How I came to hate Linda Tellington-Jones for no good reason:
I signed up to volunteer for a NARA certified physical therapist in a Hippo Therapy program. She needed a catch rider to exercise her horses, so they were happy and quiet before she began working with clients.
I introduced myself to the barn manager, and waited for the therapist. I didn’t see any hippo-therapy horses. A rider was doing some nice reining work. A quiet, gigantic gelding with bad hooves was improperly tied to a rail, and people were trying to load a big, young, anxious mare into a small trailer. The mare was genuinely frightened. This wasn’t “I don’t want to”, it was: “please don’t kill me.”
I scan the area for the NARA people. Don’t want to watch this.
The woman trying to load was waving a white whip in the mare’s face. When the mare jerked back or sideways, she accidentally hit her face on the whip. The woman yelled “sorry!” every time the mare got hit. What the heck is THAT about? Why wave it at her and hope it won’t hit her?
Whatever the white thing was meant to do, it wasn’t working. Call me crazy, but wave a whip in front of me and say go forward, and I will fight you tooth and nail.
The mare is soaked and steaming. Her sides are heaving.
The barn manager walks up, begins to speak, then guiltily clamps her lips shut.
“It’s okay”, I said. “I’m with you.”
She shakes her head, working not to speak.
“How long?” I ask, tilting my head toward the trailer.
She looks at her watch. “Three hours”, she says, teeth clenched. She crosses her arms. No question. She’s been ready to pounce.
The mare rears, pulling back. The man wallops her butt with a whip, heedless that the woman might be directly in front of the horse. She wasn’t, thank god.
“Can I?”, I ask the barn manager.
She shakes her head. “You need a release.”
I dig in my pocket, and hand her my pre-signed release form. Her eyebrows lift into her hairline. She looks at the therapists name on the form, then looks at me. Determines something.
“That’s her” she said, nodding her head at the woman with the white whip.
I’m stunned. Speechless. That’s the therapist? I look from the mare to the gelding with the bad hooves.
She follows my gaze, nods. Crap.
“I’ve already stayed 2 hours over, hoping…” she says, then caves, “But there’s no legal recourse for stupidity…phone is there”. She gets in her truck.
If I need to call 911.
Cut and run? I’m out. I’m also paralyzed by the plight of the mare.
Leave, Jane. Leave now.
The mare rears again. The man hits her while she’s up, and she strikes out in fear, her hooves dangerously close to the woman’s head. Here is the legal cause for which the barn manager was waiting. But she’s gone.
I walk forward purposefully, calling out therapists name. They stop. The mare stops too, standing perfectly still, heaving and quivering.
Noted. She’s good-hearted.
I introduce myself. The man stalks off. Therapist begins to tell me about the program that I no longer care about. The horse needs to walk. Move the adrenaline out of her bloodstream.
I choke out, “Why don’t you sit and tell me, and I’ll cool her out?”
Therapist tries to hand me the whip. “Nah” I say, “I’m fine.”
She explains the whip relaxes the mare. I ask questions to avoid taking the whip. I don’t care about the people. I need to help this horse. I hear about Linda Tellington-Jones, and stroking the mare with the whip. Whatever.
She has no clue she was hitting her horse.
The mare is seriously freaked. She yanks fearfully. I don’t resist. I quietly go with her (see? you’re not trapped) , but keep her on the circle. Finally, she sighs. Her head drops. She begins to lead.
This horse wants to be good.
The therapist talks and talks. Mare stops steaming. They don’t notice I’m standing on the trailer ramp. Mare is taking a cookie out of my hand. She’s tense in the shoulders, but her head is down.
I look at the therapist to see if she gets what just happened. Her horse is standing quietly with her front hooves touching the ramp.
She looks at me like I’m God. “That’s the closest she’s ever come! Do you think you can get her in?” she says.
“Why does she need to go in?” I say, “Are you taking her somewhere?”
“We’re just practicing. We’ve never been able to get her loaded” she says, “but we can’t let her win”.
I deliberately move the mare away from the trailer.
“Oh, don’t! You were so close!” she cries.
As I circle the mare, I blather: baby steps add up, you build and win, yadda yadda.
I come back to the ramp, and deliberately sit on it so I’m lower than mare. No threat. She’s off to one side. I feed her cookies. Her shoulders relax. Soft eye. Loose lead. She peers curiously into the trailer all on her own. Where is the monster?
The therapist exclaims, “It’s like she’s a different horse! Horses must love you. You’re an incredible horse person. Do you train!?”
Oy. A trainer would never sit underneath a horse on a trailer ramp. It is risky and stupid. How did this woman get certified by NARA? Trainer? I’m still working on riding adequately.
“I’d stop here for the day” I say, avoiding her question. “She’s just had her first good association with the trailer. You want her to think of the trailer as a great place.”
I stand up. Therapist picks up white thing, which I now know is a ‘wand’. She begins to wave it, walking to her horse. Mare freaks. “Put that down!”, I snap.
So much for good association. It was all a trick to let the monster eat her.
I’ve since learned this:
- Linda Tellington-Jones would be horrified. She’s all about calm and focus.
- The Nice to Horses Planet has people that are just as scary as the Make Horses Fear You Planet.
- Both Planets have people who watch videos on horse training, and, without supervision, attempt to apply methods that are far more complex than they could take in.
This story did not end well. But that’s another story!