Tellington TTouch for horses in Finland 🇫🇮

Spring 2017 and another visit to Finland for a tour around the country meeting people and horses with some Tellington TTouch Training workshops and private sessions. I may have amused the locals by needing to take pictures of frozen lakes and reindeer, but these are things I am not used to!  I had a great time discovering Scandinavian breeds and the nuances of keeping horses in a tough climate.

I'm told that snow is really not a problem if you have the right clothes, but ice... ice is a pain.  I can remember a few years ago we had some icy weather, it lasted a whole week and at our place we couldn't get the stabled horses out of the barn because it was so dangerous.  As a consequence the horses stayed inside for the best part of a week.  This year in Finland they had similar conditions for 3 months.....  So what do you do ? It would be impossible to simply keep the horses inside for this length of time. Well, when it happened to us in the South of France we were hopelessly ill equipped, not even so much as a bag of sand was available because we hadn't anticipated such conditions.  However if you are used to living with snow, cold and freezing temperatures and expect them :- you have studs on your wellington boots, studs on your hoof boots or horse shoes, bags of sand or wood chips are ready for use to spread on the ice, your barns may be heated (which means space is at a premium), you maintain a warm room at the yard, you know how to dress appropriately and are prepared to sauna in the evening to warm up.  It seems like preparation is the key, a bit like how a small amount of snow will bring the UK to a standstill because very few people drive with winter tyres, this gets laughed at by our Scandinavian neighbours who wouldn't be caught out with the wrong tyres on their car....

Even if you are prepared and used to these conditions, ice remains dangerous and horses can easily have accidents outside in their turnout areas.  In an ideal world you would have a weather proof area where the horses can actually trot or canter and play to release the frustration of having to walk so carefully in their icy paddocks, but if the only area available is also your working area you may find difficulty getting your horse to concentrate on work...  People told me too, that even if you are prepared and you have access to facilities, it seems that after months and months of difficulty there may come a time when you abandon your training to wait for spring....  Wishing you all many months of summer to get stuck back in to your training programs.

One of the well-being factors that can influence how a horse feels is it's living conditions and I saw many situations where people were limited in the options they had for keeping their horses.  However it was also interesting to see examples of active stables and paddock paradise arrangements giving horses choices to spend time outside or in shelters and the opportunity to live in groups - YES horses can live outside 24/7 even here!  The horses in these environments appeared calmer and less stressed than those stabled with individual paddock turn out time, also displaying noticeably fewer behavioral problems.

Learning about these things I really don't envy the difficulties of keeping horses in such an environment and find it fascinating to see how people adapt, the big thing I learnt here is that both people and horses CAN adapt.

Since returning to France I've found the biting insect population in full flow, reminding me of the giant mosquitoes which were just starting to come out to play for the summer season in Finland, some issues you can't escape where ever you are!

So for those faced with the challenges of the lack of light and extreme cold up north, I wanted to leave you with some ideas of TTouch themed activities to do during the winter months when exercise gets difficult.  (This also applies to horses that have restrictions on movement because of injury.)  It is now summer, hopefully your horses are benefiting from access to the summer pastures already, now is also a great time to check out your horse's body to see where they are at before getting cracking with your usual spring/summer activities, don't forget to take photos so you can keep track of changes.  For some this might seem like information you needed three months ago, so maybe now is the time to pop a reminder in your diary for around November, when it's dark again, to reread your TTouch notes and get some ideas to get you through the winter season.  Here are some suggestions :-
  • Tellington TTouch bodywork to improve body awareness, reduce muscle tension and develop your relationship with your horse - start with a simple flat had body exploration, finger-less gloves allow you to retain some warmth while still feeling some texture and temperature changes (mine started with fingers but now have convenient holes at the fingers).  You CAN wear gloves to do bodywork! You can also use heat pads which is nice for you and your horse!  For ideas on different touches you can do look for the playlist at the bottom of my TTouch page here on my website.
  • The leading position Dingo to teach your horse to come forward and stop from a cue on the halter and the lightest signal of the wand on his hind quarters or chest, teach him to move one leg at a time forward and backwards, teach him to shift his weight backwards.  This can be done in a stable or a passage way and doesn't need a lot of space.  Here is a video showing the Elegant Elephant and Dingo leading positions - Dingo is at 2.15 in video.
  • Wendy Murdoch's Sure Foot stability pads to improve his balance and work on those tough to get at places in the body.  You can find lots of information on Wendy Murdoch's website about this brilliant tool.

Feedback from workshop participants and people who took private sessions is still rolling in with people experimenting and reporting improvements in body awareness, horses' bodies feeling more round and relaxed, ponies being more open and expressive, this is all really great to hear.  I'm planning to come back again next year to do more workshops, with perhaps a trip to Norway at the same time and I will announce the dates in the Facebook group for Finland which is: TTouch for Horses (Finland)

A bientôt!

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