by Daniela Zurr, DVM – Germany
TTEAM was created in the 70’s by Linda Tellington-Jones because she was dissatisfied with the then popular horse training methods. While traditionally much of horse training was ruled by violence, Linda Tellington-Jones based her work on the idea that most resistance stems from fear, pain, tension or lack of balance. While TTEAM was used strictly with horses in the beginning, it proved helpful with all other animals in later years. Therefore the original abbreviation for TTEAM was changed from Tellington Touch Equine Awareness method to Tellington Touch Every Animal Method.
TTEAM has two foundations: Bodywork and Groundwork
Both can be used in combination or separately. When developing the work Linda Tellington-Jones was greatly inspired by the work of Moshe Feldenkrais. He claims that old patterns (movement as well as behavior) can be changed by light and non habitual movements and touches. With this in mind Moshe Feldenkrais developed two sets of therapies, the “awareness through movement” exercises, during which the patient performs non habitual movements by following the verbal instructions of a practitioner and the “functional integration” where the therapist guides the patient with his hands.
With animals the only forms of therapy applicable is where the therapist moves different parts of the animal’s body (as done with the TTouch) or where the animal is encouraged to move in a different way as is done with the ground exercises. The elements of Functional Integration have been used very successfully by Linda Tellington-Jones with different animals. This method does have the disadvantage that the fine manipulation of the skeletal system is difficult to apply and to learn. Therefore Linda Tellington-Jones developed the easy to learn TTouch. During the many years after its conception the method was constantly developed. It has now outgrown the Feldenkrais idea and turned into a recognized form of therapy on its own.
Basics of the TTouch
The basic TTouch is a 1 1/4 circle where the skin is moved across the muscle. This movement manipulates the different layers of skin. This is where the TTouch differs from massage that mostly affects the muscles, and Functional Integration that affects the skeleton. In the case of an animal where physical contact is not possible the TTouches are performed with a stiff whip, a sheepskin or a rolled up bandage. Strength is not required for the TTouch, as a rule the pressure used is very light. Depending on the required results of the TTouch different parts of the hand are used. Each of the different TTouches have an animal name to make it easier to remember them. Depending on the type of TTouch and if it is performed slow or fast it can be relaxing and calming or invigorating or activating.
Besides the circular TTouches other bodywork enhances the work.
- TTouches without circles, (i.e. Python lifts and Noah’s March)
- TTouches that directly effect the animal’s emotions (Mouth TTouches)
- Movements that stem from Functional Integration used on specific bodyparts (leg circles and tail work) and directly affect the skeleton. As an example with the tailwork each vertebrae is gently moved against the next. Some TTouches are used on acupuncture points as is done with the ear work.
Basics for the groundwork
While there are no limits in species of animals that benefit from the TTouches, the ground exercises are limited to horses and dogs. We will cover the ground exercises only briefly as they require an elaborate set up that is not as practical in a vet practice as the TTouches. The ground exercises require a large space and numerous materials to be used as the TTEAM Confidence Course. There is no limit to the imagination for the course as long as it is safe and doable.
The most important exercise is the TTEAM labyrinth, which shows positive effects on the animal’s concentration and coordination. Fundamental for the success of the groundwork is that there is no fear on the part of the animal and that the obstacles are mastered slowly, so the animal gets a chance to gain awareness of the individual movements. For animals that are fearful or in pain a number of tools have been developed to give the animal a greater sense of security and to help them release their holding and behavioral patterns. (bodywraps, balance leash, special leading positions and harnesses)
Groundwork Requires Experience
Where the TTouch, if applied incorrectly would only cause the animal momentarily mild dislike with no permanent damage, the groundwork if done incorrectly can have tremendous negative results. This is true especially when tools, such as halters on dogs and chains on horses are used without the necessary experience.
Applied properly the groundwork gives an excellent opportunity to improve the animal’s coordination, balance and cooperation. Especially with aggressive and difficult to control animals the groundwork can give the handler a safe and effective way to start connecting with the animal. A Canadian study by TTEAM Practitioner Stephanie Shanahan showed that the groundwork, combined with the TTouches, is very helpful with horses that are difficult to load. In this study 10 horses, who according to their owners were difficult loaders, were worked for 6 days, 30 minutes per day. When the horses were loaded again at the end of the study the time it took was significantly shorter and the horse’s pulse noticeably lower than before. The training the horses received was done without a trailer, which proved that the behavior was changed by giving the horses a better sense of themselves and better balance, rather that presenting them with the obstacle that causes them problems.
Application in the Vet Practice
The TTouch can be used in a vet practice as the only tool needed is always available, our hands. There are two main situations where the TTouches can be used – the “on-the-side TTouches” and when we want to specifically address health or behavior issues. With “on-the-side TTouches” I mean TTouches that take little or no time and can be used parallel to the other work required to be done to the animal, but they can speed up the treatment and make the procedure easier. It is mostly used to make a connection with the animal and to relax fearful or tense patients. The TTouch is a less threatening and more respectful way to approach an animal. Many animals noticeably relax and the use of force and restraint can be reduced.
The owner is often pleasantly surprised about the connection the vet makes with the animal. With a little practice it is possible to do the TTouch at the same time as talking to a client and letting it flow into the routine steps of an examination.
Therapeutic Use With Physical Problems.
In the case of many illnesses the TTouch can enhance the treatment of holistic and regular medicine. Good results have been shown with shock, colic, problems with anaesthetic, birth and “asphyxia” in newborns.
Another important field where the TTouch has been beneficial is in chronic problems with movements. Animals and humans in pain have a tendency to carry themselves in a way to protect their body, which is beneficial at the time, but in the long term has a negative effect on the body. Movement patterns are created that cause more tension and pain. The body awareness in the tensed areas, and often in the entire body is disrupted and the TTouch and ground exercises release this tension and give the animal a better body image. With an improved awareness the animal can organize his body in a new and optimal way.
When problems with movements are the issue with an animal the TTouch combined with acupuncture have proven very beneficial. The TTouch can be used to relax a tensed animal before inserting the needles. It is possible to use the TTouch and acupuncture at the same time, but it is important to observe the reactions of the animal to make sure there is not too much input which would be seen by the animal fidgeting or objecting. In addition to the acupuncture treatment the ground exercises are very helpful to show the animal a way of using its body without pain end tension and to release old patterns of movement.
The Use of TTouch With Behavior Problems
TTEAM has been used successfully with many different behavior problems. It combines well with methods like Bach Flower remedies, homeopathy, step-by step desensitizing and clicker training. It goes without saying that in difficult situations the expertise of an experienced colleague should be sought. As the physical and psychological well being of an animal (or human) mirror each other, releasing the tension and giving the animal a better awareness of his body will also change the behavior. An example is the fearful dog who clamps his tail between his legs. As soon as he feels safe he relaxes his body and releases the tail. I can help a dog feel safe by using the TTouch to relax and release the hind end and tail for him.
Kevin is a four year old Collie who came to us because he is oversensitive to noise. This is a common problem in herding/guard dogs which causes difficulties in their daily living. Kevin reacted strongly to many daily sounds – such as doors being slammed, noisy car exhausts and shots fired at a distance – with attempts to flee or to hide and shake. He spent New Year’s Eve shaking in a cupboard in the basement. After the first sounds of fireworks on the morning of December 31 there was no way to get him out of the house. There were no medical or other behavioral problems in his past.
Conformationally we notice a slight tendency towards a swayed back in Kevin. When I stroked him with both hands I noticed that he did not like having his hind end touched. As soon as my hands came behind his hips he turned around and offered me his head to pet. Although his tail was hanging freely the top 10 cm felt stiff and I was not able to move each vertebrae individually. Kevin enjoyed being touched on the rest of his body. The groundwork showed that he often touched the obstacles with his hind feet, while he had no problems with his front feet.
The goal of the TTEAM session was to reduce the fear of sounds by relaxing and increasing the awareness of his hindend and tail, improve his eye-paw coordination, improve the connection of his front and hindend and decrease his swayed back.
Treatment: 5 sessions of 15-20 minutes each.
- I started with Clouded Leopard TTouches on the side of his neck and over the back up to the point where Kevin showed concern by licking his lips, turning his head and holding his breath. I would then return immediately to the areas where he was comfortable. I did Python lifts on the chest to increase his awareness of his breathing. Then I did the Lick of the Cow’s Tongue TTouch to improve the connection of the stomach and back muscles.
- I did more Clouded Leopard TTouches, especially in the areas where the bodywrap would be applied. While my left hand supported his chest, my right hand did circles with the rolled up bandage on his hindend. When Kevin held his breath I stopped the circles with the bandage while my left hand lightly lifted his chest to remind him to breathe.
- I continued the TTouch with the bandage in long lines along the areas where the bodywrap was to be applied. After the bodywrap was on, Kevin’s owner and I did some goundwork with Kevin in the Homing Pigeon leading position. Kevin’s owner continuously stroked his legs down to the paw with a TTEAM wand to make it easier for him to coordinate his legs. After the groundwork, I did the mouth TTouch to improve his emotional balance.
- Kevin was now comfortable about having his hind end TTouched with Python lifts and the tail TTouch. Each individual vertebrae was gently moved up and down as well as in tiny circles. One hand supported the tail while the other moved the next vertebrae. This continues along the entire tail. After this exercise the original stiffness at the top part of Kevin’s tail disappeared.
- Next, Kevin’s owner continued by herself to do groundwork with the dog. Kevin stood in his own balance and placed his feet well-coordinated. Only occasionally did his hindfeet knock the poles. After the clinic Kevin’s owner reported a noticable reduction in his fear of sounds. With most sounds he reacted with a short startle, but relaxed right away. He was still afraid of gunshots and starts shaking. His owner can settle him right away with some Python lifts. In the eight weeks remaining until New Year’s Eve, she would TTouch Kevin every 2-3 days for 10 minutes using Python lifts on his chest and hindend, mouth TTouch and tail TTouch..
On New Year’s Eve, she placed a bodywrap on Kevin in the morning and took him for a walk. Kevin remained quiet throughout the day, but started running through the house in the early evening as the fireworks started. His owner settled him with Python lifts. At midnight they went into the basement and Kevin spent his New Year’s Eve for the first time, not hiding in the cupboard, but at his owner’s side.
In Germany there continues to be great interest in TTEAM and TTouch. There are many options to learn TTEAM including five-day workshops, weekend demonstrations, lectures, one-day and two-day handson workshops and a program to qualify as a Practitioner. There are special courses for veterinarians and their assistants and the vet school in Hanover has had a TTEAM study group for several years.
TTEAM und TTouch in der tierärztlichen Praxis. Daniella Zurr, Dr.med.vet. Publisher: Sountag Verlag Stuttgart, 2005. ISBN: 3-8304-9048-8
Proposed to be published in English in 2007.