About Masterson Method

Masterson Method Integrated Equine Bodywork

mmjimheadupThe Masterson Method Integrated Equine Bodywork was founded by Jim Masterson. Jim developed the Masterson Method techniques working with top-level equine athletes in the hunt seat, show jumping, dressage, and driving disciplines. 

His foundation clientele included equines in USEF, FEI Grand Prix, Nations, Pan American, and World Cup jumping.  Jim also accompanied the U.S.  Endurance Teams in 2006 – 2014 as a team massage therapist to the World Equestrian Games and the World Endurance Championships. 

Masterson Method has grown to be a multi-discipline modality, widely used throughout the equine world.  Over 4000 individuals have attended Masterson Method seminars worldwide and there are 300+ Certified Practitioners in 20 countries!   Jim’s breakthrough text “Beyond Horse Massage” has sold over 50,000 copies and has been translated into 6 languages.  

It’s clear that Masterson Method is made its’ mark in the equine wellness field.  On The Spot Equine Bodywork is proud to offer Masterson Method bodywork to our clientele.

What is The Masterson Method? How does it work?

There are two parts to the equine nervous system:  The Sympathetic blocks pain and also triggers the flight/freeze/fight response.  The Parasympathetic regenerates and heals, encouraging the release of tension.  Years of stress and stiffness can often be resolved in a few sessions, by relieving built-up tension in core muscles and key junctions of the body that most affect the horse’s health and performance.  In contrast to traditional massage, it works with the horse’s nervous system and the horse actively participates in the process.  By applying levels of pressure (touch) and movement to the horse’s body in a relaxed state the horse’s nervous system is unable to brace against or guard- and by reading changes in the horse’s behavior as we do this – we enable the horse to tell us where it is holding tension; we enable the horse’s nervous system to release that tension, and we enable the horse to tell us when the tension has been released.  That part of the horse’s nervous system that blocks out pain and discomfort (the sympathetic, or flight, fight, or freeze) lets go, and that part of the nervous system that regenerates and heals (the parasympathetic) comes into play.  Masterson Method strives to work “below the brace”, or to stay below the point where the horse becomes concerned.  This encourages the horse to relax into the session and builds the horse’s trust and mental comfort.

The Key Junctions of the Horse’s Body:  The key junctions of the horse’s body that most affect health, soundness, and performance are the Poll-Atlas Junction, the Neck/Shoulders/Withers Junction (Cervical-Thoracic C7-T1), and the Hind End (Sacroiliac) Junction.

Search/Respond/Stay/Release – We search for tension through touch and technique.  We watch for involuntary, often subtle responses from the horse (ex: blinking, changes in breathing, shifting weight).  When we see a response, we stay with that process and wait for the horse to release that tension.  Common signs of release include mobilizing the mouth/jaw by licking/chewing, repeated yawning, expression of the 2nd eyelid, weight shifts, stretching, and shaking the head or body.

Accumulated Tension and Range of Motion:  By releasing accumulated tension range of motion (ROM) is often improved resulting in less pain and discomfort.  When ROM improves and discomfort decreases healing of existing issues often accelerates.  A relaxed and yielding body is less prone to injury and will likely recover more efficiently from existing injury and illness.    Masterson Method excels at maintaining your horse at its “personal best” level of health and soundness.

One of the most profound and rewarding aspects of the Masterson Method is the deepening of trust between horses and their humans.  The relationship and trust level grows because the horse always has a voice in the treatment and we always listen.

What to Expect During Your Masterson Session

How long does a session last?  An initial evaluation session usually lasts 1.5 – 2.0 hours.  It includes a review of your horse’s intake information, a palpation exam, the Bladder Meridian, and the bodywork techniques.  Repeat sessions generally last 1.0 – 1.5 hours.   It’s important to remember that a Masterson session is guided by the response of the horse therefore the length and process of the sessions can vary quite a bit.

Session Follow Up:  We provide a color-coded palpation exam diagram and a summary report after each session.  This helps to track results, highlight changes and improvements in subsequent sessions.

How to Prepare for Your Masterson Session

Scheduling:  Sessions can be scheduled at any time, but it is best to avoid feeding times.  Ideally, you should plan a day off or light workout for the day after your session.  It won’t hurt your horse to be worked after a session, but a little downtime maximizes the positive impact and gives your horse a chance to process the release of tension and to enjoy that feeling!

Location:  The best location is where your horse is the most comfortable mentally and physically.  This allows your horse to relax into the session.  A quiet area with minimal distraction is best.  A 12 ft x 12 ft work area is a good guideline; larger horses can use a little more space.  You should expect your horse to need to move around during the session as areas of accumulated tension are addressed.  Shelter from the weather is always nice although many sessions take place 100% outside.

General Info:  A comfortable halter is important.  Both the noseband and throatlatch should be loose enough to allow for maximum movement/mobilization of the mouth and jaw.  This mobilization is a very important opportunity for release of tension.  The lead rope should be 6 – 10 feet long.  Please don’t use correction halters or stud chains.   During the season fly spray is essential.  You may use whatever type you like, chemical or natural.  We suggest that you minimize petting during the session as it can be distracting.  We also discourage feeding treats as food is the most distracting of all!

What is the palpation exam?  The palpation exam uses pressure applied to specific places on the horse’s body to locate and evaluate current areas of soreness that are significant enough to respond to pressure.  Palpation responses are graded 0 – 3 in intensity and recorded to provide a reference.  The palpation exam covers the key junctions of the horse’s body (Poll-Atlas, Neck/Shoulders/Withers, Hindquarters) and all 4 legs.  You will receive a color-coded diagram of the palpation responses after each session as part of your session review.

What is the Bladder Meridian?  The Bladder Meridian is an introductory and evaluation process that uses a very light touch to locate areas of response on the horse’s body.  It follows the Bladder Meridian location from Chinese medicine.  The Bladder Meridian introduces the horse to our touch process and facilitates relaxation and acceptance of the bodywork.  It introduces the fundamental concept of working below the horse’s “brace” level and creates the first opportunity for the horse to experience the power of release of accumulated tension in the core muscles and key junctions.

What are the bodywork techniques?  There are multiple techniques used in the session.  The process usually begins around the Poll area and proceeds through the body to the hindquarters and includes the legs.  The purpose of the techniques is to locate areas of accumulated tension and create an opportunity for the horse to release those tensions voluntarily.

How often will my horse need a session?  Scheduling varies from horse to horse and depends on multiple considerations such as intensity of workload, general health, and current health or soundness concerns.  A common schedule to address problems and facilitate improvement is to initially schedule a session every 2 weeks and progress to a maintenance schedule of every 4-6 weeks.  Our most commonly used maintenance schedule is once per month.  There is an extra benefit with Masterson Method – we will teach you some simple techniques that you can use to support your horse between sessions, and we encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to enhance your horse’s wellness.  Masterson Method excels at maintaining your horse at their “personal best” with your help.  You can compare this approach to combining regular horsemanship instruction and training that is empowered by your personal practice.

Be sure to inquire about the additional tiers of service and discounts that are available to our regular clients