The TTouch method has become popular among equine communities, and it all started with Linda Tellington-Jones. The famous Tellington method is a hands-on form of circular healing massage that anyone can learn and practice. Linda has authored ten books for companion animals, which have been translated into multiple languages. There are now more than 1,000 certified Tellington T-Touch practitioners around the world.
DC: Let’s start at the beginning. Do you remember your early teachings about animals?
LT-J: One of the first pictures I have of me with an animal is at 18 months. I’m standing with my aunt beside a baby bear that my grandfather had rescued. I have my little fingers curved right at the base of his ear and it looks like I’m doing “touches”.
We moved to my grandparents’ farm when I was six to help during the war. I remember so clearly my father bringing abandoned duck eggs in from the hay field and we hatched them under the cat in the kitchen. My grandfather had a rabbit that he had raised who used to thump up the stairs every morning and jump up on his bed. My mother’s mother always said you should never kill spiders because they’d leave behind their families. Later, as a nine-year-old, I can recall my mother rescuing a mouse that had fallen in an open molasses jar and washing him off (if you can imagine!). This is how I was raised.
DC: You must have had horses in your blood too.
LT-J: My father’s father bred wonderful work horses. My mother’s father was an American jockey and a racehorse trainer. In 1902, he was invited to race in Moscow for an Austrian Count. He enjoyed Russia so much that he stayed for four years and worked as a trainer in the stable of Czar Nicholas II. He said he never raced a horse unless it “told” him it was feeling fit enough to win. He also said that every horse in his stable was “rubbed” with short little strokes all over the body for 30 minutes a day by the groom.
DC: Who inspired your incredible pioneering spirit?
LT-J: My primary influence in those days was my husband, Wentworth, who was 20 years older than I. He was an inventor and an engineer. In the ’60s, we used to gather seaweed because we had a place right on the water and we dried it and free fed it to our horses. We had a clinical research program to find creative and natural ways of feeding and training horses. We had a newsletter going. We did a lot of writing for horse magazines. In the horse world, it’s a big deal to keep secrets. But Went’s interest was in sharing information. That was a natural thing for me also but I was inspired by his desire to make a difference in the world.
DC: Before T-Team and T-Touch you studied the Feldenkrais method?
LT-J: I started the Feldenkrais training in 1975. On the second day of this four-summer course, Dr. Feldenkrais made a statement that absolutely changed my way of thinking. He said that it’s possible for a human to learn in one experience using gentle non-habitual movements, instead of through repetition learning or patterning. I thought “I can adapt this to horses”.
I went out that day and I chose a 16 hh Arabian broodmare who was hard to catch and I started exploring ways to move her body in a way she couldn’t, moving her head in circles and her ears and legs. I had done work on legs for years but I never thought about it in terms of activating neural pathways to the brain, which would activate unused brain cells and enhance their ability to learn. After one session, that mare, who had been so difficult to catch, came to her owner that night. When he put her in the stall, instead of her diving for her food as she usually did, she just stood there with her head close to him as though she wanted him to work on her ears.
DC: Where did you go from there?
LT-J: I developed what we now call our confidence building exercises – moving horses and dogs in ways they would not move themselves. I did a five-week research study, taking 20 horses people had given up on. I took five “average” horse people – not show people. That’s when we came up with these non-habitual movements that were very successful. Seventeen of the horses came around completely but if I had been able to use the Feldenkrais method on these horses, I’m certain the other three would have come around. But that would have taken years to teach and I wanted something that people could easily learn. So I kept thinking, how can I improve this?
DC: That’s how Tellington T-Touch came to be?
LT-J: Yes. I was working on a really sensitive mare that would bite and kick and when I put my hands on her, the mare got very quiet. Her owner asked what I was doing. I just intuitively said “just put your hands on the skin and push it in a circle”. When I said it I thought to myself “what is that about” but I trust my intuition because it’s the way most of this work with the touch has come to me and so she put her hand on the horse and the mare got as quiet for her as she got for me.
DC: What conditions respond well to T-Touch and what would a short session include?
LT-J: Horses who are fearful respond really well. Through groundwork and the T-Touch circular work, the horse really learns to trust. This helps overcome the flight reflex and develops a sense of wanting to work and cooperation.
For a short session, I would suggest doing some T-Touch on the ears, and then working from the mid-line under the belly to the flanks. Just three minutes per side and you’ll notice your horse getting more supple and athletic.
DC: When you’re making the circles, what are you communicating?
LT-J: While I’m working, I’m mentally telling the animal “Remember your perfection”. I very much believe Deepak Chopra’s writings about how important our intentions are. So that’s my intention – with every circle on the body, it’s releasing fear on the cellular level and leaving room for a new level of confidence and life-force. So it’s very gentle. In some cases, the pressure is as light as you would use on your eyelid.
DC: Having done some basic T-Touch work on my animals, I find I also feel better after a session. Is that possible?
LT-J: Absolutely. We’ve done two different studies on people who were doing T-Touch on horses. The work actually caused an awakened brain state in the people, activating brain waves in both hemispheres. It’s a great stress reducer for both the horse and for you.
DC: How do you think our relationship with the animals is changing?
LT-J: I grew up riding the threshing machines that were pulled by horses. I rode a horse to school instead of taking a bus. Our dogs and horses were working animals who helped us survive. Now animals are here for our survival in another way. They’re our connection to nature for so many people. So few people get out into nature. I love that concept that since the fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, animals are our connection to God through nature. We need them for our spiritual survival but also for our physical and emotional health.
DC: Agreed! After everything, what’s left for you to accomplish?
LT-J: (laughing) Oh, I’ve just started! And I’m so grateful. For me, it’s all a gift from the animals.