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 TESTIMONIALS > Working With An Unresponsive Horse
Testimonial By: Alphen and Estelle        Publish Date: 2003-05-01

TTEAM Seminar at the Lipizzaner Center – Johannesburg – from Linda Tellington Jones

On the evening of April 5th, Eugenie organized a TTEAM demo and I chose 3 horses from about a dozen email applicants.  One of the horses was an 8 year old 16:1 hand Warm Blood with some interesting habits described by his rider, Estelle Liebenberg.  Estelle had raised and trained Alphen and had him in several clinics with internationally known clinicians.  She was particularly hopeful that I would work with Alphen because she said most trainers want nervous horses but decline to take horses who tend to be unresponsive.  Apparently Alphen had the habit of simply walking off at will when he was being lead and she could not stop him, even with a chain over his nose.  Under saddle, he was either very slow and unresponsive, or would take off at the trot in an arena and was unstoppable, and outside of the arena, had two gaits, either walk (if she was lucky) or run away.

When I worked him in hand Alphen did not understand at first, how to go forward from a touch of the wand on his croup, and it took at least a 6 pressure to get any kind of a response from him.  Needless to say, he had refused to step sideways in another clinic and was labelled as “dominant” because of his “refusal”.  It was clear to me that he didn’t understand.

His response to the platform was interesting.  Although he looked unafraid because of his slow responses, Alphen was concerned about stepping on the platform.  Here’s where the importance of Robyn’s admonition of “listening to the whisper’s of the horse” became so important.  Alphen didn’t jump away, but his ears went flat out to the sides and the whites of his eyes showed.  When I pointed this out it was news to our seminar participants, but became clearer as the session progressed.

I told Estelle that I thought he was slow to respond because he had grown fast and didn’t feel his body clearly which limited his balance and perception – his awareness of his place in space- but with TTouch and Ground work with the wand and chain, and the TTEAM training bit, I believed he could be normal.

A week later I received the following email:

Dear Linda
 I would like to give you some feedback about Alphen’s progress, during the rest of the weekend with Bibi.  On Saturday, after you left, I rode Alphen in his usual tack - French-link bit with Caveson noseband. I noticed a difference in his behavior and attitude. He was more at ease in a new environment and more forward going. Normally he would be sluggish to move off the leg initially, and then becoming too strong, now he responded more consistently to my signals. I am sure that your work with him on the Friday caused this change.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on leading work over the obstacles - homing pigeon style. Even during this session his sensitivity to the signals became apparent.  Previously he would just barge past, or over me and I would interpret this as being stubborn, rude or disrespectful. I would respond by giving the signals more forcefully and he would become more pushy or disinterested.  During this session however, I noticed that when he was barging, he was in actual fact loosing his balance and not just ignoring my signals.  By rebalancing him and giving him more time to respond, yet being quick in my response, I could keep the signals light and soft and get his full cooperation!
Sunday morning I started Alphen in the roller bit during a ground work session, as you suggested.  He did everything confidently - even going under the plastic was no challenge!  Leading him back to his paddock, I noticed that he was more aware of his surroundings. Instead of focusing on the ground a meter or two in front of him, it was as if his peripheral vision was activated.  He noticed a whole new world and it seemed as if he grew more confident with every step.
That afternoon Bibi started the others on "bridleless" riding and I had the opportunity to ride Alphen in the roller bit.  IT WAS AMAZING!!!  I wish I had words to describe the feeling. Everyone present could see my excitement.  Alphen gave a big sigh as if to say: "finally she got it!".  For the first time, while riding Alphen it felt as if I knew what I was doing, I could sit still and stay with him without effort.  With a "light as a feather-touch" on the reins, we could turn on a 10m circle in the canter. He was forward going without rushing.  I could give an aid once and he would respond immediately and stay in that gait, without me nagging him to keep going.  For the first time I know what "CADENCE" and "IMPULSION" means.  It was as if I was sitting on a million dollar horse-- well schooled and with loads of talent!!
Thank you so much for helping us during your demo.  It was a great privilege to meet you.  This will always be close to my heart and one of the most special times of my life!
Alphen and Estelle
South Africa

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