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 ARTICLES > TTouch > Tteam For Mares And Foals
  TTouch  Article:
Article By: Sarah Fisher & Robyn Hood        Publish Date: 2004-06-17

As written for HQ Magazine 2004

Sarah Fisher is a TTEAM Practitioner and runs the TTEAM training Centre in the UK which is home to 22 horses.    She works at rehabilitation yards around the UK including the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation centre in Lancashire and contributes regular features for national magazines including YOUR HORSE magazine.  Sarah has ridden horses since the age of four and owns a variety of horses including OTTO, who despite a major fall as a two year old, has gone on to win a variety of classes at county and national level including Show Hunter, Coloured Ridden Horse, Dressage and Working Hunter thanks to TTEAM.   He also appeared in the cult show BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER with Sarah’s partner Anthony Stewart Head.

Robyn Hood has been riding horses since before she could walk. She went through Pony Club and showed as a junior competitor in Alberta. She later attended and then instructed at the Pacific Coast School of Horsemanship in California owned by her sister Linda Tellington-Jones.  In 1982 Robyn became involved full-time with the TTEAM and TTouch work which was developed by her sister Linda. For the past 17 years she has been the editor of the TTEAM Newsletter. Since 1986 she has been teaching TTEAM and TTouch on a full-time basis in Canada, the US, Europe and Australia and spends about 160 days a year travelling.  She breeds and trains Icelandic horses at her home in Canada.

One of the many advantages of learning TTEAM techniques is that it can be applied to every equine situation.   

There are many reasons why mares are bred.  If the mare was difficult to handle prior to covering putting the mare in foal may have been suggested as a way of overcoming the problem but the behaviour normally reverts once the foal is born.   The result may be two difficult horses.   

If the mare was bred because she was no longer up to the rigours of ridden and/or competitive life her physical well being through pregnancy can be undermined by the demands of carrying the baby and foaling.  Any issues with stiffness and back problems can be exacerbated by carrying the foal and the birthing process, and this can affect milk yield and the mare’s acceptance of the foal once it is born.

For working mares that are bred in their prime, TTEAM offers a variety of ways to help the mare adapt easily to changes in their routine as the pregnancy advances whilst maintaining suppleness and muscle tone.

TTouches, body work and Ground work help to promote relaxation and can keep the mare stimulated physically, mentally and emotionally without placing undue stress on the mother to be.   The work can be tailored to the individual needs of the mare and helps to increase awareness in the handler should any problems start to arise. Whatever the situation TTEAM gives the owner or carer new ways of interacting with their mare whilst deepening the relationship between the two.

TTouches and Body Work

Stroking the ear from the base to the tip lowers heart rate and respiration.    This can also be useful for helping the mare to stay calm and relaxed through veterinary examination and helps to develop trust between the horse and the handler.   If the labour is arduous for the mare, Ear Work can be extremely beneficial for both the mare and foal as it helps to overcome fatigue and shock in all animals.   Ear Work and TTouches around the base of the ear can help with the passing of the placenta.

Using the circular TTouches such as the Clouded Leopard TTouch helps to reduce over sensitivity in the body, relieves the aches and strains of carrying the foal and helps to promote an overall sense of well being.    If a mare is sensitive around the belly it may affect her willingness to let the foal feed as the foal may irritate or cause discomfort to the mare when seeking milk.   The TTouches can also be used around the udder to reduce sensitivity in this area to help prepare the mare for feeding and to stimulate and even increase the milk flow once the foal is born.  TTouches through a warm towel on the udder can also be very beneficial in aiding milk flow.   Some cases of rejection are sadly due simply to a mare’s concern about contact from the foal around the flank, belly and udder and not as a result of the mare not bonding with her offspring.    This can be caused by tension in the back and hindquarters and can be easily overcome during pregnancy by using a variety of TTouches and other TTEAM techniques.

Python Lifts on the legs, hindquarters and down the limbs can help relieve stiffness, reduce swelling and increase mobility as the pregnancy continues and also help the mare to overcome concerns about movement and contact around the hindquarters.  

Gentle Tail work helps to maintain suppleness through the pelvis and hindquarters and relieves tension through the back as the foal develops.    As well as the obvious benefits through the gestation period, this can aid the foaling process and can ensure that the mare is calm if veterinary intervention is required.  

Mouth Work is helpful for mares that are over sensitive and emotional.  Hormone changes can be linked to the mouth and doing gentle TTouches around the mouth and inside the mouth can be helpful in keeping the mare settled and happy through the gestation period.  There are many cases where Mouth Work has also been helpful in getting a foal to feed in the early days.  

As with humans, the physical and emotional state of the mare directly affects the well being of the foal.   If the mare is concerned about human contact, the foal may be born with the same concerns.  By using the bodywork through the pregnancy you can help both mare and foal learn that interaction with humans can be both enjoyable and relaxing.

Once the foal has been born and is bonded to the mare, light TTouches can be done all over the foals body to accustom it to contact.   Gentle Ear Work and Tail Work can also be done.  Care should be taken to ensure the mare and foal are not stressed by this interaction and it should only be done for a short time.   The work should never be forced on the foal and it is important not to over handle youngsters as it can cause a major problem later in life.   Home bred foals that are brought up without the company of other youngsters of a similar age can become dangerous as they mature.  It is not uncommon to hear of over handled, unsocialised horses being put down at four or five years of age because they have become so difficult to handle.


Ground Work

Physical wellbeing is paramount for the ease with which the mare carries and delivers the foal and for the impact the process has on the mare regardless of her age.    Gentle ground work exercises enable to the horse to remain supple, improve circulation and muscle tone and encourage increased body awareness as the physical balance changes.    As the TTEAM ground exercises help to keep horses focused, calm and relaxed they are a useful tool when exercise is reduced or to help the horse adjust to their changing physical condition.   Walking the horse over patterns of poles laid on the ground increases athletic ability and co-ordination and keeps the mare stimulated, interested and easy to handle without placing any undue stress on the horse.    As self-carriage is linked to self-confidence ground work can be helpful for shy or nervous horses or those that barge the handler through lack of balance.  As foals learn their behaviour from their mothers in their early days, a mare that is confident and easy to handle is more likely to produce a foal with the same qualities.

Other TTEAM Tools

One of the TTEAM tools used for ridden and rehabilitating horses is a length of elastic bandage.  With one length placed around the base of the neck, a second length is attached and taken either around the girth area or around the hind quarters.   This simple piece of equipment can be used with pregnant mares to help give them a greater awareness of their changing shape and to reduce over sensitivity in the flank and belly. Some mares that have concerns about allowing their foals to suckle may also have a tendency to rush through stable doors and gateways.  The body wrap will help both issues since they generally stem from blocked awareness and tension in the lumbar area and hindquarters.

The body wrap can also be used to do gentle belly lifts to help relieve downwards pressure on the back from the weight of the developing foal.

Another tool that is regularly in TTEAM is a long dressage schooling stick.   Called a ‘wand’ when used in TTEAM exercises, it offers a simple way of initiating contact without overcrowding the horse.  Stroking the mare all over with the wand helps to settle and relax even fidgety horses.  As the wands can be used to start touching the foal at the appropriate time it is important that the mare is already accustomed to the wand. 


From covering to foaling, TTEAM offers ways to help your mare stay calm, relaxed and happy throughout the pregnancy and a contented mare = a contented foal.  


Clouded Leopard TTouch

The weight of the hand rests lightly on the body with fingers lightly curved like a leopard’s paw. The pads of your fingers push the skin in one and a quarter circles. The middle finger leads. Feel the connection between your forefinger and thumb, which are held several inches apart. Keep your wrist soft. Breathing in rhythm with the circles helps maintain a softness in fingers, hand, arm and shoulder. Move the skin in a circle rather than rubbing over the hair. Watch your horse’s reaction. If he or she seems uncomfortable, lighten the pressure or change the TTouch.

The Python Lift

The Python Lift is used to relieve and release tension and spasm. It is effective on the shoulder, legs, neck and back of animals, and also feels great on human backs, arms, legs and shoulders. The Python Lift relaxes nervous animals and improves balance and gait. It also helps to bring your animal into a state of mental and emotional stability.

The whole hand is placed on the body or around the leg with just enough pressure to gently lift the skin and muscle. Lift, pause for several seconds, and then slowly return the skin to the starting point. Remember to breathe with the movement. If you lift too much it causes the animal to tense or move away.

Tail Work

One of the ways to work the tail is to support it with the upper hand (right hand in this case) and push the tail bone up slightly with the right hand, making a question-mark curve with the tailbone. Keeping the curve in the tail, circle the tail 2-3 times in each direction.   This helps mares with the breeding process and both mares and foals with veterinary examination.  It also helps to release tension through the back and increase mobility through the pelvis.

NOTE: Gentle Tail work can be useful for helping foals become accustomed to movement behind them - it also helps them to tolerate having their temperature taken and helps to keep them calm and relaxed

Mouth Work

The outside of the mouth and chin is generally a good place to start. You may  use Clouded Leopard TTouches around the muzzle and chin or use the flat of your hand to gently move the skin.

Working the inside of the top lip can be approached in several ways. You can start with the side of your index finger, making contact with the inside of the upper lip, where the gum meets the upper lip. Once you can lift the upper lip, keep four fingers lightly together and slide the side of your index finger back and forth over the gums between the front teeth and upper lip, leaving the thumb on the outside. If your horse’s lip is tight, lift it up with the back of your hand. In some cases, it may be easier to start with your thumb.

NOTE: TTouches around the muzzle and mouth can help trigger the feeding response and prepares a foal for worming and taking any oral medication should it be required.

Belly Lift

The belly lift is very helpful for pregnant mares.   Use a towel (folded six to twelve inches wide) or a body wrap or leg wrap, under the belly of the horse. You can work on your own by holding one end of the wrap or towel on the back of the horse or work with a partner standing on each side of the horse holding the wrap or towel between you.   Start near the elbows and work back as far as you can. Lift slowly, hold 6 - I 0 seconds and release more slowly than the lift. After each release, move the towel, girth or hands back about six inches.   Watch the mare’s response.  If she is concerned or uncomfortable move the wrap or towel back to the area that was acceptable to the horse.

Ear Work

Stand in front of the mare and slightly to one side.  Support the horses head by lightly resting your fingers on the noseband of the head collar and use your other hand to start stroking the ear.  Start at the base of the ear and slide along the length of the ear. When you reach the tip, rub it between your thumb and fingers to activate the shock point in cases of shock or fatigue. Keep repeating the slide changing your Hand position slightly each time to ensure that the whole ear is worked.    Swap hands and work the other ear in the same way.  You can also make circles or rub around the base of the ear, where it joins the head, to activate the acupuncture point for digestion and respiration in both the mare and foal if they are tired or stressed from the foaling.

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