Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TTouch Part III: Making the Circles

The value in steering clear of "finding excuses and reasons" for everything a horse does, is that it leaves open other possibilities.

The practitioner didn't say that, I did, but it's safe to say it was implied during our session.

As I read through the book on TTouch, I see a number of possibilities and things I need to change, one of which is to separate Cowboy and Beautiful Girl and Beautiful Girl and Cowgirl.  I wish I'd done it long ago, but I was functioning from the "leave the herd alone" mentality and, I think, took it too far.  After introducing BG to the herd last spring, she made Cowboy's life very hard...sometimes keeping him away from shelter.  Looking back, I wonder if that extra stress didn't contribute to his head shaking issues.

Herd "management" is a vital part of horse ownership in the world of TTouch.  If they were out on hundreds of acres with hundreds of horses, the herd dynamics would change on an hour to hour basis.  Different leaders would emerge and different bonds would form, but it's not that way in small herd, small area, and horses have more difficulty escaping stressful relationships.

The practitioner told me I could manage their levels of stress by switching around the herd so that they're all comfortable with their partners.  It has given me something else to think about, and I've already separated BG for large parts of the day.

As I wrote yesterday, I opted away from the chain for now and went, instead, with the rope (Zephyr).  She assured me over and over that the chain is not a "stud chain" and should and would never be used as such, the TTouch book discusses the topic, too, but it was a personal preference for where I'm at now.

Here's a picture of my lead and Zephyr rope.

Today, though, I thought I'd focus on the circles themselves, something most of us have already experienced trying out.

First, where you start and end doesn't really matter, and it's usually best to mix things up.  (Starting AWAY from the painful area, however, is a good idea.  Don't go right for their sensitive areas.) You choose a spot and a level of pressure, and the rhythm will be determined by your breathing.  Thumb and pinky are anchored on the horse's body, your left (or right) hand supports the side of the body not being touched (providing a sort of brace) and then you start to make your circle.  The circles are very small, maybe the size of a quarter.  As you breathe in, you push up the skin...as you breathe out, you pull down the skin.  The motion is from 6 o'clock to 6 o'clock.  You should not rush lifting your hand.  Take the release very, very slow.  You'll see your horse's skin fill in under your hand, like a sponge, let your hand rise with it.  From there, when you're ready to inhale again, drag your hand to your next circle and repeat.  Your hands never leave the horse's body.  You're always touching along the line you're following. It's all very slow and very deliberate.  You should really practice it on yourself to see how it feels when you do it right.  I recommend using your leg.  The practitioner did it on my back and there was a HUGE difference when she did it slowly and released slowly.

You will find there is also a huge difference in whether you use the flat palm of your hand of the back of your hand.  The flat of your hand has energy in it--like the "halt" signal and, apparently, it's universal to all animals.  If you find your horse flinching or moving away from the circles, you may want to switch to the back of your hand to do the circles.  You'll be surprised, but they will much more readily accept the back of the hand than the front.  You can use your knuckles or your entire back fingers, depending on the level of pressure you're trying to achieve.

Let me give you an example, when the practitioner was working on Cowboy's sore area, he couldn't tolerate the front of the hand finger circles.  She switched to back of the hand knuckles and he relaxed.  For Red, she couldn't massage the outside of his ears with the flats of her hands, but she switched to back of hand brush strokes and he calmed right down.  Then she eventually switched it to front hand rubs.  (Sometimes this takes several days for a horse to accept, depending on the horse.)

I'll stop there for today, but I welcome your thoughts, experiences, comments and questions in the comments section below.


  1. That's interesting about BG making Cowboy's life hard. Why do you suppose she did that, what purpose might it have served her? I'd imagine the horse dynamics have a deeper meaning than what they seem?

  2. Herd dynamics are the major part of a horse's life, compared to the relatively small amount of time we spend with them.
    Is there any chance you could take word verification off, and if you are worried about spam to turn on comment moderation instead? I'm not commenting on blogs that use word verification any more because the new version of it is so irritating, but I love your blog and would like to keep commenting.

  3. Shirley, they should be off now. I researched it and you have to click on the gear symbol on your dashboard, go back to the old blogger interface, go to settings and comments and click "no" for word verification, then go back to your dashboard and in the upper right hand corner choose to go to the new interface again. Let me know if it worked.

  4. Joanne, I think she just wanted to be his "boss" since they are vying for second to the last in the herd order. She was making he sure he stayed last by keeping him out of stalls. The other thing is, in the herd, she doesn't like to be in a stall herself. Apparently, she doesn't feel safe in them. On the other side of the barn, however, where no horses can bother her in a stall, (the stall she first went into), she's quite content.

  5. This is all interesting. My book and video came yesterday in the mail and we watched the video last night (it's the TTouch for dressage one). This morning when I was saying hello to Jackson I did some circles on his neck and he rested his head on my shoulder. I'm not keen on the chain thing either -- we both went "no way" when we saw that in the video. Jackson would stand still all day to be groomed, loose in his stall or in the pasture. He isn't sensitve anywhere. It will be interesting to see how Winston reacts. And we noticed, that our body work practitioner does a lot of TTouch type movements with the horses. This is so fascinating!

  6. Thanks, Linda- it worked. I looked for my TTouch book and can't find it, I think I gave it to someone who needed it a few years ago.

  7. Sounds like BG wants to be boss. Dusty used to be like that when she first came to us but has since changed her mind since Mellon had a word or two with her. They've all worked it out and get along just fine. Hope your new arrangement works out for them.

    This is all interesting but for me I don't think I can learn this from a video and a book. I think you're doing the best thing possible by having a trainer work with you. There are so many variables with pressure and movements I don't see how it can be done properly without having someone there to show you the right way.

  8. Very much appreciate your detailed descriptions of your sessions.Excellent information. Thanks for sharing on your blog!

  9. Linda--I completely agree about herd management. I have turned horses out on large pastures in groups, and, particularly when we didn't need to feed, they did well. But I disagree with the notion that turning horses out in groups in smaller pastures (less than twenty acres, say), especially when there is feed and shelter involved, is always a good thing. I have heard of too many serious injuries and seen too many problems (emotional and physical). My horses are kept in large adjoining paddocks where they can play and touch each other and be together as a herd, but no horse must struggle for food or shelter, and all can have peace with no fear of being threatened by their neighbors. It works well for me.

  10. Hi Linda- Yes, we are pretty close to Riverside. Our trainer is about an hour away. It takes 30 minutes just to get down the mountain, so an hour is close.


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