"Only a gentle hand can calm a nervous horse." Xenophon 370 BC
I finally got a holder to help me with TTouch and, let me tell you, it was wonderful! Ground tying them was good practice, but looking back, it accomplished very little. The beginning sessions of TTouch are such an effort, we didn't get pictures. I'll try to give you a quick explanation instead.
As I said before, she has benefited the most from my practice, and this showed in how easily she stood for me to be haltered. That's a big improvement. Getting her to like and want to be "touched" is another story.
What I did:
I started with the whole hand body exploration on her face, around her muzzle, under her neck, over her neck and back, down all her legs and to her tail. She was curious--straining her neck around to see what I was doing, but she stood very well and didn't seem distracted at all by the other horses. She didn't show any signs of real sensitivity except her tail and ears.
I started the Clouded Leopard touches on her face, she got a mildly surprised look. When I started the Crouching Leopard around her muzzle, she wasn't going to let me do much. (Eventually, I want to be able to massage her gums--I don't think that'll be happening soon, but who knows.)
What she loved:
She loved having her legs rubbed, all of them, and she loved when I "put her back together" with the whole body brushing with my hands.
What surprised me:
When I finished the body brushing I walked away from her. Guess what she did? She followed me...immediately, without even thinking about it. She clearly wanted more, more, more, but I didn't give it to her. My husband took her back to the stall and released her.
Beautiful was full of it today--antsy and mouthy.
What I did:
I started with the full body exploration and she didn't like any touching around her back legs. There was a horse in the stall behind her and she seemed to be worried about it. My husband was worried for me and asked me to be careful. He also thought we should lock the horses out of the barn. I made a decision to keep them in since I know much of her trust issue is about other horses.
After the exploration, I started with her head and muzzle (she wanted to eat my hands), then her ears, then the CLT down her back, withers, and hind. When I got to the leg rubs, she melted and her head dropped.
What She Loved:
She loved the leg rubs, just like Jasmine did. At first they're confused because it seems like we always want something out of them--farrier, picking hooves, etc.--they're really thrown off by TTouch. When you get to rubbing their legs it must signal them that you really DO NOT want anything except to give them pleasure and relief and their guard comes down. When I got to her hind legs (previously sensitive area) she was all buttery and relaxed. I put her back together with the all over hand rub and walked her back out. She was so quiet and tuned in by the time I did this, it was shocking.
What surprised me:
I learned that she is very mouthy--too mouthy. She's going to benefit a lot from relaxing and having her gums massaged. I also learned that when she's tense and nervous, she doesn't want to give you her hind, but that's probably the same for most horses. I had it reconfirmed that her "Trust" issues are herd related.
I had a lot of confusion about him going into this--the handler resolved my confusion. He didn't want to be touched anywhere. He was a ball of nerves--yanking his head away, invading mine and my husband's space. This was a HUGE issue because you don't want to get angry or reprimand--it ruins the whole relaxation process. I wanted the lead loose, so I had to take my arm and bring him back to his space over and over again. I could feel my frustration level rising with him, but I corrected myself and stayed patient.
What I did:
He was horrible during the body exploration and threatened a little bit when I went to rub down his hind legs. I thought working around his face would calm him down, but it agitated him more. I didn't spend a lot of time there, but moved to his neck. Immediately he pinned his ears.
I knew I had to do something different to calm him, so I went with my instinct and did what I believe is called the Jellyfish Jiggle and then the Inchworm along and down his mane. Immediately this tremendous amount of yawning began, and this unbelievable relaxation, too. His head almost hit the ground. He was a different horse after that. He yawned so many times I couldn't count them. It was dramatic--even my husband was shocked. I decided to continue down his spine and that area instigated a whole new round of yawning.
By the time I got to his back legs, where he'd threatened me, he was completely at peace and relaxed. He had submitted, entirely, his whole body. In fact, he looked like he'd turned to jelly.
What He Loved:
He loved the jiggling of his mane and the Inchworm technique. As soon as I started that, it was as if I'd found his itchy spot. Ever see a horse get their withers scratched? Well, it was like that times 100.
What surprised me:
Yawning is a horse's way of aligning his frame. The crazy amount of yawning that occurred with Cowboy and the fear and severe aggravation he demonstrated at first, tells me he has some serious chiropractic issues. It makes me think, all the more, Cowboy's head shaking is in direct relation to his physical handicaps.
They're right about TTouch--I enjoyed it as much as the horses. My husband enjoyed it, too, and has volunteered to hold them at least three days a week. (They say that eventually they will happily stand ground-tied once they know what to expect and trust in it.) I thought it had taken us 30 minutes to do all three, but it actually took an hour to do all three. I don't know where the time went. I'm very excited about all the great things this will accomplish with them and the knowledge it will give me in their training. I think it will be the missing piece to my issues with Jasmine--the thing I've been looking for all these years.