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What’s It All About? Masterson Method Equine Facilitated Therapies by Jim Masterson



Jim Masterson

Jim Masterson

This puts into words a sentiment humans have recognized for a long time: that there’s a quality to the horse beyond its physical capability to carry us to new levels. Our physical and mental interaction with the horse inspires us to deeper levels of partnership, and our partnership with the horse inspires us to higher levels of achievement.

With equine bodywork we try to give back to the horse. Anyone who has used the Bladder Meridian Technique as shown here in earlier editions  (or from the Masterson Method Beyond Horse Massage book or DVD, or one of our weekend courses – sorry, had to get the plug in) knows how rewarding this simple technique with the horse can be. This interaction begins the process of releasing tension in the horse through slowing down and observing subtle changes in the Jim Mastersonhorse’s body language. This simple process brings our mind closer to the level of in-the-moment-ness of the horse, and allows the horse to begin releasing physical tension. When the horse begins releasing tension that has accumulated for who-knows-how-long, it can be overwhelming for the human as well as for the horse.

An interesting thing happened recently that demonstrates how powerful this interaction can be. A Masterson Method Weekend Seminar-Workshop was recently taught at an in-residence ranch for at-risk teenagers, to teach them techniques that they might use themselves to help their horses. A few days after the seminar, a psycho-therapist from the therapy side of the facility called the stable to ask what had happened during the seminar, as a couple of the kids had had breakthroughs in therapy.

Using horses to help humans in mental and physical therapies has been around for a while, but this was a situation where the clear and unintended benefit for the human came out of an intention to treat only the horse. In fact, the benefit for the human isn’t there unless the focus remains on the treatment of the horse!

This incident made clear to us the opportunity we had to give back to both the horse and the human (by giving back to the horse!), and the role The Masterson Method could play in the growing field of Equine Facilitated Therapy (EFT) and Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT).

Why, you might ask, are we talking about this in a magazine that’s devoted to performance in horses and riders?

Of the many jobs that horses perform nowadays, helping humans to improve their lives in this new field of EFT/EAT has turned out to be interesting and fast growing. It does lack a certain athleticism, but it does involve a partnership between horse and human. Many of the horses in this work are horses that are retired from performance due to age or injuries. EFT’s provide them with a new job. One might think that it’s an easy job, but you’d be surprised.  Once you start doing bodywork on these hard working horses you notice how many issues they have, and how they’ve developed very good survival strategies over the years to cover them up. It’s in the process of treating these issues with this method of bodywork that the benefit to the human comes.

Equine therapy centers around the country offer programs to a variety of clients, incorporating horses experientially to provide their human partners with physical, mental and behavioral health benefits and therapy.  There are a number of client groups – as well as horses – that will benefit from Masterson Method sessions including at-risk youth, veterans, individuals with autism, anxiety, depression, PTSD among others.

Since the above incident we have been developing a pilot therapy training program to incorporate the use of some of the basic Masterson Method techniques into EFT programs, using them with the EFT horses in a structured and supervised setting.  The pilot program has demonstrated that bringing The Masterson Method to the EFT setting in a highly controlled, structured and safe manner benefits both the EFT horses and clients.  The gentle, tactile, horse-focused, intuitive and interactive nature of this form of bodywork allows for new levels of connection with and communication by the EFT clients.  Many active horse-people have an interest in the use of horses in this setting, whether on a personal or professional level and the application of this type of bodywork may open a door for them into this world.


Do you have equine bodywork questions?  Jim is now offering the opportunity to ask questions on a free live webinar each month entitled:  “Talk with Jim”.  Go to the website and click on “Talk with Jim” on the menu bar to the left for information on how to participate.

Jim Masterson has been the equine bodywork therapist for the 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 USEF Endurance Teams, and has worked on thousands of performance horses, including competitors in FEI World Cup, Nations Cup, Pan American Cup and the World Equestrian Games. He is the author of the book and DVD Beyond Horse Massage, and DVD Dressage Movements Revealed. He teaches the Masterson Method® of Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork to horse owners and therapists around the world




This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 1


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