In our lifetime there are always a few people who are like a beacon for change for our personal development, awareness and attitude. For me that was my first husband, Wentworth Tellington. I learned more from him than I could have taught myself in a century.
The same goes for animals, especially horses who kept gifting me with profound experiences. If I have to give you the name of a horse who has played the most important role in my life, it would be Bint Gulida.
Our story is a long one. As I am writing it down and memories well up, I feel tears in my eyes. I am so happy to be able to tell you about her and our very special adventures in this book. It feels as if it was only yesterday that she was with me, as if she is still right here, so close to me. It is only now that I truly understand the gift this amazing horse has given me.
Arabian horses - a new beginning
It was once again my husband Went who used his intuition to bring a new idea into our life and stuck with it. But where did that idea come from?
When we lived in Reno, shortly after we got married, and Went worked as an engineer in the Rocky Mountains, he had already called an Arabian breeder to see if they had a job for me. Went was a brilliant promoter and very talented in convincing people that he knew what was good for them. It was easy for him to sing my praises and get me hired as a trainer.
I had always loved Arabian horses and was thrilled to be able to work with them. Their qualities are spectacular and their intelligence breathtaking.
Sadly the job only lasted a year as we moved to Puerto Rico so Went could recuperate in the warmer climate. After several accidents and falls off horses his bones were hurting and the sun and ocean were good for him. Went worked there as an engineer and I worked in an art gallery which I loved. We had a lot of free time which we spent at the beach. Went’s newest hobby was studying pedigrees of Arabian horses. Like everything he did he was extremely thorough and had a system. When studying the documents of the ancient bloodlines reaching back to the horses of the desert he learned they made excellent Endurance horses. At that time they were just starting to think about Endurance riding in the US. As usual Went was a trendsetter and could already see the possibilities this new sport could offer. When we returned to California and Went taught at Chadwick School, in Palos Verdes, he wanted to take the first step and buy me an Arabian horse.
Went already knew the names of the best breeders and bloodlines of the most talented and arduous horses. Today we send a potential customer a video, but back then, in 1958, we drove all the way across the States with our brand new empty horse trailer to Iowa to have a look at some Arabian horses. We had picked Doyle Arabians, one of the first breeders of Arabians in the US and a farm with a spotless reputation.
How do you find a diamond?
It was not that easy to find the one horse that would be ideal for the sport in a large herd of mares. I had learned from Mrs. Metheral at Briarcrest Stables when I was only fourteen years old to analyze horses by their conformation and character. Later, when I was showing horses for different owners, I only had fifteen minutes to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of a horse by looking at their conformation and character. Of course, Went had thirty years more horse experience than I did, but we were able to agree on a chestnut mare who stood out in the herd. Her name was Bint Gulida.
Let me tell you about some of the criteria we were looking for. Bint Gulida had an excellent front end, her shoulder was not too steep, she had a broad chest and good girth. Her back was strong and broad, which is not always the case in Arabian horses. Most importantly, she had good reach with a strong muscled angular shoulder and a flowing trot. This was due to her well-developed croup, which was exceptionally long.
Although the saying goes “You can’t ride the head” for me that’s where the mare became really interesting, because you can see a lot of a horse’s personality in their facial features. (as described in “Getting in TTouch with Your Horse’s Personality“).
Bint Gulida’s profile was straight and she had a large, flat forehead with her eyes spaced far apart, as they looked at me calmly and full of confidence. Between her eyes she had a single, well placed swirl. Whenever I see the extremely dished faced Arabian “beauty shots” now-a-days I cringe. These are disfigured and overbred horses that would never do well if asked to perform. This was confirmed to me when I rode Arabian horses of the ancient bloodlines in Syria. All the horses there, without exception, had a straight profile which was important to the Bedouins when they picked performance horses.
Bint Gulida’s nostrils were large and well formed so it was easy for her to draw in a lot of air and one could expect good lung capacity in the mare. There was enough room between her jowl that I could easily place a fist there, another indicator for a horse that is a performer.
Of Noble Heritage
Her chestnut colouring, four white socks and even blaze were exactly the markings that hinted towards the Crabbet line, which her registration papers confirmed.
Lady Wentworth Blunt was the first European breeder towards the end of the 18th century who had a stud farm in Cairo and called many high performance Arabian horses her own. Almost all of her horses had four white legs. In 1878 she founded the “Crabbet Park Stud” in England with these exceptional pure, Asil Arabian horses and Bint Gulida was a direct descendant.
One would think everything was perfect, because even as we talked about the price both parties were happy. But there was a problem. The mare had only worn a halter once or twice. She had never been in a stall, worn a blanket or a saddle. These were all things we would be able to change quickly. We were happy and wanted to get home quickly. However, the long trip home turned out to be quite dramatic, because Bint Gulida had to be alone in the horse trailer and her breeder insisted that we sedated her for the trip.
This turned out to be almost fatal, because during the drive her blood pressure dropped and she went down on her knees. We took her out of the trailer right away since she could no longer stand and spend a long night in a parking lot until she was feeling better. All was good in the end and after three days and nights of driving, we arrived at her new home in California.
Not So Ladylike
Sadly Bint Gulida was not at all cooperative in the beginning. She was so tense and uncooperative that Went was convinced she was un-rideable. Quite a statement for a man who did not easily give up on a horse. However, for a young horse who was torn away from her familiar environment and had such a strong character, it was understandable behaviour.
I thought back and forth what I could do differently to win her over. Somewhere I had read that the Native Americans started their young horses in complete darkness. That made sense to me, since a horse is a herd animal and will instinctively look for the protection from the other horses, especially in the dangers of the night. If there are no other horses near-by they will accept a person and I hoped to be that person for my mare. Why not give it a try? So I spent the night running with Bint Gulida on the halter, stubbing my toes and falling a few times. She could see a lot better in the dark than I could, but my plan worked and she did seek to be close to me.
Her trust in me started to grow. I then started with groundwork, always working her only by the light of the moon. There was something a bit conspiratorial about our midnight training sessions. But when I sat on her back for the first time, I felt fantastic. We understood and trusted each other. I enjoyed this blissful event, just her and me, in the silvery glow of the moon. It was many years later that I realized that our late night sessions would turn out to be a life savers in an extremely difficult situation.
The Deepest Level of Connection and Trust
It took quite a while until I could get a saddle on my mare, but after that her training progressed rather nicely. I had never owned a horse before who made it so difficult for me to win her over. Bint Gulida was so sensitive that I had to learn to control my thoughts and emotions so I would not upset her.
I remember one episode that showed me how closely connected we were becoming and the consequences that could bring. The phone rang at two o’clock in the morning and the rough voice of a fireman told me that there was a wildfire in the mountain above the ranch and that we had to evacuate the horses. Now! Bint Gulida was the only horse in the barn that night because I had planned on going for an early morning ride with her.
I had no idea how close the fire was and how dangerous the situation was. Terrified and anxiously I threw the bridle on her, jumped on her bareback and galloped to the pasture to herd the other horses away from the danger. My breathing was laboured and I had the worst pictures in my head. This turned out to be detrimental, Bint Gulida could not only feel my fear, she could also see the pictures that were in my head. I could feel her tensing between my legs, she became panicked and out of control. I recognized just in time that it wasn’t her, but me who had created this fiasco. I closed my eyes and let all my thoughts float away, I controlled my breath and my emotions.
Fear is the greatest gift we have been given and it can be transferred to our animals in a split second. I trusted my intuition that this would have a happy ending and visualized the herd grazing peacefully. As if someone had flipped a switch, my mare settled, concentrated and allowed me to guide her. We had become one again. This experience during the night with the glow of the fire in the background has been etched deeply into my subconscious.
It was a turning point for Bint Gulida and me. From that day forward, we had a deep connection. We could think the same thoughts and I shared my pictures with her, whether it was crossing the finish line or just having fun together. She followed me, it was like a dance we danced together in true harmony. And we kept that close connection for the rest of our time together, we had a really special relationship.
When I look back more than fifty years, I can now see how much I learned from her. She was the first horse I had a soul connection with. That connection made it even worse when I thought I was going to lose her just one year later.
She suffered an impaction colic which lasted four very long days and back then, surgery was not an option. A bad colic was a death sentence. Bint Gulida’s resting pulse was 80, which is more than double of what it should be, her respiration 70-80 which is ten times normal. Her temperature was far too low, her ears were as cold as ice and she was covered in cold sweat, even though it was hot outside. Dr. Santos, my usually very optimistic veterinarian had given up on her. When I called him to end her misery he got in his truck right away to come to the ranch.
The drive would take him about an hour, so I had about 45 minutes to say good-bye to this mare that I had had so much hope for. This was so difficult. Tears ran down my face and as I sat on the floor and took her face in my lap she groaned. I wanted to do something to make her feel better so I started stroking her ears. Almost by themselves my hands started to cup her ears, added a bit more pressure and stroked to the tip of the ear, very, very slowly. I did it over and over again, maybe I was trying to calm myself with this rhythmic, repetitive movement. I was about to say good-bye to her forever, how could I possibly deal with this? My eyes were closed and I was there just for her, my beloved mare. I saw the moments when we connected, felt our rides in the river and over the mountains. Time disappeared and I don’t know if we sat like that for ten or twenty minutes, but I could feel how her ears were getting warmer.
Of course that was a result of her blood pressure rising, I thought to myself, and continued working. Then my mare raised her head and looked at me. I knew that look, it was her fighting heart. Her ears kept getting warmer and started to feel normal. Then she let go of the loudest moan, I startled and she shot out a load of hard manure. Within ten minutes her respiration was normal. When Dr. Santos arrived he found a girl covered in tears, but happily hugging her horse’s neck. Bint Gulida had gotten up and he could not belief what he was seeing. Her pulse and temperature were normal. Bint Gulida knew that I had saved her life that day, we both knew it. From that day on our connection was even deeper, we had developed a trust and a level of fate that would lead us to many years of incredible success.
My First Experience with Ear TTouch & its Surprising Effect
It was my wonderful mare Bint Gulida who pushed me towards Ear Work. This is only now becoming really clear to me, because I had pushed that aside for such a long time.
I just did it through intuition, as if my hands were doing the work all by themselves. That night and the amazing results I had with the Ear TTouches is really the beginning of my awareness of TTouch.
Today we know that the Ear TTouch helps with much more than just colic and shock. The Ear TTouch has been studied scientifically and shown to influence the parasympathetic nervous system and helps perk up horses with low energy. Isn’t this a wonderful example how I have been guided to do things that led me to developing my own method? I often had the “feeling” that I needed to do “this thing”. There was never another choice, but to follow my intuition.
I would quite often get confirmation that I was on the right track from very unexpected sources. Fifteen years after Bint Gulida’s terrible bout with colic, as I was showing my work at Equitana, a man came up to me who had watched my demo about Ear TTouch.
He told me – although I have no idea how he knew this – that during the 16th and 17th century the horses that pulled the coaches would receive beer and an ear massage after a particular strenuous trip. It was supposed to help them recover more quickly. I was so surprised. So it was very ancient knowledge that had gotten lost.
Sometimes you are shown small pieces of the whole picture even though you don’t yet know what the picture will be. I have learned to pay attention to these hints from above.
One of those came to me when I was teaching a workshop in Bavaria in 1978. Dr. Krueger, a veterinarian who was a clinic participants watched me like a hawk when I was working on the horses’ bodies and she paid close attention to my hands. During a break she asked me where I had studied acupuncture.
At that time acupuncture was a bit like a secret modality, because the awareness of Chinese medicine had not yet found its way to Europe. I told her that I had no experience with acupuncture, which caused her to ask, “but why do you follow the meridians?” I had no idea what she was talking about and answered, “I just follow my sense where the energy flows and let my fingers slide.”
She smiled and invited me to her home after the workshop so we could talk more. I was very eager to learn more about acupuncture. The following day her husband, who was also a veterinarian, had just returned from a conference in Paris where the first acupuncture chart for horse’s ears had been released. He showed me the triple heater meridian that circles the base of the ear and then runs down the neck, over the shoulder and down the front legs to the hoof. The same meridian stimulates digestion, respiration and the reproductive organs. Moreover, just like the human ear, all the organs are reflected in acupuncture points in the ear which can be needled, or TTouched.
The couple was fascinated by TTouch and wanted to hear my story about Bint Gulida. What a gift that TTouch has been able to help so many horses and other animals over the past decades. I wonder how many lives have been saved just through the magic TTouches. I have so much to thank Bint Gulida for.
Bint Gulida – the Outstanding Athlete
Let’s jump back to the year 1960. After I was able to save Bint Gulida, we continued our training with the goal to successfully ride in as many endurance rides as possible. Everything we had hoped for when we bought the three-and-a-half year old filly at Doyle Arabians in Iowa had already been surpassed.
During training she showed us that she was an exceptional horse. But that’s only half the ticket to success. You have to plan a 100 mile Endurance ride very carefully and follow it with military precision. This was my husband’s specialty. He meticulously drew up plans for the entire ride. He invented so many things for Bint Gulida and me that are now normal for long distance horses. Starting at the feeding regime to controlling her water intake and making his own maps for me. His background in the American cavalry shone through because of his immense knowledge of horse training in other countries. For example he used the interval training the Hungarian cavalry found indispensable to have the horse’s performance peak on the day of the race. I could not have asked for a better support team than Went and my students. He always knew when I was in a tight spot.
The official opinion of race organizers in the 60s was that a horse only had one 100 Mile ride in it each year. Went entered Bint Gulida and me in the Tevis Cup and the Jim Shoulder ride which were six short weeks and half a continent apart. A week before the starting date of the Tevis Cup we took four of our horses to prepare for the most difficult 100-Mile Race in the world. The ride started in Lake Tahoe and we had a close look at the surroundings.
The trail led through two deep canyons where the heat had no room to escape and felt like an impenetrable wall. You had to get through it. The up- and downhill sections were steep with loose shale on narrow trails which made for very dangerous footing.
Even today the trail is the same and the horses travel from Lake Tahoe, California to Auburn which sits at an altitude of 6500 feet. Since we lived near the coast, the horses needed some time to adjust to the altitude. Went’s plan was that I should ride the trail before the race so Bint Gulida and I would be familiar with the terrain. We also designed recipe cards for each section of the trail that I kept in my pocket and could pull out to see what to look out for in certain areas. The air on the crest of the mountains was clear and fresh. Bint Gulida and I rode through beautiful pine forests and I will never forget the smell. At night I would sleep on the ground in my sleeping bag with my mare standing over me, a beautiful silhouette against the sparkling stars of the night’s sky. Since I was sure that Bint Gulida would not go far, I just tied a long rope between some trees as a fence and tied her hay net to the trailer. If I woke up in the middle of the night, comfortable in my warm sleeping bag, I would turn over and look straight into the eyes of my beloved mare. She had laid down beside me as if she was protecting me.
A few days later I poured Bint Gulida’s carefully measured food ration on the ground. She was feeling quite at home in her little rope paddock and I realized I was starving. Sadly our food ration had run dry and Went had not yet returned with more supplies. There was a small store in the valley that also offered some simple meals, so I started walking towards town, following the small path that led to the main road. Just as I was about to open the door of Maggie’s Kitchen, I heard a familiar clip-clop behind me. I turned around and realized that Bint Gulida had followed me. “Well”, I thought to myself, “at least I don’t have to walk back home” as I gave her a grateful hug.
A little bit sentimental
It is lovely to dwell in my memories for this book and allowing Bint Gulida to come back to life between these pages. Our intense connection and friendship brings me happiness to this day and I am always grateful when I think of her. Our adventures together during the training and also the Endurance rides welded our hearts together. If you keep your horse only in their stall and ride in the arena you will never have that kind of connection, it takes a lot more than that.
Went’s idea about using index cards was brilliant and turned out to be a life saver. Back then, the trails were not marked as well as they are today and if you got lost it would cost you valuable time or sometime the entire race. Went drilled me thoroughly to make sure I knew the trail well and would not miss a turn. We had marked all the important landmarks on the cards, each twist on the trail or tree that stood out. We noted tricky turns where I would have to pay extra attention. Our goal was to eliminate as many potentials for mistakes as possible. It was important to Went that I would be successful at my first 100 Mile ride and he succeeded. I was in the top ten of over 100 starters and trotted through the finish line in 6th place with a very happy and cheerful Bint Gulida. If I had asked her, she would have kept going.
After the first 100-Mile endurance ride I knew that we would master the next challenge as well. Bint Gulida was a powerhouse, full of energy and always in a good mood. During all of our rides, training or competing she was never lame or slow and unwilling.
Two 100 Milers in Six Weeks
After a few days of rest we continued our training and during the last week we repeated the interval training. Then we were on the road again. I loaded Bint Gulida into the trailer and we headed the 1500 miles all the way to Oklahoma. We stuck to the program that had worked so well at the Tevis Cup and I covered the entire trail a few days before.
Every five miles, or so, I would make notes on my index cards. Usually at a 100-Mile ride you start very early in the morning, before the sun rises since the ride takes about 16 hours and you want to avoid arriving in the dark. However, the organizer of the Oklahoma race decided to set the start time at 2:00 PM to avoid the heat of the day towards the end of the ride. They assumed we would have a clear night with the full moon showing the riders the way. Sadly someone had miscalculated and it was neither clear, nor was there a full moon or stars. When darkness fell around 10:00 pm, it was pitch black dark. Many of the competitors got lost or just gave up and walked their horses waiting for morning. It was actually really irresponsible from the organizers to leave the riders to fend for themselves. For me, Went’s intense training and drilling paid off. He had always insisted that I train Bint Gulida at night as well and ride her when it is dark and cloudy to let me see that I can trust my mare. Therefore this adventure of a ride in the dark night was more a fun challenge for my mare than an obstacle.
I was used to riding her in the dark right from our first outings. With a flashlight in my teeth I was able to read my notes and find the way. We flew through the night even though I could not see my hand before my eyes. I blindly trusted Bint Gulida and we travelled at a good speed. Most of the time we used her ground covering trot and it felt like we melted into one being. The only thing I could hear was her regular breathing and the sound of her hooves hitting the ground. I felt her warm body and the cool night’s air on my skin – I felt timeless.
Only the vet checks ever 25 miles brought me back to reality. When the sun started to rise that morning I came out of my trance and noticed the rest of the world, realizing we were far ahead of any other rider. To be sure that her pulse and respiration would be low when I crossed the finish line I dismounted and walked beside Bint Gulida. Went came towards me with a huge grin on his face, took a drag from his cigarette and together the three of us walked through the finish line. It had taken me 13 hours and 35 minutes, a record I held for seven years and the conditions during my ride had been horrendous. The 2nd place rider made his appearance five-and-a-half hours after me, nobody had been prepared for such a horrible night. Bint Gulida also received the Best Conditioned award. What a day! What a success! My mare and I were a sensation and we received a lot of press coverage.
My popularity in the Endurance scene grew quickly. Went and I were given a column in the Western Horseman magazine because everybody wanted to know the secret of our success. That was the satisfaction Went needed. He sat down and started to write a book about our experiences and discoveries in Endurance riding and the book became the first manual for the sport. The Tevis Cup and winning the Jim Shoulder Endurance race in Oklahoma were only the beginning for a very successful career for Bint Gulida and myself.
After a while I dreamed of a foal from Bint Gulida and started to breed her. Needless to say Went very carefully studied the bloodlines for potential suitors and found the best stallion for her. I was dying to see the foal and as she was getting close to giving birth I stalked her mercilessly. I was prepared to spend many nights waiting for her first foal, after all I used to have a stable with 80 Thoroughbred mares so I knew all about staying up nights waiting for foals to arrive. Not her, she delivered her first baby in time and on a bright afternoon allowing me to attend the birth. She did this not only with her first foal, but every birth after that. She always waited for me. When she was pregnant with her third foal I was teaching a clinic and could not be there at her due date.
She did manage to delay her birth for eight days until I finally came home. She delivered her baby as soon as I arrived as if she wanted to place it in my arms. Of course all her foals were spectacular and followed in the footsteps of their famous mom.
Several years later, the Johnsons, who were famous breeders of Arabian horses and the owners of a legendary stallion who was known for his success as an Endurance horse, asked to lease Bint Gulida for breeding. She spent 18 long months at their farm and returned home when I was away travelling. Someone had taken her out to the pasture and she was grazing amidst her old friends. When I came home and saw her standing there, it warmed my heart as if a piece of it had come back home. I called her name, hoping she would raise her head and look at me.
As I climbed over the fence and ran towards her, she galloped over to me, whinnying loudly. To feel our connection as if we had never been separated when she put her head on my shoulder, was one of the most beautiful moments of my life and tears streamed down my face.
Have you had this type of soul to soul connection with a horse, or other four-legged being? I would love to hear your experiences. Please feel free to share them in the comments.