I’ve often mentioned Linda Tellington-Jones over the 10 years of this blogs existence. Since I gave a recap of my thoughts on Klaus Hempfling, I thought I would do the same with LTJ.
First, I think she is way under rated and I blame this on several things: 1.) she is a woman (men seem to do better with these clinics because women love to fawn all over them); 2.) her method isn’t showy and 3.) I think for a long time she wasn’t very good at self promotion (there’s a lot of showmanship involved with these top trainers).
Linda was doing tackless riding, riding with a cordeo (neckrope) and going bridle-less way before it mainstreamed (decades before Parelli for instance). She has ridden a variety of sports, competitively so can speak from the performance horse woman viewpoint.
Of all the horse training methods I use, this is one that I actually have attended a clinic on (a 7 day course) although it was not taught by Linda herself. Other then traditional training methods, it is the one I’ve used the longest (over 15+ years?), even longer then clicker training.
I‘ve found that it is the easiest to incorporate into my other training – for example, riding dressage? add in the balance rein for better half halts. Doing Masterson Method? Add in some hoof circles to get the shoulder to relax. Are you heavy on the reins? add a Lindell to your Bridle. Have a horse to rehab after injury? You have a cornucopia of methods to choose from.
This compatibility and flexibility makes LTJ’s body of work a very useful training methodology for using everyday no matter what style you ride or the level of your ability.
However, there is simply so much material and you can easily be overwhelmed. That’s why I was very happy to see her issue a very comprehensive book with a great index that covers both the TTouches (the hands on touch and body work) and her TTeam (the riding and equipment section).
These are the exercises I find myself returning again and again too:
EAR TTOUCHES – Stroking the ear with this TTouch really does seem to calm them down or relieve pain especially during a colic (not talking about head shy horses here). I’ve found this a very useful TTouch to do on many occasions.
NOSTRIL and MOUTH TTouches I’ve used for hard to bit/bridle horses, or those who hold tension in their mouth or shut down emotionally. It’s especially good for training young horses to accept your hand there for bridling, worming, and dental.
I’ve noticed that Dante has a lot of tension in his nose and doesn’t like people stroking his nostrils so he’s due for this exercise! Using this on a shut down horse, I actually saw his nostrils get bigger over the months as he further relaxed them and was willing to breathe more deeply!
LEG STROKES used with the whip (she calls it a wand) and the HOOF TAPS. These are great for using with the Labyrinth or any leading exercises, especially for horses that are clumsy with their feet. The stroking the leg and then tapping the hoof seems to ground the horse and provide them an awareness of where their feet are.
Useful for training horses that are being taught to step across areas they are not familiar with (water, asphalt, bridges, trailering etc…). Works best with a very stiff whip or stick.
HOOF/LEG CIRCLES I am doing now with Dante to help him relax his leg which also opens the shoulder. This is a method that I find works well with the Masterson Method. Helps to free up the shoulder as well as the stifle and hip (depending on which leg you are working on).
The TEETER TOTTER is a bridge platform, built so a centered fulcrum point can tip the bridge up or down through the horses’ weight. Can help with the horse’s balance and trusting the handler for commands. I’ve used the platform without the fulcrum on a series of cinder blocks to act as a step up platform useful for trailer training. It’s easy to build and use (I’ll put up something later as I do plan on building a new one of these soon).
LABYRINTH TTEAM – Laying out this maze of poles and working the horse slowly through them definitely helps the synchronization, the parallelism between you and the horse that Hempfling discusses, and in rehabilitation of the horse (I did a lot of this when Tristan was in recovery after his pelvic fracture).
The process is slow and focused – it helps your horse learn to wait and respond to your request instead of doing it when he thinks you want it (but without the request). It can be done as groundwork or as a riding exercise.
A similar exercise with poles is the STAR pattern and I’ve also used that for Tristan’s rehabilitation. It is best for horses that need to learn how to take care in stepping over obstacles as the horse has to step higher, and helps them them to listen and wait for the person to give direction.
BODY WRAP – It connects the horse from “front to back” so they get a better internal awareness of themselves. I think of it like the popular “Thundershirt” that you use for dogs or cats as it provides a cuddle to the entire body. If you plan on using your horse in harness – this is a good pre-exercise for them!
I have found this useful for horses who don’t seem to be aware of where their body is and was very helpful during Tristan’s pelvic fracture rehab. I will be using this on Dante soon for example for him to gain a better awareness of his movement.
My caution on this is I did have a trainer who was vehemently opposed to LTJ because they did the Body Wrap on her horse during a clinic and her horse reacted poorly – in her case the horse retreated emotionally. Each horse will respond uniquely so use at your discretion.
A similar tool is the PROMISE ROPE which I’ve also used, but for my own purposes I prefer the BODY WRAP. Don’t use the Promise Rope unless your horse is totally okay with having things touch his hindquarters and legs. The Promise Rope is more for hind activation and to be used with “lazy” horses to encourage forward.
One of my favorite tools of her’s is the sidepull, a bitless bridle she uses which she calls the LINDELL. I rode in this at the clinic and fell in love! I wish it came in a draft size! Riding with both a bitted bridle and this Lindell, was a great learning experience for me at the clinic I attended.
I highly recommend it to those who teach riders as it helps with those who use too much rein. For example, put the horse in both (almost like a double bridle with four reins) and ask the rider to use more pressure on the Lindell. It also works this way to transition your horse from bridle to bridle-less.
What I especially love about her Lindell is that the back throatlatch has become a jaw strap. The problem with sidepulls is when they are used, they slip and slide around because nothing stabilizes when you use the reins! The Lindell doesn’t because of this construction feature. It’s really a well made, high quality tool.
But my all time favorite tool of hers is what she calls the BALANCE REIN but what people in Europe call the Cordeo, and what you might know better as the neckrope. I love the construction of hers and it has lasted me many years (over a decade?).
What I like about hers, is that appearance wise (especially the black version) it looks like tack, so you can use it and not raise a lot of eyebrows at the community barn. The rolled part which goes under the neck is also comfy for the horse and doesn’t cut or bind when you use it which a smaller diameter rope might. It has a brass buckle so can be easily adjusted for the best fit between horses.
This piece is a lifesaver if you have a heavy on the forehand horse (Tristan), a horse that lacks a connection from front to back (combine with a back hindquarter body wrap), a horse that needs to understand how to stop or do downward transitions but has been clumsy due to the rider pulling on the bit/bridle great for teaching half halts, for riders who use too much hand, for riders who need emotional support they can stop the horse but you don’t want them pulling too hard on the bridle/bit, and can be used with a bitted bridle or the sidepull or other bitless bridle.
Because the request for stop happens at the base of the neck, the horse instinctively collects his body mass better in the downward transition. It’s pretty amazing to experience actually.
Now these are the things I use/do on a regular basis so there is a lot more to her system and if you are interested check out the book I referenced above, or go buy a membership, which is very affordable on her Vimeo channel where you can view the full length videos.
Before I close, I’d like to write a few other things of note about LTJ. She is the ONLY horse clinician I know of that is 100% okay with people posting videos of you working your horse using her ideas. I actually emailed her office about this due to what happened with another clinician (see below).
Back when I had my youtube channel, I was told that another female horse trainer was shutting accounts down. To be clear, these people were attending her online clinic (as was I at the time) and were showing their own videos of doing what she had told them to do – they were not stating it was their method but referenced her website! If you can’t allow people to show videos of them working their horses learning what they did in your clinic, then don’t be a clinician!
So for that reason, I really applaud Linda’s attitude about how free she is with her information.
However, one thing I experienced during the clinic which I definitely did not like – and why I have not attended another clinic of any trainer since – is that due to the time constraints, the teacher was often forceful with the horses in a manner I did not like.
I felt if we were here to relax and get the horse to work with us, I wasn’t going to shove my hand up it’s mouth! But yet, that is exactly what the instructor did, calling me “timid” she just grabbed the halter firmly and shoved her hand up against the horse’s gum under his nose and rather roughly worked the area with TTouches.
These are the disconnects you will often see at clinics – you will be told to do it A way but because they are in a rush to cover a lot of material they will throw out their own ideas and do it B way to “get the job done.”
For example, there is a trainer right now who says because horses are not grazing throughout the day their backs are weak – but he keeps his horses in stalls for the day unless being worked. He is also against the principles of natural hoof care developed by Pete Ramey – who has studied in depth the “natural” way that horses in the wild wear their hooves down. Makes absolutely no sense but that is what you run into with these people: do as I say, not as I do.
It’s why I don’t attend clinics anymore.