Body Wrap techniques can enhance your horse’s self-awareness, balance and coordination.
Did you know a gentle yet effective tool for improving your horse’s self-control, awareness, balance, coordination and confidence is as close as your medicine cabinet? Tellington TTouch Body Wraps, which use a variety of ACE bandages or stretchy stable bandages, can help you address these issues and more.
TTouch Body Wraps consist of elasticized fabric bandages applied to the horse’s body in various configurations, depending on the intended application. The Body Wrap maintains a constant connection with the body because it moves with the horse, creating light containment, not constraint. This is particularly useful for horses with neurologic deficits (those recovering from EPM, for example) because the continual sensory input encourages rebuilding of the neural pathways.
Body Wraps have been successfully used on horses with a variety of issues and habits. Horses that do not use their hind ends effectively may respond well to the “Promise Wrap”, which is worn while riding. Youngsters nervous about narrow spaces or things coming up behind them often feel more secure when being worked in a “Figure Eight” variation. We use “Head Wraps” on horses that are hysterical and beside themselves. The Head Wrap helps calm the horses and acts like a “thinking cap”, enabling focus, self-control and relaxation.
How Do They Work?
While we are not precisely sure why the Body Wraps are so effective, it’s believed the constant light contact of the bandages affects the horse’s proprioceptive system. This is the sensory system our bodies use to know where they are in space. The Body Wraps seem to intensify or clarify the information passing through the proprioceptive system, giving the horse’s brain and body a better sense of connection and self-awareness. The effectiveness of these Body Wraps has been compared to the calming effects of swaddling infants or wrapping autistic children in tight blankets.
The changes that occur when using a Body Wrap can be subtle or very dramatic. For instance, a strung-out horse, or one who is camped under, suddenly takes on a more balanced stance, having “a leg at each corner”. Or a horse’s topline may change so he looks “rounder”, with more movement and engagement in the hindquarters. If you have a horse that is unbalanced, reactive or strung-out on the lunge line, try a Body Wrap and you may see an immediate change – many horses even begin to telescope and lengthen their stride without the use of any restrictive gadgets or auxiliary reins.
Body Wraps also help horses that are nervous about things behind them, and that rush or are hesitant about moving through narrow spaces. They help with spatial awareness by connecting the front and back end of the horse. If your horse has a tendency to freeze, the Body Wrap can help him gain confidence and overcome this tendency.
Body Wrap Configurations
Body Wrap configurations are really only limited by your imagination, as long as you observe a few basic principles:
Always pay attention to your horse’s smallest signs of concern about something new – if a full Body Wrap makes him nervous, begin with a less involved configuration.
Always apply a Body Wrap in a contained area or with a helper.
Be sure to apply the bandage with an appropriate amount of tension, neither too tight nor too loose.
TTouch Body Wraps are simple to use and to add into any handling or training regime. While specific variations are applied around the head, barrel, neck or legs, the basic “Bridge Wrap”, that surrounds the chest and hindquarters, is a good starting point. This particular wrap gives your horse a good sense of where he is in space, as well as assisting with a connection from his hindquarters to his front end.
The Bridge Wrap
For the Bridge Wrap, you will need two or three stretchy bandages. I prefer red label “ACE” brand bandages for their stretch and longevity.
• Allow your horse to sniff the bandage. Stroke his shoulder with a folded up bandage to ensure he is calm and unafraid of the new object.
• Take the folded bandage and pass one end under the neck to your other hand, keeping one end in each hand. At this point, both ends should meet on one side of the withers.
• Tie a quick release knot, placing the knot on a fleshy spot rather than a bony area.
• Allow your horse to move, walking and stopping a couple of times. You have now applied a “Base Wrap”.
At this point, many horses will begin to lower their heads and adopt a more functional posture, simply from this first bandage around the base of the neck. When riding high-headed horses, attaching a Body Wrap to the front rings of the saddle can make a huge difference. Once you are confident your horse is comfortable with the Base Wrap, you can continue to the next step.
• Take the second bandage and place one end near the knotted ends of the neck wrap. If your horse is larger or longer, you may need to tie two bandages together to make the hind end piece. • Unroll the bandage quietly as you stand next to the horse’s shoulder.
• Once the bandage is unrolled, tie both ends to the Base Wrap, knotting the ends on either side of the horse’s withers. Use at least one quick release knot if possible. If your horse is tall, you may tie the knots on the same side you are standing on, then slide one of the knots to the other side of the horse. At this point, the majority of the bandage will be lying fl at on the horse’s back.
• If your horse is relatively quiet, you may slide the back bandage over his hindquarters and place it just between the point of the buttocks and gaskin. If the horse has a very tight tail or hindquarters, start by placing the wrap over his tail and walkhalt in hand before taking the bandage under the tail.
• You now have a Bridge Wrap.
Body Wraps are relatively easy to apply as well as inexpensive and effective – particularly when working with anxious horses, or rehabilitating those that struggle with coordination. Try incorporating some of these Wraps into your program – you may be surprised at how your horse responds!
Robyn Hood, senior instructor of the Tellington TTouch method, editor of TTeam Connections Newsletter and Linda’s Youngest Sister, began riding horses before she could walk. She went through pony club and showed as a junior competitor in Alberta. She was a student and subsequently an instructor at the Pacific Coast School of Horsemanship in California owned by her sister Linda Tellington-Jones. Robyn competed successfully in hunter, jumper, three-day eventing, endurance, western events and more recently on gaited horses. In 1982 Robyn became involved full-time with the TTeam and TTouch work developed by her sister Linda. In 1986 she started teaching TTeam and TTouch on a full-time basis in Canada, the US, Europe, Australia and South Africa and spends about 160 days a year traveling. Besides teaching TTeam and TTouch on the road and at her farm in Vernon, BC, Robyn and her husband Phil, have been importing and breeding Icelandic horses since 1976. TTouch Canada, ttouch.ca – the Icelandic horse farm, icefarm.com