When we give an animal the chance to thnik about what we just ask of it they will respond more willingly and by practice we will have more consistency and shorter response time.
For years and years, and even today, some people are convinced that animals don’t have emotions and are only like a machine that works when we give them the signal for it. Every animal owner and this days majority of people know that animals are emotional and thinking beings a lot like us. They are also individuals therefore each animal is different from other in it’s responses, reactions, actions, interactions with environment etc. They learn in their own way and they learn with different speed.
When I first started working with animals I followed instructions and opinions of mainstream ideas. I was thinking horses or any other animal must submit to me or accept me as a leader in order to be a »happy bunny« and a wellbehaved, safe to be around, »friend«. Through my teenage years I came across a lot of animals who taught me that submision is just not something they do. They became very resistant and agressive when I was applying the same training methods as I used with all the rest. They were my best teachers to show me that companionship is more of the right direction. Surprisingly when I worked with much more mellow and submisive animals with the idea of companionship rather than dominance thay responded in much more pleasant way as well. Even learning process was much quicker. When still in high school I started to look at different ways of training and handling animals. I was attracted to those who were based on mutual trust rather than dominance, understanding rather than reacting, allowing animals to express themselves rather than submit.
Varios años pasaron y mucha más variedad de perros, gatos, caballos y animales salvajes se cruzaron en mi camino antes de que en el año 2009 decidiese ir a conocer el Wholistic Equine Center en Montana. Fui allí expresamente para ver como algunos de los métodos de entrenamiento que más me interesaban funcionaban en el día a día. En este centro principalmente trabajan con TTEAM y Connected Riding (Equitación Conectada), incluyendo varias técnicas de trabajo corporal (Masterson Method y Structural Integration), el uso de remedios naturales, la homeopatía, la zoopharmacognosy, etc… Desde entonces estoy siguiendo el camino que fue tendido ante mí por algunos de mis más queridos compañeros del mundo animal.
A lot of years passed and a lot more variety of dogs, cats, horses and wild animals crossed my path before I went to Wholistic Equine Center in Montana in 2009. I went there to see how some of the training methods I liked the most work on a day to day basis. They primarily work with TTEAM and Connected Riding, including various bodywork techniques (Masterson Method and Structural integration), use of natural remedies, homeopathy, zoopharmacognosy etc. Since then I’m following the path that was laid out for me by some of my most beloved animal companions.
TTEAM is a mindfull and respectfull way of dealing with animals. Invented by Linda Tellington-Jones, the renowned equestrian who together with Moshe Feldenkrais adapted Feldenkrais work for horses. Linda was always ahead of her time and by the age of 77 she is still going strong, teaching clinics, workshops and giving demos across the World. Together with her sister Robyn Hood, nice Mandy Pretty and instructors of TTEAM method they are changing world one TTouch at a time . TTEAM gives horses a chance to be as they are, they give them time to think and process, asks rather than makes them do, keeps the sessions short so they don’t get overwhelmed and most of all takes into count that they are beings with body, mind and soul of their own. Therefore helping them to find better body balance and with this gives them chance to better mental and emotional balance as well. Big part of it are TTouches – many different gentle touches that are done in a mindful way influencing nervous system rather than just muscles therefore bringning long lasting benefits to body and mind. Groundwork that we use is designed to help horse find it’s own balance, sense of self and confidence so it can think rather than react which leads us to overriding 5 F’s (fight, flight, faint, fidget, freeze) and be much safer. It’s designed in a way that, if done correctly, we make any new experience for horse as pleasant as possible (trailer loading, starting young horses…) Equipment that we use is designed in a way that we can be gentle and help a horse find it’s balance instead of throwing it constantly out of balance. Free work is done in a way that improves the bond between person and it’s animal. Body wraps are a big part of it and they influence proprioreception in a way that horse gets better awareness of itself. All in all a big advantage of TTEAM method is that anyone can learn how to do it and apply to their every day life no matter what they do with horses.
When I first heard about Peggy Cummings I was touched by her story of riding without pain. By that time I haven’t been riding for years due to lowerback pain. It was so bad that I never thaught I would ride again. By trying out some exercises of Connected Riding, method developed by Peggy, that includes groundwork and ridden exercises I was all smiles. I couldn’t believe that I ony practiced some of the exercises and after an hour long ride I could jump of a horse and walk like nothing happened. That for me was reason enough that I wanted to know and perfect as much as I can about Connected riding. The freedom of movement horses get when being worked in this way and the freedom of movement person gets applying connected movement exercises to his/her life is incredible. Connected riding teaches horses a weightbearing posture, better balance and more free movements. It also helps rider to organize his/her body in a ways that it causes him/her least amount of discomfort and it influences horse in a way that it works like a help rather than a drag.
Working with many different horses I could help them improve their sense of bodies, how they feel about life in general and how they move through life and I also came in touch with some that it seemed like I can’t get through their behaviour. I knew good enough that no behaviour is to be discarded – animals, when they don’t act as we would like, react to any level of discomfort in their body (should it be tension or pain). There is always underlying reason for behaviour. Therefore I wanted to know more and again I searched wide and long until I decided to do energetic osteopathy training by Salomon couple in Germany. Knowing horses body inside out and also from energetical point of view opened a whole new world for me. I was able to help horses that got internal issues we’re not even aware off. I could help them when their muscles got sore, their bones moved or got stuck, their internal organs loose ability to work normaly or their energy levels are dropping without obvious reason. And again it proved that taking it little step by step creates much better learning environment for a horse and first getting rid of some physical discomfort before asking more of our horse gets us to the end result much easier and although it looks like we’re slowing it down at a time it acutally gets us to the end much quicker.
Along with knowing more and more about how animals think, learn, move and live I got to know how much I don’t know. So my regular reading list includes a lot on animal nutrition which is a foundation to good health and performance; hoof care as it influences balance to a degree most people don’t even realize and tack fit as a lot of »stuborness, laziness and unwillingness to work« is a consequence of poorly fitted tack.
Animals decided that I need a little push again so in past year I come across animals that had some very deep emotional traumas. They seemed they can’t get over them and no matter how much I worked on release tensions and made sure their bodies are feeling good and their fears are being solved and they gain much confidence there were moments where thay fall just back into the traumatic experience they came from. Therefore zoopharmacognosy seemed a next logical step and since last year I started on that journey as well. I’m adding use of natural remedies, essential oils, driend herbs and powders to my everyday work and results are amazing. Thinking about it I would say you can come to the same end just by using other methods but it seems like zoopharmacognosy speeds up the process.
I love it! I just love my work and life. I’m greatfull for every animal that crossed my path, every paw, every hoof along my way. The methods I’m using when working with animals have same basic things in common. They take animal as an individual and let them show their individuality. They are gentle, yet are setting boundaries, they require from animal to put some effort into it but don’t push them around or try to dominate them. They’re very conscious about the use of language as we know that language greatly inlfuence how we feel about something. We do let animals think, have their own opinions and take their time to process. If we work with animal that doesn’t understand or struggles we chunk it down in smaller steps to set them up for success. Being successful and feeling good about what you’re doing is as equaly important for animals and people. Last but not least if the methods I’m using wouldn’t resonate with me I will have hard time using them. I think it’s important that we are aware that there’s more than one way and more than one right answer. It’s important for people that they work fom their heart so look around, look at what other pople do and find those that resonate with you.
For me slowing process of teaching down and setting every »pupil« up for a success means faster progress on a long run and much happier horse, owner and a trainer. After all it’s all about safety – if we’re safe, we feel good and we can focus on things – the same applies to animals.