I thought I’d start by introducing the Masterson Method, as I know it is still relatively uncommon in Ireland. Jim Masterson was a groom on the hunter jumper circuit in the US where he watched all types of therapists working on horses. He observed the responses the horses had to the work and realised there must be an easier way to get the same responses using less effort. He discovered a way to release tension in a relaxed state using a soft touch.
How I came to be a Masterson Method Certified Practitioner.
When I left school I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do or be, so as you do, I went to Mary I to become a primary school teacher. Everyone told me I’d make a good teacher, they get paid well and the holidays are great. Well nothing could be further from the truth. It took until Tuesday of my first week of school placement to realise teaching was not for me. I was more like a friend to my second and third class students than I was their teacher. I dropped out after that and got a job in a hotel. I then found Business in Equine in Gurteen college and AIT. While I was there, Marie O’Sullivan, fellow MMCP and friend, told me about the Masterson Method book, Beyond Horse Massage. I got the book and started practicing on my own tb mare. The first time I tried the bladder meridian technique I got halfway through and had to run into the house for something, when I came back Lady was lying down asleep in the stable. Of course I forgot all about the Masterson Method after that until I met Marie again and she asked if I had started the course. When I told her I hadn’t, we immediately took out the phone and I booked into the next available course. She knew another girl going so she organised for us to meet up and travel to England together (that might be a story for another article). I took a week off college and headed over to England in October 2018. I completed the 2-day and the 5-day course consecutively, this is not recommended, my brain was completely fried on the drive home. I then spent most evenings after college borrowing classmates’ horses to practise on. I completed all my case studies and travelled over and back to England a few more times for coaching and in October 2019, exactly a year later, I completed my certification.
So how does it work?
As we know horses are prey animals who have evolved to hide any discomfort or weakness to avoid being targeted by wolves or other animals in the wild. As such they have become very good at compensating for aches and pains by using different muscles to move. Over time this can lead to compensation patterns in the body where there is a build-up of stress and tension. Using the Masterson Method, I apply a very soft touch to stay below the horse’s brace and release this tension.
What is the horse’s brace?
As well as hiding discomfort, horses also developed the fight or flight response which allows them to either attack by kicking or biting or run from danger. During a bodywork session, the fight or flight response may kick in when you hit an area of pain or restriction. Using the Masterson Method, I have learnt to watch the horse’s subtle body language and avoid activating this response. As soon as I notice the horse’s reaction to what I am doing begins to change, I soften and allow him to relax.
During the session, the horse will go into a very relaxed state (some even lie down) which allows tightness and restrictions in the soft tissue to soften and be released. I also ask for movement through the joints in this relaxed state which increases the range of motion in these joints and allows the horse to move more freely and feel more comfortable performing in whatever discipline is chosen.
One session can often bring about noticeable improvements but in general most issues, especially chronic, recurrent or ongoing ones require a few sessions to work through the compensation patterns and get back to the root.
The root cause may be any number of things, including but not limited to, ill-fitting tack, improper use of tack, sore feet, overwork or repetitive work, metabolic issues, dental issues or conformation. If we can find the root cause and try to resolve it then the tension patterns that we see in the horse’s body are less likely to recur.