When seven-time German Olympian Dr. Reiner Klimke first heard of Linda Tellington-Jones and her unique hands-on method to improve horses' well-being and performance, he wondered "whether it was hocus-pocus or not. So I read her book and tried to understand the theory [of the movements known as TTouch] so I could learn as much as possible" before sharing an arena with her during a four-day symposium in late February 1999 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center (LAEC).
From the outset, no one knew exactly how the two clinicians' systems would mesh. But more than 100 riders applied to fill the dozen available slots, and more than 1,200 spectators gathered from as far away as New Zealand to witness the magic that the dressage community has come to expect from Klimke's U.S. Symposiums. No one was disappointed.
The primary goal shared by both Klimke and Tellington-Jones was to enhance the dressage horses' performance by first instilling trust and building confidence. Whether a horse was undergoing TTouch prior to a work session or being asked by Klimke to perform a particular movement in the arena, the horse's response spoke volumes to the experts, who know that nothing is ever accomplished in an atmosphere of fear. As soon as a horse experienced discomfort and seemed ready to say "no," both Klimke and Tellington-Jones would back off. But then they would return and in a nonthreatening manner again ask the horse for a little more trust. Spectators and riders alike were constantly reminded that the word "aid" means "help."
"Klimke has a way of dealing with fear that is inspirational," says Tellington-Jones after watching horses from First Level to Grand Prix perform before the master. "When the horse is in a situation where he can't do something, there is no force," she continued. "When horses resist and say 'I can't do it,' Klimke backs off," returning to the lesson at a more opportune moment so that the horse can successfully respond to the request.
Indeed, those curious TTouch manipulations that 10 practitioners trained in The Tellington-Jones Equine Awareness Method (TTEAM) were performing before and after the riding sessions seemed to establish a similar foundation of trust with the horse.
"TTEAM work is not deep massage," explained Tellington-Jones of the physical manipulations that are the heart and soul of her method. "TTEAM is a system of body-awareness techniques designed to take the horse beyond instinct and teach him how to think. It brings out the freedom in the horse. As we work, we will go to a sensitive place, but never so deeply that the horse flinches away. The TTouches invite your horse to come to you instead of going away from you. We wait until the horse puffs out and gets bigger form the work. The TTouch brings a trust to the body that fills out into the hand.
"It's such a pleasure to see Klimke work and make these horses so happy," Tellington-Jones continued. "Riding [according to his philosophy] is very important. If the riders were to get after their horses, the horses would lose confidence," she said as she watched the results of her work become magnified through Klimke's instruction.
Wenzel's Imagine: Changed by TTEAM
"When I was accepted [to ride in the symposium], I told them he was young and inexperienced," said Carol Robertson of her 5-year-old Hanoverian, Wenzel's Imagine. "But I was told that this clinic would be good for a horse like him. Regardless, I thought Imagine would be challenged in this atmosphere." He had been in the country for only a few months and had certainly never seen the likes of the Equidome. As a result, Robertson was a bit nervous about riding him there under Klimke's watchful eye and in front of some 1,200 people.
She also was skeptical that Tellington-Jones' "touch that teaches" would make much of a difference with Imagine because he is sensitive and hot. Nevertheless, she and Imagine met Tellington-Jones in the Equidome on Thursday for their first TTEAM work session, and they returned on Friday for about 40 minutes of TTouch before their first ride with Klimke.
As Tellington-Jones took stock of Imagine on Thursday, she noticed that he had a tendency to be tense and to come high in the neck, which stopped his hind end. She worked with him to help lower his head and neck and increase his awareness of his entire body. A series of connecting circular TTouches made on the horses's body visibly improved his posture and helped him to move with integrity. Ground exercises, such as walking through the labyrinth--a maze of poles laid on the ground--were employed to improve Imagine's self-confidence, self-image, self-carriage and self-control.