by Linda Tellington-Jones
From the desk of Linda Tellington Jones – Published in “Stay in TTouch” Newsletter for practitioners
That Mouth TTouch will affect the emotions and thereby can transform undesirable behaviour is an integral part of the work. However, I’ve never written about the process that brought me to this realization.
In December, an email from Martine Broeders posted to the TTouch Group inspired me to track the process that lead me to the conclusion that working on the mouth of an animal (or person) could influence emotions and behaviour:
Hi everyone, I am looking for articles, research done on the effect of chewing/mouth work /giving treats on behaviour and the learning process in animals (brain activity, parasympathetic system).
I had, unfortunately, just returned from a very short trip to Switzerland to teach a four day TTouch for You training to a group of physical therapists and was a bit overwhelmed being so far behind on emails. So I was not able to send Martine the information she requested. However, it made me realize that you all need to know how my concept of the effects of mouth work on emotions developed – the connection to the limbic system, and the relationship to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
The first time I remember working a horse’s mouth in unusual ways was July of 1975. It was at the end of the second day of my four-summer Feldenkrais training and I was excited to check out a basic Feldenkrais principle on a horse. Moshe Feldenkrais had discovered that gentle non-habitual movements of the body could increase human potential for learning in humans.
I surmised that if this were true for humans, why wouldn’t it work for a horse? The first horse I chose for this experiment was a 16-year old Arabian brood mare who was not particularly friendly and was hard to catch. I moved her ears, legs, tail and head in ways a horse could not do herself and moved the lips in all directions, extending the upper lip and pulling it left and right and up and down and around. After only one session the mare changed dramatically and became easy to catch!
That inspired me to develop so many different ways to move the body that was the beginning of the initial TEAM – Tellington Equine Awareness Movements.
The next milestone came in 1979 as a result of a lecture by an Israeli neurologist in an Advanced Feldenkrais seminar. What piqued my interest in particular was his discussion of how an inadequate suckling reflex or slackness or tension of a newborn’s mouth could be indicative of a neurological abnormality.
During the lecture I began thinking about horses and musing about the relationship between unusual habits horses develop with their mouths, how that might relate to abnormal behaviour.
Some weeks later, in Germany, a young mare was enrolled in my weeklong training for evaluation because of her unfriendly attitude toward her teen-age rider.
“Observe” was a key word that began at our 9-month residential program at the Pacific Coast Equestrian Research Farm and School of Horsemanship in the 1960’s. What I observed about the German mare was her tight mouth, her reluctance to open it to take a bit, her unwillingness to be caught in the pasture, and her resistance to having her mouth and muzzle handled. During the week I paid particular attention to patiently touching the mare’s lips and muzzle in a way that was non-habitual and she could stand quietly and accept, and I moved her lips in many directions. (This was long before the development of the circular TTouches.)
By the end of the week-long training the mare seemed to actually enjoy the work on her mouth, opened her mouth readily to take the bit, and for the first time came willingly to the gate to be caught.
I began to pay more attention to way horses use their mouths.