Linda Tellington-Jones has helped big-name dressage ballers like Klaus Balkenhol, Carl Hester and Kyra Kyrklund improve their game. Megan Rust reviews her new book.
Top photo by Erin McCabe
As a big fan of internationally known Linda Tellington-Jones’s Method and TTouches, I was excited when my copy of her new book, Dressage With Mind, Body and Soul, arrived the other day. I knew it was going to be good as soon as I saw an endorsement on the back cover from Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado–the founding stars of Cavalia–and a foreword from Ingrid Klimke, the daughter of Olympian Dr. Reiner Klimke. The praise from these big names in the equine world proved to be prophetic: the book was wonderful.
Tellington-Jones wrote the book when she became alarmed by the contemporary use of techniques like rollkur and LDR (low, deep and round)–which she and others feel are abusive–and the focus on quick fixes or the skipping of fundamentals in training. She wants riders to get back to basics like engaging trust in the horse during schooling/training/handling, and she goes so far as to rename her TTouches as TrustTouches. She has also added another element to the Training Scale: At its base, now she has a platform she calls BALANCE, which stands for balance in the physical sense, the mental sense and the spiritual sense.
She speaks of how the Training Scale can be connected to duplicate scales that focus on the “feel” associated with the actual physical how-to of the Training Scale, and the ways the Tellington Method and TTouches can be used with the scales. She shows how specific TTouches can be used to tactfully introduce different levels of the Training Scale to the horse, especially horses that have had trouble in the past through insensitive training.
One of those specific tips about using TTouches while riding and training included a suggestion that I, myself, will use in the future. She indicated how the use of those TTouches can help create a well-mannered horse from the day before a competition, during traveling with the horse to a competition, as a warm-up before a test, and on the day after a competition. The TTouches done before a warm-up can calm a horse and make it focused, shortening the warm-up so that the horse can conserve its energy for the test, itself, rather than spending it in the warm-up. That will save a lot of time and heartache if you are faced with an anxious, spooky horse and need to connect with it before you ride your test: The TTouches can prevent that from being a factor in the first place.
One of the most interesting chapters included tales of problem solving for 17 top-level dressage riders and their horses. From Klaus Balkenhol to Carl Hester to Kyra Kyrklund and others, Linda was able to use the Tellington Method and TTouches to work with their horses in behavioral, training and health problems that had confounded their riders for some time. In case after case, the upper-level riders became believers in Linda’s techniques. Most began skeptically, but saw improvements in their horses that they could not ignore.
The next chapter dealt with how we, as riders, can create an atmosphere of well-being for our horses. Topics like general health, stable accommodations, equipment type and fit, even play, are discussed. Some of the suggestions go against ingrained habits in the dressage world, but are based on recent research that is just now finding a foothold. You might take a look at what she says and scoff at it as being too minor or simple to make a difference, but they really can make a profound change in your horse’s life.
At the end of the book is a quick reference guide, with lists of resources and definitions and how-to descriptions of all of her TTouches and when they can be used. Those, along with her earlier Ultimate Horse Behavior and Training Book, can introduce you to the world of the Tellington Method and TTouches. Linda’s techniques are proven ways for riders to communicate and bond with their horses, making them a combined team, loyal to each other and better together.
And isn’t that what dressage is all about?