TALES FROM THE TRAILS
Acreage resident Mary Last owns and runs Hands On Equine Services. Horses are her passion, and she’s well-respected in the field of equine massage. Always eager to learn more, she recently took the weekend introductory course in the Masterson Method and was so impressed that she then attended the more intensive, five-day symposium.
Jim Masterson visited Wellington during the first week of December, when he taught nine eager participants the advanced weeklong course. They met each day at Palm Beach Riding Academy and also visited other barns in the area.
“It was informative, fun and thorough,” Last said. “One of the most important things I learned is that less is more. You can get the biggest response using the lightest touch. It also reminded me to slow down and not rush through. I really enjoyed the experience. I’d highly recommend taking one of Jim’s courses to any horse owner of any level.”
Masterson has developed a method of helping horses heal. Over the years, he has crystallized all that he knows into a modality that anyone can study and learn in order to help horses reach their potential. His unique method of equine bodywork allows practitioners to recognize and follow the responses of the horse to touch, releasing tension in key junctions of the body.
Masterson first became interested in equine massage in 1997. Recognizing that horses exhibit neurological responses to touch-and-release tension, he developed a system in which the horse participates in the process by showing the practitioner where tension has accumulated, precisely how much pressure is needed to release it, and when it has been released. The result is an effective method of equine massage bodywork that anyone can learn to use while opening new levels of communication and trust with the horse.
Masterson went public with the Masterson Method in 2003, scheduling demonstrations and seminars at private barns and public facilities. The following year, in conjunction with Real Bodyworks of California, he produced an instructional DVD called Equine Massage for Performance Horses.
Masterson found recognition and acceptance far and wide. He accompanied the 2006 U.S. Equestrian Team’s Endurance Team to Aachen, Germany for the FEI World Equestrian Games as the equine massage therapist. He worked with the USET Endurance Team again in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, as well as for equine clientele competing in the FEI World Cup, Pan American Games and World Equestrian Games.
In 2008, Masterson began teaching a certification course in the Masterson Method in both the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2011, with the help of Stefanie Reinhold, he coauthored a book titled Beyond Horse Massage.
Masterson travels the world teaching his seminars and advanced courses to horse owners, trainers and therapists.
In contrast to most traditional modalities, the Masterson Method enables the horse to actively participate in the process of releasing tension. It’s something you do with the horse, rather than to the horse. In fact, if you don’t allow the horse to participate, it doesn’t work.
What Masterson teaches isn’t what people commonly think of when they visualize equine massage. Many moves are slow, soft and require patience. For example, he sometimes uses his thumb on the roof of the horse’s mouth in order to massage the poll (top of the head) from the inside.
As he stated more than once during the advanced 5-day course, it’s important to find ways to make things more comfortable for the horse. And, as the horse gets more comfortable, the horse lets its guard down and allows the knots to get worked out.
“But if he’s still not letting you go there after your third try, go somewhere else,” Masterson advised. “It’s not strictly massage. We incorporate a lot of massage moves, but with a lot less pressure. We do this with the horse, not to the horse. The more he interacts, the better the results. You’ll definitely have an improved relationship. You can read his body language a lot better.”
Advanced course participant Kathy Tow was impressed.
“When the horse realizes you’re listening instead of talking to him, there’s such a change,” she said. “You become true equal partners.”
Amelia Sterling also attended the seminar.
“It was phenomenal, exhausting, exhilarating and fabulous,” she said. “I learned so much, I couldn’t wait to get home and start using all I had learned. With the Masterson Method, the horses respond better, with more releases and healing. My clients love how it helps their horses.”
Sterling advises anyone planning to attend to do their homework first. “Get Jim’s book, which comes with the DVD, and watch, read and practice. You’ll have a strong basis to build on. If you go in cold, you’ll miss a lot,” she said.
And, most excitingly, Masterson is returning to the area soon to offer two workshops. The first one, a weekend seminar called Beyond Horse Massage, will be Saturday and Sunday, March 21-22. The second, an advanced weeklong course, will be held Monday, March 23 through Friday, March 27.
There’s a lot of information to digest. Masterson prefers that participants do a weekend course, go home and try out the techniques, and then come back. But everyone is welcome to do both courses at one time, just not encouraged.
There are still a few openings. To sign up, or find out more, call (641) 472-1312 or visit www.mastersonmethod.com. You can also sign up for a monthly e-newsletter.