Deadline for June issue is May 23
My Horse, My Friend: Hands-On TTouch® Training for Kids, by Bibi Degn
Children are coming to summer horse camps to learn riding and horse care, and we often photograph children riding at the many horse shows we cover. It is so important to teach young horse folks good basic horse care, riding skills and safety around horses, so that the welfare of the horse always comes first. We pulled this ©2011 book from the shelves to remind all of the safe, humane way to treat and ride horses.
At the beginning of the book is a photo of author and riding instructor Bibi Degn, a lovely grey Arabian horse named Joram, and the children who “helped make this book.” Whenever the children are riding or working a horse, they always wear safety helmets. On each page of the book is an illustration of Angie, the “guardian angel” of animals, who knows what horses want and conveys that message to humans.
Proper horse care begins with greeting Joram in the pasture and learning how to safely halter and lead him to the barn. “Good manners and being polite is extremely important to horses. Joram doesn’t like it at all when Maria tries to put his halter on without greeting him first.”
Next the children begin to learn TTouches, the method that Linda Tellington-Jones discovered for people’s hands to communicate with animals with kindness. “TTouches are very specific ways to lay your hands on an animal’s body,” Bibi explains. “They are gentle, and you can use them to win your horse’s trust and improve his health.” The TTouch Circle is the foundation of all other TTouches.
Once the children learn the proper and safe way to lead and groom Joram, then it’s time to lead Joram over a series of ground obstacles, like a wooden plank on the ground simulating a bridge. From there, the children progress to riding bareback and learn how to give one another a “leg up.”
The children learn how to communicate with Joram using a neck ring, learning to signal him to go forward, stop, and turn. One exercise the children like is the “slalom,” which involves going back and forth down a line of cones, similar to pole bending. This exercise of tight turns improves a horse’s flexibility.
Progressing to riding in a saddle, the children learn to safely mount and dismount, leg aids, and how to hold the reins. “When Maria wants to go faster, she taps her legs softly against Joram’s sides. When Joram increases his pace, she immediately holds her legs quietly to show Joram that he correctly responded to her cue.”
Now using a bridle to communicate with Joram, Angie reminds Maria to keep a soft, friendly contact with the reins which connect to Joram’s sensitive mouth.
Once the leg and rein cues are learned, Maria is ready to ride through the ground poles exercise called the “Labyrinth” so she can practice riding turns and curved lines. “Maria never forgets to tell Joram when he has been good. He loves a stroke or pat.”
After the ride, it’s time for more grooming and sponging off. “Even if your saddle fits your horse well, there are many good things that can be done for the horse’s back. For example, you can do the Zigzag TTouch after riding.” This TTouch simulates what horses feel when they groom each other with their teeth. “This TTouch is like a sign of friendship between them.” And, of course, there’s always manure to clean up.
To conclude, Bibi offers a good photo of Joram for the children to learn the parts of the horse.
This book provides a solid foundation to teach children respect and safe, loving care for the horse. The emphasis on interacting with horses in a kind and gentle manner instills important life lessons and promises years of fulfilling relationships with animals of all kinds, sizes, and temperaments.
About the author: Bibi Degn is a certified Tellington TTouch® instructor and has developed the Angie program for children and youth. Find out more about her at: https://ttouch.com/Detailed/About_Us/Our_Teachers/Meet_Our_I...ctors/Bibi_Degn_32.html
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