March 27th, 2009 Touched by Touch

I visited with a colleague recently who told me about an “interesting and emerging therapy”.  Touch therapy.

Holy Cow!  That’s new?

In today’s day and age, people think twice about touching. 

One man I know, who operates a seasonal camp for girls told me that years ago he would have never thought twice about holding a young girl on his lap.  

“It isn’t sexual” he implored.  ”It used to be easy for a teacher to guide children and touching them never used to imply anything outside of an innocent act of a teacher.”  Now, he states, he won’t allow himself in a room alone with one of his campers, so concerned is he about the possibility of false allegations.

In college studying for my psych degree touch was discouraged.  So were evident displays of emotion.  Necessary, I was told, to create the professional barrier.  And reduce liabilities.  Insurance or frivilous lawsuits aren’t cheap.

But touch is coming back into vogue.  And I am glad.

This week I had the opportunity to work a variety of horses and touch is always a strong catalyst to calm even the most wild of equine candidates.  This week, touch worked its magic on my mare Aemelie who had sore hooves from the ground thawing and refreezing repeatedly.  Her rear leg swelled after she quit moving around her paddock as much and to ease her discomfort I provided her with a bit of energy balancing and found her better by afternoon.

Touch helped an aged farrier patient when I worked his spine, pelvis and knees over.

It helped a wild mustang learn that humans really are pretty good at ‘grooming’ and helped turn her fear into a welcomed partnership.

Touch means so many things and can be taken so many ways.

In one case this week I had to use touch as a way to reinforce good behavior and discourage dangerous, bratty behavior.

I even felt the touch of many of our clients who have reached out to comfort us.  This week I’ve received many hugs from our dear friends who like us, are in shock about some of the recent events of our life.

A stranger even wrote to reach out with an electronic touch to let us know there were materials available to help me cope with these recent frustrations.

Friends did the same, letting me know that my last post tickled them as I hoped it would.  Most people know that while the events of late are serious that my tongue in cheek piece was my way of venting those frustrations.

So my way to touch for now, is to stroke these keys of the keyboard to type out another post sharing my adventures, observations and details of the week.

ShoGun is doing wonderful.  He’s growing like a weed and gives me joy every day with his ‘Romeo-like’ eyes and rambunctious teenage boy behavior.

Aemelie, my mare, continues to urge me to slow down and listen to my inner voice, even in the face of a life storm.

But one of the most important lessons of the week is just how common we all are.  Animals and humans both.  We like to touch.

Working a pair of mustangs I was once again moved by their communication with one another.  As they tried hard to trust me and figure out exactly what I meant and what I wanted.  At the same time struggling to put aside their conditioned responses to take flight in fear.  This pair worked in tandem.  They would both run, then stop, eyeing me, then each other, touching nose to nose to verify that they were doing the right thing.

Outside the pen, their supportive pasture mates checked over all of my gear, communicating the ‘all’s clear here!’ to the two young mustang mares by again, touching one another’s noses.

The mares continued to satellite around me and as their owner put it, what I do “is not really about training “tips” so much as it is a whole philsophy about the mustangs and being aware of what they go through when being culled from their herds and separated into groups according to age…”  I like that.  A verbal touch about The Mirror Effect.

As I communicated to these mares their fear response lessened and soon, I had their cooperation.  Hopefully we’ll have video of the exchange to post soon so you can see what I saw.  The power of touch and its many forms.  The most powerful forms of which I’ve learned from the animals.

They don’t threaten to sue over frivilous claims and to them touch is but a good thing that is to be savored and enjoyed.  Touch is unconditional unless its meant to give guidance (such as a horse kicking out to discipline, a responsible act of any herd).  It’s encouraging, insightful and soothing.  Sometimes all at once.  Like when my mare stops to breathe her soft breath in my face, willing me to listen to my quiet self, not the one that’s struggling to make sense out of life’s injustices.

Yes, touch.  It is a beautiful thing and a tool we all possess to use for good.  Somehow it’s connected to our inner core.  A representation of who we are and what we want to become. 


I think I want to master its many forms and see touch thought less as a therapy and more as a beautiful part of an extraordinary life.