The Secrets of a Horse

Years ago I had the pleasure of being trained by Linda Tellington-Jones and her sister Robyn Hood in the art of the TTouch method.

The Tellington TTouch helps to relieve tension, fear of contact, soreness or discomfort and transforms nervous, spooky or resistant horses and improve attitude and behavior. With TTouch your horse will enjoy learning and cooperate willingly. TTouch has been used extensively to speed healing and recovery from injury and illness in horses and in all animals, including humans. – From the TTouch website (

It is an amazing program that encompasses the horse physically and mentally and gives the owner tools to help even the most difficult horse. One of these tools is a book called “Getting in TTouch, Understand and Influence Your Horse’s Personality.”

This book discusses how “your horse’s head is a major expression of his personality.” She goes through the profile, the jowl size, the muzzle shape, the length of the mouth, the shape (or non-shape) of the upper lip, the chin, the nostrils, the size of the eye, the placement of the eye, the size and placement of the ears and the swirls found on the horse’s head and body. It’s a very interesting book and I’ve found it to be spot on. Years ago my mom and I went through our entire herd of horses (which was quite a few horses, Thoroughbreds, a Percheron, Arabians and miniature horses) and found the descriptions to be exactly like each of our horses.

I got the book out the other day when people were commenting on the two swirls on Sky’s forehead after I shared a picture of her getting her teeth floated.

LOL! Poor Sky. She would be horrified if she knew I shared this picture.

Anyhoo… I wasn’t surprised when I went through all her features. In fact it just supported everything I already know about her. But going back over these things and having them fresh in my mind is always helpful!

Profile: There are 10 different types of profile.

  1. Sky has a straight profile –> uncomplicated and learns easily.

The Jowls: There are 3 types of jowls, large-round jowl, medium jowl, small shallow jowl.

  1. I think for her head size she has a medium jowl –> average ability to learn. (Sometimes there are a few conflicting things, but when you are done you will get a good clear picture of your horse’s personality.)

The Muzzle: There are 7 types of muzzles.

  1. Sky has a square muzzle –> tends to signify a stable, uncomplicated nature.

The Mouth:  There are 4 types of mouths.

  1. I think Sky has a medium mouth with fullness in the area at the top of the mouth –> indicates a stubborn streak. Avoid getting into fights with such horses, as it will only make them more resistant.

The Lips: There are 10 different types of lips!

  1. Sky has a heart shaped lip –> this indicates an expressive, curious and extroverted character… Oh Boy is she!!!

  2. Mobile upper lip –> curiosity and the physical need to have contact with humans – sometimes mouthing them for example.

  3. Complex lip and chin –> indicates a complex character.

The Nostrils: There are 8 types of nostrils.

  1. I think Sky’s are large, moveable and open nostrils –> a sign of a nature that is intelligent, interested and eagerly active… yes yes and yes!

  2. Shapely nostrils, fluted at the top –> horses that think a lot can have this type of nostril. If the top of the nostril has a well-defined shape and is firm, they’ll tend to be cooperative if a person is fair and confident. TRUE!

The Chin: There are 7 types of chins.

  1. Sky has a complex chin –> indicates a complex character (here is that word “complex” again!)

The Eyes: There are 15 types of eyes!

  1. Sky has a medium sized eye –> this indicates average intelligence

  1. Eyes set high, close to ear –> sometimes slow to learn

  2. Eyes set on sides of head –> may appear disinterested in their surroundings. May be fearful or shy at things that ‘appear’ suddenly. She absolutely does this and this is also why I think she likes her blinders. They help shield her from the suddenness of things appearing.

The Ears: There are 11 types of ears.

  1. Ears set wide apart at the base –> likely to have a good capacity to learn, steady.

  2. Broad ear with little definition –> medium learner, cooperative

Her ears do indicate a steady nature. Though she can be quite complex- once she understands something and is confident- she is as steady as they come! This mare drove in many parades andwas the calm, steady one for the younger horses. She drove in winter parades while wearing bells and lights, after which we merrily trotted around the big city of Missoula Montana bringing cheer to the neighborhoods. She drove in the Homecoming Parade in Missoula with the loud blaring music, the fire trucks blasting their horns and kids rushing out to grab candy as she walked by. She was an excellent parade pony.

Swirls: There are 5 types of swirls with some subcategories mixed in. There are swirls on the face and on the body. (Zorro has a big swirl right in the middle of his withers. How interesting!)

  1. Double swirl side-by-side or one above the other –> these horses tend to be more emotional and over-reactive than average. They tend to become upset without apparent reason and at unexpected moments. Generally horses with this pattern are not ideal for beginners.

Boy is this true! As I said above she was a rock star in parades. However she can not handle driving out in the field because it’s something new. She was trained on the roads in our neighborhood so that is where she is calm and confident. I thought having a mowed track in our field would be an easy place to exercise her, in a relaxed setting, but that is not how Sky sees it! LOL!

Some interesting observations… I’ve had several horses in and out this spring and summer and fall. They would cycle into the herd, stay here until they found a home and then cycle back out. The latest one was a sweet mare named Essie. Essie bossed everyone except Bonnie. And she wouldn’t let Sky into the shed when it was raining or snowing. So Sky went off by herself and stood in the other run in shed. Heart breaking really.

About the time I brought Essie home, Sky started getting very crabby. She walked away when I went to catch her, she wouldn’t whinny at me or snuggle with me. She is a kisser and loves to put her nose up and have you kiss it while she blows on your cheek. But she stopped doing this. She had her ears back most of the time, she quit eating her grain.

This past Saturday I took Essie and Captain Planet to their new home. The next day Sky whinnied at me when I came out to feed. She finished her grain all by herself (Bonnie was disappointed as she had been finishing it!) and started putting her nose on my cheek and asking for kisses and scratches! Sometimes we don’t think about how the horse feels when we bring home new horses or sell horses from the herd, but seeing how Sky handled this has been so interesting! She is so calm on the track again, resting often, laying down flat, completely relaxing. AND I was able to tighten her girth TWO holes today! I haven’t driven her for 3 days and she lost an inch? How interesting!! That is proof to me that stress causes them to gain weight. She doesn’t like change. She clearly didn’t like Essie being here. And I don’t think she misses Captain either. (but Zorro does. Poor baby!)

I felt so bad about selling Essie and Captain until I saw how Sky reacted. Now I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t realize how suffocated I felt with 5 horses, worrying about how to exercise them all, what to feed them, what they all needed, how I was going to afford to buy enough hay for the winter! Now, I have more than enough hay to get through the winter and even into spring and summer. What a relief. And my sensitive, ‘complicated’ Sky is happy again. That is the most important.

I felt compelled to share TTouch with you. Maybe it will give you something to consider for your horse!

#horsesandswirls #howtoreadtheswirlsonyourhorse #LindaTellingtonJones #TTouchMethod

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© 2023 by The Essential Horse. Mindy Schroder.