Monday, February 20, 2012

TTouch Part II: Getting Started

The first thing, when starting TTouch, is examining how you plan to hold your horse.  For me, it's always been a rope halter, a long. heavy yacht-rope lead, and a tie-ring placed above the the horse's head so they can't get a leg over it.  I tie them loose enough they can bring their head down, but not so loose they could graze off the ground.

The practitioner preferred that I, 1.) Lower the ring to allow the horse's head to come down (they want the head down in the calm, thinking position before starting TTouch), 2.) Switch to a nylon halter (I had to get my box of goodies out to find one), 3.) Use a very light nylon lead, 4.) attach the Zephyr rope (or chain) to the lead and thread it through the halter.  

This is such a loaded topic, I'll stop here for today's post and explain.  

First, the halter.  The user's of TTouch are not big fans of the Natural Horsemanship style of using rope halters. They think they can be misused and lose their effectiveness as "communication" tools.  Here is an article that explains it much better than I could.  Dangers of Rope Halters.  

I have a hard time with this, but I am considering it.  Since I switched to all rope halters, about eight years ago, I've had to do much less tugging and pulling around the face.  In fact, I don't do any.  I always have my horse's behind me on a loose lead, a gentle flip of the rope can move them away if they enter my space.  However, for TTouch, I have no problem using the nylon halter and lead, Zephyr style rope threaded through and over the nose.  The nylon lead is as a light as a feather, so no weight pulling down on their face, and I agree the nylon halter is gentler when holding or tying a horse.

You have a choice of using a chain or rope threaded through, over the nose, and clipped onto the opposite side of the halter.  The practitioner chose the rope (Zephyr style) and, to tell you the truth, it was what I was most comfortable with.  I can't see myself using the chain yet even though she assured me, used right, it is a necessary and appropriate communication tool for TTouch. You never tie them in it or yank on it. For now, until I feel comfortable using it, I'm using the rope across the nose.  Here is a PDF that explains how to use this system.  TTouch Wands and Leads.  Note: It's very important the rope or chain come across the nose band, as you see in the picture below, not straight across the nose.

I didn't mention the wand, but they're very useful as extensions of the arm.  These are lighter weight than the "carrot stick" types and they say white is easier for horse's to see.  They are used during the groundwork and the TTouches.  The practitioner used it on the front of Red's legs, chest and neck to help him relax and bring down his head.  She said they're especially useful for horse's with high-head carriage to help them relax.  As I said above, TTouches are not started until the head comes down below the withers and the horse assumes the "thinking and relaxed" posture.

We didn't tie any of the horses, but we did thread a long lead through the tie-ring so that we could both be behind him to do the tail work and still be holding onto the lead.  She mentioned the height of the rings pretty early on, and I defended my choice of heights, but I have been mulling it all over in my head and am open to discussion.  It's a lot to digest and only the beginning of the 3.5 hour session.

To be continued....


  1. Very interesting! I would never use the chain, I don't like it, and the horse can't get away from it. In Classical dressage the lungeing cavesson uses a chain across the nose to give very subtle signals, but that is covered in very soft leather and even then they warn that it is not to be used by inexperienced hands. In Britain and Ireland most tie rings are low, but the horse is not actually tied to the ring but to a loop of baler twine that is tied to the ring. In an emergency a horse can free itself without hurting itself because the twine will break.

  2. I understand the concern about rope halters, but I have the same concern about using a chain over their nose...isn't it the same idea? And once again, a tool is only as gentle as the hands that use it. It's the method behind it, not the "tool" are tools...every different discipline and "trainer" has come up with thier own ideas of what work, but they'll only work well if the hands behind them can communicate to them! I think vets like to use the traditional nylon halters because they offer a more secure hold on the horse's face...when you hold onto the halter on the horse's face, you are more directly communicating due to the can't really hold onto a rope halter on a horse's face with your hand because they are too giving. Plus, vets are trying to restrain horses, not try to teach them to respond to very light cues (which is the goal with the rope halter and that style with the chain over the nose). I'm sure it's obvious that I like rope halters, but what I like about them is their lightness and the fact that I can make them myself! And sometimes in training, we do need to have a way to get a horse's immediate attention and respect. Open minds.

  3. I just can't get over the chain, I promised my horses they would never experience them again and I intend to keep that promise. Plus, looking at the TTouch exercises it doesn't seem necessary. Ah well, I'm anti-chain biased.

    3.5 hours, eh? That's hardcore.

  4. Sandra, that's interesting about the tie rings in Britain. I had heard about the baling twine use over there. I think that's a good idea.

  5. Kara, interesting perspective about why vets choose nylon halters. You're doing the same thing in TTouch, holding onto the nose band a lot, so it makes sense to use one during TTouch. But I agree, for nonTTouch, I'm using rope halters.

  6. Smaz, yes, time flies when you're having fun, and it is really fun.

  7. I'm not a fan of the chain either. It's been used on some of our horses in their previous lives and seems a little harsh. I can't remember ever using a rope halter on our horses and we've never used the nylon ones either because they won't break in an emergency situation. Might just be an English discipline thing.

    Sounds like you're on the way to lots of learning with the trainer.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.