”

Darcia Dexter says, “To be able to approach a horse and work easily and comfortably with them is amazing. For the first time in my life, I understood the girlhood desires of identifying with and wanting a horse (also through reading Ariana’s book which explains some of this) which I never had. Upon leaving the training, I had a strong desire to start working with horses.
“At the end of the training when Linda asked in her contagious positivity, ‘Don’t you just want to ride?’, I surprised myself by answering with a resounding, “YEAH!”
“I am planning on attending more training in 2010 as I think this work is never fully learned and each training with its new group of horses affords me the opportunity to discover more ways to help horses (and help myself). And I am always interested in what else Linda has discovered or reflected on. I’ve told so many people about the wonderful experience with Linda and the magic of this place and would return in a heart-hug!”

A hint of the view from SkyHorse Ranch

© 2009 – 2011, Linda Tellington-Jones. All rights reserved.

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