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Training and Retraining Horses the Tellington Way


Review by Nancy Brannon

Whether you’re starting a young horse or need to “tune up” an older horse, world-renowned equine expert Linda Tellington-Jones offers step-by-step methods for helping the horse become a willing learner. In her new book Training & Retraining Horses the Tellington Way, Tellington-Jones presents a thoughtful recipe for starting the young horse without stress and establishing the very best beginning, both in hand and under saddle. She also recognizes that not all horses have the benefit of the right foundation, which can lead to misunderstanding, mistreatment, and unhappiness for both human and horse. Herein, Tellington-Jones curates her own experience working with older horses ready for a second chance at life, providing the necessary tools for filling in training “holes” and reconfirming lessons that may have been poorly taught or forgotten. The result is a book with all the right ingredients for helping the horse be its best. Whether starting right or starting over, Tellington-Jones’s field-tested, compassionate answers are an excellent way to find connection while ensuring the horse a lifetime of success in the company of humans.

Hers is a perspective of training and retraining horses that results in mutual trust between human and horse, and helps horses get out of their flight or fight mentality, which is their defensive, “default” state of mind when stressed. “Respect is one of the key words of my method,” she states in the introduction.

Her healing equine bodywork and innovative training methods have revolutionized horse training over the last 50 years. I first met Linda Tellington-Jones and learned a little about TTouch at a US Pony Club Festival many decades ago. Her unique blend of hands-on TTouch (a collection of circles, lifts, and slides done with the hands over various parts of the horse’s body), combined with humane groundwork and under-saddle exercises, has helped solve training and behavioral problems for horses of every breed, every discipline, every age, and all levels. 

Most of the exercises in this book are ground work, done with or without an assistant and with a minimum of “devices.” Groundwork equipment includes a correctly fitted flat halter, the “Tellington Lead,” which is a soft, Zephyr lead, and a white dressage whip, which she calls the “Tellington Wand.” The wand is used as an extension of the person’s arm to provide clear, gentle cues, and is never used to whip the horse.

Renowned for the Tellington TTouches, this form of bodywork, and not massage, works with the horse’s nervous system and fasciae at the cellular level, rather than directly on the muscles. TTouches are an integral part of the training or retraining process. The non-invasive TTouches can be used in even the most sensitive areas of the horse without creating bracing or defensiveness, and they have the effect of promoting an overall level of trust. While there are a variety of TTouches, and at varying levels of pressure, they all consist of 1¼ clockwise circles that begin at 6 and circle around to 9.

Some particular sections of interest in the book explain, for example, how to get the horse to lower the head – willingly and without force. For anyone who’s ever had a high-headed horse or head-shy horse, her methods provide the solution as the horse becomes relaxed and comfortable.

An interesting question she asks, and answers, is “why is it considered correct to lead a horse from the left? Anyone who has gone through Pony Club or 4-H knows that leading a horse from the right side is considered incorrect.” Tellington-Jones goes on to explain the origins of leading and mounting from the left side. She says the results are “that many horses are very one-sided…” She recommends “practicing leading and handling from both sides,” as this will “improve overall balance in posture and mentally accustom your horse to having a person on either side.”

How often have your ridden in a show and the judge has asked you to back? Does the horse back straight and willingly, or is there resistance and backing to the side? The exercise called the Cha Cha helps the horse to learn to back straight and in correct posture. The Cha Cha can also be used to teach turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, and leg yield from the ground.

Why do horses buck? Tellington-Jones says this instinctual behavior is triggered by fear, stress, or pain, or as a symptom of imbalance. She offers the exercises Troika TTouch, Lick of the Cow’s Tongue, and Belly Lifts to prepare the horse to be saddled with the girth tightened as “the best insurance against bucking that is caused by fear.”

Many of the exercises in the Playground for Higher Learning can be used to prepare the horse for trail classes, trailer loading, trail obstacle courses, getting the horse used to plastic, and more lessons. There’s also a section of ground driving, with detailed photos of how to hold the driving lines.

Throughout the book she offers particular case studies of horses who had problems and the solutions to problems that helped the horse overcome their fears.

Finally it’s Time to Saddle Up in the last chapter, which all the foregoing ground work has led to a successful riding experience. Here the horse is introduced to the saddle, the bridle, mounting for the first time, and first steps under saddle.

All in all this is an excellent book for any rider – who is always a trainer, whether officially or not – to learn how to get the best from one’s horse.

About the author: Linda Tellington-Jones is the internationally recognized equine expert who developed the Tellington Method approach to healing, training, and communicating that can be learned and practiced by horsemen and women of all levels. She was honored as the 1994 Horsewoman of the Year by the North American Horsemen’s Association and presented with the ARICP Lifetime Achievement Award, given annually to a person who profoundly affects the equine world in a positive manner. Tellington-Jones is the author of numerous books and DVD programs, including the bestselling The Ultimate Horse Behavior and Training Book, and she routinely travels worldwide teaching her methods. When not on the road, she lives in Hawaii.

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