Question and Answers

Expand All Collapse All

    Masterson Method Techniques

    • Sometimes I can't tell if the horse is blinking at something else or at me.

      If you're not sure that the horse has blinked at a spot in response to your touch, move your finger back a few inches before that spot and slowly go over it again. If he blinks on the same spot, there is a correlation between what you're doing and what the horse is doing - it's a response. If not, move on.

    • Horse with tight neck

      Question: 

      I ordered the full library of DVD's & books only last night (I'm in Australia). Of course, have not arrived yet I do want to be ready to help my mare ASAP. She had an accident less than a week ago where she got a fright as I was removing her bridle and ran backwards with her mouth still clamped on the bit. Vet has assessed, after a physical exam only (no X-ray), that she has only suffered bruising and swelling. You cannot touch the front of her mouth without sedation. I saw Jim's YouTube videos about TMJ and am willing and hoping she will allow me to do this. There is however another major problem. She now has tight muscles on her neck approx. where the Trapezius and Splenius muscles meet. They are like rock and massaging, whilst enjoyable for her, has not helped reduce the knot size, approx. 1 1/2 man hands across her top line and spreading to 1/2 hand down. Is there a particular move I can perform to help relieve this. Naturally I assume her back and hips must also be sore. Do you have any suggestions for my poor, depressed mare. She is on bute but doesn't seem to be getting as much comfort from it as I would like. 

      Answer:

      Poor girl, glad there were no more serious injuries. Yes the TMJ would be good as well as Poll/Atlas and Lateral Cervical Flexion. Basically, you will want to work on the 3 Key junctions. Time will help with the swelling in her mouth and eventually you should be able to gain with working the head area when it’s gone. The tightness across her back may be a muscle spasm created by the bruising and swelling and initial incident when she ran backwards. So again, work on those 3 key junctions. Spend as much time on the hind end top points as you can to help relieve the back area and this will also affect the front end as well as it’s all connected. Good luck with this and let us know how it goes. We do have a practitioner in Australia now and gaining more. 

    • Lumbar Pain

      Question:

      In the "Dressage Movements Revealed" when Jim was working on the lumbar area and the horse was giving pain reactions, is where my question is directed. After on session doing the whole horse and special attention to the lumbar area would that pain go away if it were not caused by saddle fit? Would it or could it take several sessions for it to release totally?

      Answer:

      Depending on what caused the back  pain, after the first session it may not totally go away, but would be noticeably lessened.  As with any type of pain, the root of what is causing it would need to be taken into consideration.  Eliminating saddle fit, is it rider balance, is the horse carrying himself correctly, is he fit would all be some underlying reasons for sore backs.  So essentially if you don’t or can’t identify what is causing the soreness, it may not go away totally.  But if you have identified the source, it may take several sessions to totally eliminate the soreness.  Generally speaking, working on horses with sore backs, we can reduce the soreness significantly on the first session, allow them a day or two off and bring them back gradually into full work and by the second session, it’s barely perceptible. 

    • Helping my pony relax his front end

      Question:

      Hi, I have been doing some of these techniques on my daughters' pony. He is having difficulty holding and relaxing with his feet being held up. He will pull up, paw forward and walk sideways to avoid his front feet being held. (I have changed farriers and slowly he is getting better for her). His rear feet were worse; he used to cow kick violently when he knew his hind feet were going to be handled. I can now pick up his hind feet an inch off the ground, and he can relax, and I can gently place his hind feet in a relaxed state directly down and gently wiggle his leg. This had gotten good releases. Any more than an inch and he will pull away and kick. With his front, I can't even do that. I can pick up his front foot for a second and he will lean and place weigh on it then get worried if I try to do more. I have done the TMJ with excellent releases, and poll releases and withers wiggle. Shall I keep doing those and leave the front legs? With the rear legs, do I work on picking up the hind legs literally an inch at a time higher and higher? 

      Answer:

      Keep working, peeling away the layers. You’ve done well so far and have gotten results. I would concentrate on the 3 Key junctions, as you release from the top, the lower legs will benefit and eventually he will feel comfortable to balance and pick up his feet. If you can’t pick up his front feet you can “scooch” his legs forward or back by urging him to shift his weight and then move them without lifting and see if he can relax and get some release in that manner. Eventually you may be able to increase lifting his feet. Stay on the top hind points as long as you can and get him to drop his hips, you may find you’ll have to work from side to side going back and forth several times but stay on these points until he drops,(can be up to 45 min) this will help with the lower hind legs. The more you can relax the hind end you will be surprised how much this affects the front end. 

      Also when you pick up the feet, be sure you get under the hoof as soon as you can and not hang onto the fetlock as this tend to make them kick more (they think their legs are trapped). Good luck and let us know how this goes.

    • Club Food

      Question:

      I have purchased the book and DVD but have not had time to study it. I have a 2014 foal that is sore in off front foot and now the hoof is changing shape and becoming more upright the other one. Are there Masterson Method protocol I could use to help this? 

      Answer:

      Sorry to hear that your foal is developing foot issues. Have you had a vet take a look at him to be sure there isn’t any metabolic changes or illness that is causing this or it’s a rotation of the coffin bone? As this continues to change the foal is going to start to compensate by transferring weight to the opposite foot to relieve any pain and soreness that goes along with this development. You can certainly help in helping to alleviate some of that with the Masterson Method by releasing any built up tension and stress created by the foot. It won’t cure it, but you can help to make him a bit more comfortable. You would want to focus on the 3 key junctions, even though he is off on the front end, the hind end will be sore as he tries to sit back and take weight off the front. If you do this frequently you may be able to keep the pain and soreness from becoming chronic and a restriction.

    • Pushing rear-end against the stall wall

      Question:

      I did get tons of releases out of him. His sacroiliac area seemed to be the biggest triggers to this rear-end pushing. I did stand behind him at one point and pushed gently on his ischium area, which he seemed to like, he pushed back pretty heavily. The owner said he always turns his butt to her "to be scratched". He’s not a kicker or aggressive in any way. 

      Answer:

      This happens occasionally after some releases either from working on the front or hind end, the horse's hind end gets a bit wobbly or they start to push against the stall wall. It is like their hind end has suddenly come awake and it's probably like your leg after you cut the circulation off and you get the pins and needle feeling. Sometimes they will shift back and forth from leg to leg. So this is not a bad thing, as you've opened up some pathways that have been closed off for awhile and now things are circulating again.

    • Horse unsound after bodywork

      Question:

      I worked on a friend's horse several days ago. This was the 3rd time that I worked on her. Lots of releases, shifting from release in the front end during the 1st session to slowly more release in the hind end and back by the 3rd session (every session had 1 week in between). During the 3rd time, the horse became very aggressive; kicking out at me and coming to me with her teeth when I wanted to reach for the stifle point. I didn't even came in the area, but this was obviously too much for her. I thought this was very interesting. The next day, the horse looked slightly unsound at the right hind, at the trot. Today, 4 days later, the horse seems fine. Has anyone experienced this before? 

      Answer:

      Perhaps you may want to spread out your bodywork, especially if the horse has no major issues, and yes they can get sore after bodywork, but it's not from that they get sore. You've released tension and stress in those key junctions and they are now experiencing greater ROM and move more freely that can potentially make them sore as they use themselves with new movement and feeling. The aggression is just her way of saying ENOUGH for now; she is probably overloaded and needs some more time to process. I wouldn't worry too much, unless the lameness returns and then you may want her on some rest.

    • Bladder meridian work and salt licking

      Question:

      I was working with a horse yesterday that had a lot of large releases just by working the bladder meridian. I was half way working the meridian on the right side (had already done the left side) when the horse stepped over to a salt/mineral block in her stall and started licking it. I decided to step away and let her lick as much and as long as he wanted, which ended up being many minutes. It was also the way she did it; there was no break in her licking during those many minutes. I was wondering if there is a correlation between the bladder meridian work and the need to lick the slat/mineral block. Or was she just being busy with the block?

      Answer:

      Interesting, sometimes they will use licking on a salt block, their bucket or wall as a distraction to avoid dealing with you making them focus on a particular point. So first I'd be sure that is not they are doing, were you able to continue with the Bladder Meridian after they stopped? Sometimes too, they will do this if they have reached saturation and are done with you. Although horses are also better than humans in taking care of their needs, like drinking while receiving bodywork, so perhaps they find that they need to replenish themselves with the salt. Would like to know if you could see if these maybe the case?

    • Stretches leg completely forward during Leg Forward Technique

      Question:

      I have a quarter horse and he is a very hefty boy. When I work on doing the leg forward technique, Bear immediately wants to stretch his leg completely forward as far as it can go. He is very strong and I have a hard time controlling his leg because it's so heavy. I do get him by his toe but Bear isn’t interested in bringing the leg up at all, he just wants his leg out. I want to make sure that I'm not doing something incorrectly. Before I started the Masterson Method Bear would stretch his entire front end out and down with his hind end up and front end down and forward. If anyone has any suggestions on whether I'm doing this ok or incorrectly your advice would be greatly appreciated. Any thoughts on why he does this? Even after I have let him stretch his leg down and forward, when I do it again, he immediately wants it stretched out again. He is so heavy and I have a hard time handling his knee and the toe. When I have a hold of his toe he just pushes it down and I'm lucky to get my fingers out of the way and onto his fetlock. I try bringing his leg back and he wants that leg to go down quite quickly as well. He is so quick that I don't have a chance to see if he has actually dropped his scapula at all. I can get him on occasion to let me hold his cannon bone and fetlock on my knee and rub his cannon bone and rotate his hoof but not very often. I have to be careful when holding his knee because once he popped me pretty good in the chest when he brought his knee up and forward. The person that had him before wanted him to be a barrel racer and he just didn't want that job. Maybe when I come to Iowa you could help me with some techniques. 

      Answer:

      He probably just feels good to stretch, if after he does this once, can you get him to raise his leg and then bring it down closer to him? Sometimes if I have a horse that wants to stretch, I hold them under the "knee" and let them drop the lower leg and let it relax and then bring it down. So try this and see if it works for you. I think if you keep working on him, eventually he will get the idea, just hold him under the knee if need be with both hands and see if you can let it down. Does he hold his leg out after stretching forward? If so, let him stay there and watch to see if he has dropped his shoulder, you should be able to tell if he is holding his leg forward. May be too, try picking his foot up like you are going to clean it, hold it as if you are going back and when he relaxes and gets heavy then bring it forward and see if you can "sneak" it down, worth a try. 

    • Severe Aggression during Bladder Meridian work

      Question:

      My 4yr AQHA mare has become so aggressive that I cannot do the Bladder Meridian work on her right side. She has always been a bit touchy on the right due to a hind leg injury from 2 yrs ago. She kicked through a board and cut the top of her right hind cannon bone. She was off while it was healing and it left her a little short stride. A month ago, she was kicked in the shoulder while out in the pasture. All it did was knock off some hair. It has healed and the hair is growing back. The last three days I have worked with her. She has no problem when I do the Bladder Meridian on the left however when I move to her right side she becomes HATEFULLY. She tries to bite me, kick me and rear and strike. I am at my wits end. She is my one true love and I can't seem to help her! Do you have any suggests? 

      Answer:

      First question, can you do any kind of work on her right side? Lateral flexion, shoulder/leg releases? Or is it just during the Bladder Meridian? How far off of her are you? You may try doing the BM in bits, or just forgo it and go right into some body work, trying to stay under her "radar" and again start by doing just bits and gradually working up to more and more. I found with an old horse I worked with who hated anything that he thought resembled Chiropractic work and if I did small sections, very slow and mixed it with brushing or some sort of daily routine, he accepted it, or at least he didn't realize it was happening. Let me know what you can do and try modifying how you approach her and see what happens. 

    • Very agitated if I try to leave my hand on the on certain areas

      Question:

      I have tried to incorporate some body work with brushing and picking her hooves. The sneak approach works until I get to her sacrum or her poll. She gets very agitated if I so much as try to leave my hand on those areas for more than a second or two. She doesn't want anyone putting their hand on her nose under her halter. She throws a fit. So trying to do the poll work is difficult. I am trying to go slow and just do what I can without upsetting her. The odd thing is when I do get done and she gets a few releases. She comes at me, ears back, rearing shaking her head. She does this when I am done! She is definitely an Alpha female but I have never had her do this to me. It is as though she is telling me, do not do that again. Thanks for your help! 

      Answer:

      This reminds me of a mare I worked on, very nasty to be around on the ground and when I worked on her poll, she was highly sensitive and tried to kick, bite, etc. SO, I looped the lead rope around the stall bar and held it so if she tried to come at me, I could pull the lead rope and it would keep her head away. I literally held my hand 4 - 6 inches away from her poll and I still got releases. Hind end was about the same, I held the lead rope and if she attempted to swing her back end at me, I could pull her head toward me and keep away from the back feet. I did manage to get some hind end work done, but not as thoroughly as I would have wanted, but, you take what you can get and surprisingly the owner feedback was interesting. They said she actually had a personality change and was more agreeable to be around. So don't give up hope, use all the tricks in your tool bag and good luck.

    • Body work for cribbing

      Question:

      I am new to the method & very excited about the results with just the Bladder Meridian that I have tried on 3 different horses. I have the opportunity to work with rescue horses with different stories. One is an x-race horse who has been surrendered for the 2nd time & is very, very underweight. Don't know if the last owner tried to ride him in this condition but she surrendered him because he bucked-- big surprise. He has nubbins for top teeth & wears a cribbing halter. He has been checked by a dentist/vet. I have only done the Bladder Meridian with him with great results as far as relaxation. Is there anything you would suggest that may help with his cribbing? Being an OT in a previous life, my thinking tends to run along sensory input & he may be using the cribbing to handle his anxiety. Your input would be appreciated especially as I am just starting out absorbing your material!! 

      Answer:

      So glad that you are finding out about the Masterson Method and started using it and seeing great results. As for the cribbing, that is very hard habit to break once they start. Especially for a horse that has spent a lot of their time in a stall and it becomes a vice for boredom. You may find that doing some of the Masterson Method will release tension and create relaxation in the horse and they may not crib as much. However, may not completely stop this habit. The solution is lots of pasture turn out where they can keep themselves busy, if that is an option for the horse's current living conditions. Also toys and stall objects to occupy their time. Depending on what is causing them to crib, if there is discomfort associated to the habit, the Masterson method will help in alleviating some of it and definitely worth a try; especially if you can work on the poll, TMJ areas. Good luck and hope to see you at a future seminar to learn more that will help you with your horses.

    • Sensitivity (great fidgeting) in the Ribs

      Question:

      After getting my daughter's Arab gelding worked/relaxed on the poll, shoulder, and hind end, I began the back toggle, if you will call it that. For the first time during the session, he got very fidgety. So I went to the withers to check it again and did the "withers check" all the way down his spine and down his tail. I went back to rocking the back; again he became too fidgety. So I made up something I had not learned in my two seminars - I did the "accordion" move from his shoulder with one hand and his loin with the other and went over his ribs this way from top to bottom both sides. I did this a couple of times, even though he kept moving away from me the whole time. I got a LOT of good releases from this move. I wonder have you run into this before, this sensitivity of the back/ribs. Could I have misread it for something else?

      Answer:

      Good work on finding a work around. Some horses require adjustment in what we do, or how we do it, so good job.

      I'm not sure of the pressure you were using for the lateral rocking working up the ribs to the withers, but I have found that this move, especially with horses that have back or withers restrictions. It could be a real fidgety/sensitive move. I also found that "I" was using too much pressure when pushing on the ribs. (Again, I went back to my anatomy book, and calculating the design of the rib and its connection to the spinal processes, even the light pressure along the side can cause significant movement in the spine/processes.) Think big leaver and you are pushing on the top end of it.

      This is often uncomfortable for the horse. When done lightly it can be very effective in creating the desired movement without discomfort. But be aware that those with more restriction will move and fidget when those areas are worked even lightly. The pressure I use is egg yolk or just a bit deeper, but not much. When in doubt I go lighter.

      I probably would have also done a dorsal arch, to ensure that the vertebra were moving in the opposite direction, this will sometimes free them up for more lateral movement.

      When you did this type of 'accordion move', you probably release some tension in the intercostals. If it worked, it was the right thing to do!

      In general, there can be a multitude of reasons why a horse is sensitive to lateral rocking.
      The horse's spine as such is rather inflexible; most flexibility comes from the lumbar area. When encountering a horse that is resistant to lateral rocking I want to make sure I did all I could to release tension in the lumbar section by working with the release points and getting as much 'torque' in a relaxed state as possible.

      I also check the regularity and 'alignment' of all ribs, just gently gliding my hand from front to back over the rib cage to see if any rib creates a 'speed bump'. If yes, I check the other side to see if we have a 'pot hole'. If I find such irregularities in the ribs, I am aware that there may be some tension/discomfort that the horse is expressing by moving away and being disagreeable. If this is the case, I move very slowly and deliberately instead of rocking in the rhythm.

      Getting the horse to do lateral/dorsal arching (up and to the side at the same time) can sometimes help, as well as gently working the lumbar section during lateral rocking. (This is for our certification/advanced students, you do not learn this from the DVD or during the weekend seminar).

      In general: if the horse moves away from lateral rocking he has a reason to do so. Palpate again to see if you can find anything that stands out. Also palpate between ribs. When approaching the area of concern, get way slower and lighter.

      Rock on!

    • Loss of Focus?

      Questions:

      I was doing a 20 yr. old kids show mare, she had A LOT of tension in the neck withers and shoulders. It took me 2 1/2 hrs. to do her all over, I was doing her for some other people, my question is, by the time I had got to her mid back and hind quarters she was what seemed bored and unfocused- she had amazing releases in the front! I kept going on her to do her full body, because I didn't know if I were going to get to do her again or not, she did have a few on the hindquarters but they were minimal. I realize sometimes they can only do so much, but was she bored and should I have kept going like I did? Was there anything I could have done to refocus her?

      Answer:

      I'm really curious as to what you're referring to, as loss of focus, can you clarify what you are seeing? Your statement that she seemed bored, if it's what I think, is probably her getting into the "zone".

      Often as bodywork progresses the horse will get softer and mellower, often just staring into space...this is what we call processing; the nervous system is processing the changes. Sometimes if you step back and just wait you will start to see release 'perk up', little head bobs, runny nose, eye blinks/squeezes, and changes in breathing. It is possible that your front work was so effective that she just needed some time to work it all out & her nervous system was still sorting it out.

      Another note is that while big releases can happen anywhere on the body, often the rear is slightly less reactive, especially in some breeds like draft, and ponies. It doesn't mean you're not getting stuff out; it's just that they are not rewarding you, with the more visible signs of release.

      It sounds like you did good work on her!

    • Very reactive mare

      Question:

      Since taking your weekend course last October I've been working with my two mares. I've got a few questions that I would like to run by you.

      You have mentioned the connection between persistent reactions to the girth area and neck/shoulder areas to pain in the front feet. I have a 20 year old mare that is very reactive in these areas (both sides but especially the right). But she is also barefoot, walks with heel first landings and (apparently?) sound. She does have a mild 'club' foot on the right. When I touch these areas she is super reactive. If I touch with too much pressure she will threaten to bite. Heck, sometimes 'egg yolk' pressure will cause a reaction.

      I found that if I lightened my touch and persist she would eventually release. Now after many months of massage work she is still 100% reactive in these areas yet the bite threats are nearly immediately followed by releases, even yawning. The bite threats usually go with her 'don't-touch-me-there' front end areas. There are certain areas in the HQs that are also untouchable (stifle and flank areas on both sides)

      Number one of course I wonder why she is still this reactive after all of this time. Number two I'm curious if you've seen this bite-threat/release phenomenon before.

      She doesn't appear unsound but she is also quite stoic. Having said that there have been soundness issues in the past and the reactivity is something that has been going on for MANY years and so far no one (vets, chiro, massage, hoof care pros) has been able to definitively say why. I wonder though is it possible that the source may not be the FEET per se (I've worked hard to get her as sound as possible) but perhaps some lower leg joint? About ten years ago I had a bone scan done on this horse and the fetlocks did show some 'uptake'. Then I wonder if some hind end problem might cause enough shoulder and neck tension and 'on the forehand' movement to cause the foot/lower leg pain?

      Well I could go on with more details but I'll stop there and let you get a word in edgewise. :-) Thanks for any insight!

      Answer:

      Sensitivity in the ascending pectorals often stems from the fact that a horse is uncomfortable in the front limbs (feet, fetlocks, knees etc.) and tries to balance the front limbs in a way that make moving/standing more comfortable. The job of the ascending pectorals is to abduct the limb and stabilize the shoulder joint, meaning to balance the limb.

      Therefore any discomfort in the front limb can lead to sensitivity of the ascending pectorals, not only foot problems.

      If there are no other causes that come to mind (rubbing/chafing girth, cinched too tight, girth in the wrong spot), then it's very likely that the sensitivity may have its root cause in the front limbs.

      When your mare is 'cranky', she's simply communicating with you and is letting you know that something is not quite right. I encourage you to keep investigating her front limbs. Speak to your vet to see what next steps may be taken. In the meantime, you are doing the right thing by helping her ease her discomfort through bodywork.

      Another reply from Conley: I just wanted to comment here - have you read the May issue of the newsletter? Cyndi Hill wrote an interesting piece on a mare that is incredibly reactive with biting and I thought it interesting. Take a quick look at that, and maybe you can email her directly this question as she is experiencing this first hand. This doesn't address the actual reason for your post, but at least you might be able to parse out the problem with Cyndi.  Just a thought.

    • Am I scheduling too many treatments?

      Question:

      I am working on 2 Hanoverians 5 & 6 years old. The trainer who owns them is trying to get ready for either a sale or competition or both. At the moment I am working on them 2x per week in the mornings, with a day or two between treatments, both horses are responding and she is excited regarding the changes she is seeing in her riding. I advise her to ride gently after I work on them. Am I working them too much in the course of a week?

      Answer:  

      If you’re getting results and the horse is in work, then working on the horse every two or three days is fine. You should be able to tell when what you are working on doesn’t need as much, and then you can back off, or move on to another area that still needs work.

      For example, when pain in an area diminishes, sometimes you find that the same area next time just needs movement, reminding it that it can move more freely.

      Or another example; if you relieve pain or restriction in an area, and when the horse continues working you find that the pain and restriction returns, you need to focus on what might be causing the pain. If the pain doesn’t come back, then you are good.

      Something like current saddle fit, or sore feet or joints might be the source of the pain. Or it could be deeper misalignment due to compensation or residual pain from past issues or trauma, or it could just be the current effects of the conditioning or training that the horse is going through. In this case, it is good to release tension in the area as much as possible during the course of the conditioning, as pain causes tension, tension restricts movement and circulation and creates unhealthy muscles. Restriction also puts more stress on other parts of the body in the form of overloading, and pain shifts the load to other areas due to compensation.

      I know this is the long answer. The short answer is to go by what the horse is telling you. If the horse stops responding, or starts to look “fried”, then you’ll know to back off. When a horse is working hard, and/or has a lot of restriction from past issues, then it helps to get a few sessions in, although I would probably not do more than three sessions a week for too long.

      Hope this long-winded answer helps. Keep up the good work.

    • Check points

      Question:

      When Jim works on a client's horse he does a check list of sorts (similar to what I have seen an acupuncturist do). One of the spots is behind the elbow in the girth area. I have heard Jim say it is reactive point that is foot related? Is that correct?

      I have a gelding who has gravel crunching bare feet, never been shod, who will tighten his skin and react at that spot. Would there be another meaning for this point?


      Answer:

      This is an excellent question and you are on the right track. The 'foot point' never fails me. When you are checking the foot point you are basically running your fingers over the ascending pectorals which stabilize the shoulder and the front leg. When a horse is sore in his feet, he uses these muscles more to stabilize his leg into a position that is most comfortable to him. This results in soreness in these muscles that have to do the job.

      An example: Yesterday I worked on Gunner, a sensitive TB with long standing front feet problems and special shoeing. His ascending pecks (foot point) had been 1 on a scale from 1-3. Yesterday he was very reactive, a clear 3. I asked the owner if anything was different in regard to his front feet. And indeed, yesterday morning he had been trailered to the farrier, got an orthopedic shoeing, then went on a long trailer ride to accompany his friend to his new retirement home.
      That's a long day for ascending pectorals!!!

      Another comment from Jim: Much of what we work on in the body is secondary or compensatory to other issues such as feet, teeth, saddle fit, etc. By putting together a picture or pattern of what’s going with the horse's body we can find out what might be causing the soreness or restriction.

      Soreness on that point on the pectoral behind the elbow is one of the spots that, put together with a few others, have in my experience gone along with sore front feet. I have found a pretty direct correlation between that point, and the front foot on that same side, especially if other signs show along with it, such as pain or tightness in the poll, neck, and scapula/withers. Signs in other areas body might support that possibility even further, or not, but these are the main ones. Stefanie's experience above is a good example of how identifying this point usually works out.

      This doesn't mean that pain at the girth may not come from some other source, such as over-girthing in the past, because it may. But by putting together an overall picture of where the horse is sore or tight, you can get a more accurate idea of what might be going on with your horse.

      You have to take into account other factors before you call your farrier to complain that your horse's feet might be sore. He may be doing the best job possible given the horse's conformation, sensitivity, and job or level of work. After a period of hard work the feet may be sore just like ours would be, and after a period of rest they may feel better. Also, some horses are more sensitive or reactive to poking around than others. But by checking, and comparing the horse’s reaction to other areas, especially one side compared to the opposite side, or after different levels of work, you may find correlations that make sense, or go along with the horse’s history.
      So, short answer, a painful reaction to that point, especially if it shows up on one side more than the other, may point to foot soreness on that side, especially if the horse is sore in the poll area.

    • Just starting out

      Question:

      First I wanted to write and say WOW. I have been watching your DVD and started today, it blew my socks off. I got fantastic results. I am so happy; it is the best horse money I have spent.

      I have a couple of questions. When you are working through the bladder meridian on the DVD you look like you are doing air touch, and then only say egg yolk or grape when you get tension. I was working on a rescue horse that has had a long working life. I would literally only get 1 inch when i would get a sign, and I would work it out and get a response. I notice that your hand is very still but i was massaging more, should i just hold still over the tension or work it out?


      Answer:

      I use the system; Search, Response, Stay Release, which works well. As I am doing the Bladder Meridian, typically, I use air gap or egg yolk pressure with my fingers. I SEARCH, by slowly moving my hand down the meridian while closely watching the horse’s eyes, ears and mouth for any RESPONSE. When I get a response I just STAY. I do nothing with my fingers. I just use the heat of my hand and the focus of my attention and the horse's attention to do the work. Often times (but not always) the horse will start to fidget. Fidgeting is good. He may start to walk, turn and look at something, try to scratch his leg, anything can be a fidget. I just keep egg yolk or air gap pressure on that same spot and STAY and wait for the RELEASE. Sometimes it comes quickly, sometimes it takes some time, and it varies horse to horse. But, if you are soft enough and patient, it will come in the form of a yawn, or shaking the head, licking of the lips.

      You are on the right track. Good job! Take a look at the Training Video Clips here on the website as I have posted a clip called the "Bladder Meridian" which addresses some questions that are often asked.

      Thanks for your kind words on the DVD. Keep up the good work with those rescued horses; they can really use the work.

    • Guarded or no response

      Question:  

      I have been following your DVD for around a year now. I have been working on any horse I can get my hands on and teaching the owners about your methods. It is very enjoyable. So much so I am now looking to become a therapist, and hopes to one day attend a clinic or cert. program.

      What is the horse telling you when they look in the opposite direction? Meaning they turn their head away like they are looking at something. Is it a guarded response? Thank you. I have been riding 20 years and this has made me closer to these animals than ever. I can't wait to learn more. Ashley

      Answer:

      I'm glad you're getting changes in the horse and your relationship with the horse with the video. I hope you can make a seminar or course someday soon. If you're getting results from the video, some hands-on techniques will really get you going.

      Regarding the horse turning his head away, you may have noticed that some horses release easier than others. Some are uncomfortable showing release responses, and holds them back until you are done and step away, or even leave the stall. I often see horses turn their heads away just before they release. As you noticed, they are guarding their response. If you just stay with what you are doing, they will usually release soon after turning away. Those are the easy ones!

      I was working on a horse this winter that refused to yawn. I continued working on him as I knew he was releasing huge amounts of tension, but was almost clamping his jaw to keep from yawning, or even licking and chewing. Finally, he walked over to where I had draped his blanket on the stall door, stuck his head under the blanket and yawned about 5 times. My theory (the world according to Jim) is that, for survival reasons, horses are genetically programmed to hide weakness or pain, as those will be the ones picked out by the predator. That is why it is so difficult to evaluate lameness in many horses. This behavior even extends even to signs of submission, as they are always working out the pecking order amongst themselves. Horses that are very strong survivors don't want to show the releases. Sometimes you have to step way back out of their space, or wait until you leave the stall to get the release responses. They are still releasing the tension, but just haven't processed it fully. Jim

      Another comment from same Person: I have had similar situations where the horse will guard or only show minor responses while working on them. The most significant for me was an Arabian mare, who no matter what I did, would just give little licks. After an hour and a half of bodywork, she was very relaxed, but still not showing release. We put her out in her paddock and the owner brought her pasture mate in for bodywork. While coming back to the barn from the opposite side, I happened to spot her in her shelter...head down, little shake, and then a huge yawn in which she rotated her head and neck in a huge circle. She repeated this action no less than 8 times. Long enough that the owner had come over to see what I was watching and was able to see the hidden responses for her.

    • Whole bodywork on 20 year old ranch horse

      Question:

      After taking the University of Stanford weekend class, I have continued to learn and have fun with horse bodywork! Yesterday I worked on a 20 yr. old Quarter horse mare that has done a lot of ranch work. She is a nicely built mare with lots of Doc Bar breeding but is not the typical bulldog type. She is longer and finer. She has arthritis in her knees. Her back fetlocks are currently very rounded in front (calcification? These joints crack quite often a little as she moves). The new owner put her on Cortaflex and has seen improvement in just a week and a half. Amazingly, she has beautiful movement. Maybe because she was a ranch horse, she is pretty stoic in demeanor (at least at first).

      When I started to work on her, I was surprised that she has so much lateral flexibility in her neck. There was only one area that seemed restricted. Under the scapula, down toward her chest, there was some resistance, but not what I expected from a 20 yr. old horse that has been used and not pampered. She did have trouble with the shoulder releases, although she tried. There wasn’t very much range at all when moving her front leg backwards and she could not hold it for more than a second or two. Bringing her front leg forward was easier for her, and there was a bigger range of motion, but once again, she could not comfortably hold it. She did improve while I worked with her, but I didn’t want to ask too much for the first time.

      She was very touchy about her poll area. It was pretty tight on both sides plus there was a good, hard knot on her right side. I had to start off by just using hand heat until she would stand quietly. Eventually I could massage very lightly and then get firmer.

      The right side of her hindquarters was pretty good. She even dropped her hip by using pressing on the point. However, it was much harder for her when I actually picked up her hind foot, but not a lot of range on the right side. BUT, when I went to the left side of her hindquarters, I started getting a LOT of reaction from her. When I massaged up by her sacroiliac joint on the tuber sacrales of the croup, I got very noticeable quivering in the quadriceps muscle.

      So, I hope this was right, I backed off from that area and worked around it. Is that OK? I worked on softening the other muscles. Then I went back to that area, but very softly. By the end, it was much better. I told the owner’s wife that I needed to look some things up before I went farther plus she needed to check again with her vet. Is this correct?

      When I explained what we found to the owner’s husband, he mentioned that she had been through a series of ranch owners and used quite hard. He felt the last owner had overbite her way too much. He also stated that she was very nice to ride (Note: The current owner is a trainer who wanted a quiet horse for him to teach beginners on).

      I am sorry that this is so long, but I really wanted to do the best I could for this mare. It was so cute because she was pretty aloof at first. There was a lot of blinking, but I got the feeling that she just couldn’t release with me standing so close. So I would work on her a little and then back away to give her some space. Then there was lots and lots of licking and chewing, sighing, heavy breathing, etc (on and on and on). After a bit, she would release and turn and look at me, as if to say, “OK, I’m ready. More!” By the end she was really trying to give me her body. The owner couldn’t believe how this old, stiff horse was swaying from one end to the other (heehee, I just love doing that!)

      Any suggestions or ideas would be really welcome!
      Thank you!!!!!!

      Answer:

      It sounds like you are doing everything right with her. You’ve got her relaxing at the poll, and doing well with the lateral flexion. Regarding the shoulders back, if you keep her weight shifted to the opposite leg, with your body or by placing one hand on her arm above her elbow to steady her, then bring her leg just SLIGHTLY out and back - not very far, just enough to let her rest her toe on the ground comfortably, it may be easier for her to relax the muscles and release the shoulder. Also, after working on a difficult area, when you come back a second time they may often release what you were trying to get released the first time.

      Regarding the hind end, the muscle quivering is nothing to worry about. The more you can get her to drop the pelvis on both sides, the better. When you pick up the foot, sometimes it helps to support the leg for a while by holding it up as if it were on the hoof stand to let everything relax, then set it slowly down (by then she will be relaxed and YOUR back will be a mess.) On the left side, gently put your hand, or fingertips, on the hip point and just rest it there for a while, without pushing. Circulation will come to the area and it will start to relax. They often will start dropping the hip just from that. It will usually start to drop in little spasms. Take your time. You need to substitute time for pressure. It sounds like you were paying attention in class. Very good!
      Thanks for asking, and for practicing, and for taking the clinic in the first place. Let me know if there is anything else.

    • Nibbling and biting while working

      Question:

      I'm very happy with the DVD. I didn't know horses were so sensitive to your touch...I would like to know a few things. I have a 4 year old mare and she loves it, but when I work on her lower back and hind end, her belly/intestines make a lot of noise, I stay with the response long but don't really get a release, or is the noise and the passing gas a release too? And when I work on her front end she wants to nibble on me all the time, so I can't see her response and she bites in the lead chain all the time. Should I tie her up shorter or is this the reassurance you showed in the DVD? But it's pretty much and she doesn't stop after a while either.

      Answer:

      It looks, or sounds, like she's relaxing when you work on her hind end. A lot of horses get mouthy, and fidget and fuss, when you are doing this kind of work. They usually are doing it for a reason, and often it is a sign that they have tension in the neck, or poll, or somewhere, and this is how they respond when you bring their attention to it - they try to protect it. It is best to shorten the lead rope so that they can only nibble on the chain. Then, stick with it, and pay attention to what the horse is doing. You will start to get big releases. If the horse moves, keep your hand softly on the horse and move with it. If the horse tries to nibble, don't let him reach you. If you find yourself applying too much pressure, then consciously soften your hand, and see of the horse's behavior changes. Often, it is when a horse like this stops moving, that it is a sign that he is about to release some tension in the area you are on. When he realizes that he can't get you to take your hand away, then his body will start to let go. If you do this long enough, and soft enough, you will by-pass the horse's ability to hold the tension, and his body will have to respond and release.

    • Right Lead Problems

      Question:

      Well, today is my soak day after the 5 day Certification Course. I did drag myself to see my horses yesterday. I worked on my younger horse. He’s tight on the right side above the nuchal ligament. I wasn’t able to totally work it out yet. Got a lot of good wither, neck and poll release on both sides, but the top of the neck is still tight. This is probably why I’m not getting the right lead. Since the feed truck came by I stopped the session after about 45 minutes.

      Do you have any suggestions on how to work that part? Okay - I guess I should start gluing my eyes on your videos too. I’m looking forward to more Jim. My mind is cooking to figure out how I’m going to schedule the rest of the certification in. I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment.

      Answer:

      You need to focus on the right poll, neck/shoulder/withers junction, and left hind to help your lead-change problem. It might also help to work on the horse (just kidding).

      Make sure the poll/atlas is loose after each session. Don’t go straight for the problem or get too attached to one spot if it gets too difficult. Back off, maybe move to the other side, or approach it from a different angle every few minutes. Go back and forth, break it up a little. Stop and have hot sake or something. Take it easy on yourself.

      If you get into too much of a struggle on one spot, it will turn into a…well, struggle.

      I know you’ll be able to make him more comfortable taking the right lead. Let me know how it goes.

      More advice: when his head is down or relaxed even a little bit, try gently (I said GENTLY!) rocking the nuchal ligament back and forth. Often this helps with the release process.

    • Releases

      Question:

      My horse paws the ground for several seconds after he releases. Is he aggravated or frustrated or is this part of releasing?

      Answer:

      More than likely it’s a fidget from the release as he is trying to figure out the new feeling, If he has held onto a particular pain or restriction for a while, it may feel a bit strange to him and he needs to do something to work it out.  So keep working and eventually he will quit.

    • When is it enough?

      Question:

      I ride at a school once a week and lucky for me the owner has allowed me to practice Masterson Method on her horses.

      Despite working outside in a noisy, distracting area Buddy and I made good progress during our first session last week until I started working on his shoulder. Initially he was nipping at his own chest so I moved away to give him a break.

      There were several releases and he looked very relaxed but as soon as I shifted my weight towards him (I didn't even take a step!) his ears went flat back, he struck out repeatedly with his front leg and snapped at me (actually, a bit scary and VERY out of character). Clearly - this was his way of saying that's enough, right? Have you had this or heard of this happening or was it me?

      Also, is it OK to combine regular sports massage with the Masterson Method?

      Answer:

      It’s great that you are using Masterson Method on this horse, obviously he has some issues to be so defensive.  You really need to be careful when they are that sore and defensive you don’t get hurt as they can react out of character if they are hurting.  When you use Masterson you are tapping into their nervous system and if there has been an ongoing issue for this horse there can be a sensory overload when their nervous system cannot take any more and they will let you know and yes the best thing is to leave them and come back later after they’ve been able to process what you’ve already done and are feeling a bit better.  It would be interesting to know what is going on to know what is bothering him.  You may want to use Bladder Meridian on him especially at the shoulders and stay at air gap touch and yes you can use whatever tools you have to incorporate in the bodywork. I would continue to work on him and see if you can get past his defensiveness by remaining very soft and slow to stay under the “radar” of his protectiveness.  You can after doing the LCF, go to the hind end and do top hind end work and come back to his shoulders.  Move around and break it up and eventually the other techniques will start to have an effect on the area where he is the most sore or restricted.     Most massage technicians find that after learning Masterson, they rarely use any other modality.  You may want to find a MM Practitioner in your area to do a thorough evaluation of your horse or take a weekend class to further you knowledge and get some hands on experience

    • Horse nips prior to release

      Question:

      I have been practicing on 12 horses, welsh cobs, thoroughbreds, and Arab crosses. 3 of the horses do this nippy thing, To describe the action- after noting a response, then do the hold, the horse gets fidgety then turn head towards me, wanting to nip whatever part of my body is closest, as I avoid they then nip themselves on flank, chest or leg. Then have a good release and all is quiet until next response... holds.....

      One of the 3 horses is a very restless TB mare which has a serious wind sucking habit. The other 2 are Arab crosses, my mare specifically is 7 yr. old, Arab/Lippy/Percheron cross, always quiet and gentle around people, especially around me, she can show mild irritation but never bites.
      Main question is it something I am doing or is it just that some horses will behave like this?

      The other horses I have been working on are mostly TBs, they all just relax and enjoy the experience and give good feedback and releases.
      The owners are thrilled with improvement in their horse's performance.  Very beautiful thing this Masterson Method!

      Answer:

      The restlessness you are describing is probably their fidget before the release and the biting of their flank is possibly a response to that release or you releasing something in them that causes some sort of sensation that they need to "itch?"  I have a young gelding that does that on both sides after I've worked LCF and C7/T1.  Sometimes their irradiation is from them having blocked off an area that has been painful and now you are making them aware of it again and they are reacting to that as well.  Perhaps after several sessions this will go away and they will relax better into the bodywork as they understand what you are doing for them as you peel away the layers. 

    • Massage Technique

      Question:

      I was wondering if the releasing that your method produces would be a replacement for standard massage techniques or is it to be used in conjunction with?
      For e.g. - will your method release muscle knots and soften tissue hardenings.

      I have only just started watching your DVD and just started practicing your method, most excited to see the signs of releasing with not pressure at all.
      I had started learning 'standard' massage before so just trying to position all this new knowledge, I am hoping to eventually make a career change and to work full time as an equine body worker.

      Answer:

      This is an excellent question. 'Conventional' massage such as Chinese or Sports Massage by nature addresses primarily the superficial muscle layers of the horse's anatomy. There is a definite place and application and great success that can be achieved with this type of massage.

      However, the Masterson Method is mainly designed to improve performance in the healthy horse. Here, it is most beneficial to release tensions in the three key junctions that most affect performance. These junctions lie deep inside the horse's anatomy. Any tension in the horse's body can be released by enabling the horse to move through the exercises in a relaxed state. This includes muscles spasms (as I have personally witnessed many times) and hardened tissues.

      As you work with the DVD, I'd like to encourage you to take notes of your findings, take pictures of your horse and record his progress over time. I think you'll be amazed to see what palpable progress can be made.

    • You say you “follow the blink”, but what does that mean?

      Bodywork with horses is a “hide and seek” game. They hide (guard) where they are uncomfortable and we want to find those areas to relieve tension. Often the horse tells us when our fingers have found a place of discomfort by blinking. They may be guarding (hiding) the area but they can’t stop themselves from blinking. We use the information of the “blink” to know that we are on a place that needs our help. In that way we “follow the blink”, letting the horse show us where we need to focus our work.

    • What is the Masterson Method?

      This is a great question that can be answered in one sentence or two hours of conversation. The one sentence answer? Because with the Masterson Method we seek to work with the horse, to do things “with” him, not “to” him.  

      Horses have things done “to” them all the time: Veterinary treatments that they learn to endure, saddling and bridling, grooming, blankets on and off, being led, being tied,bandages on, bandages taken off, being shod and in some cases being ridden…the list is nearly endless. For the most part, they learn to accept what is done “to” them. But its like they accept it on the outside. When working on the “outside" of the horse, doing things “to” him, what the human does is often mechanical and habitual. The actions may or may not take into consideration how the horse feels about it, if the horse will even say.  

      To release tension in the horse’s body, we have to work on the inside of the horse.  We humans can’t actually release the tension. We can’t cause the horse to relax. Only the horse can relax and release his tension. In bodywork we must connect with the horse on his level, below the bracing response that he uses to shield himself against the world. Knowing horses well….. observing them in their natural state in the pastures, watching how they interact with other horses, understanding how they move and use their bodies, being able to read their subtle and not so subtle emotions…. is vital to the success of the Masterson Method practitioner.  The more we can perceive subtle cues, the more effective we will be as we seek to hone our timing and skill in the practice of Masterson Method techniques. 

      The good news for us is that the horse can show us the way. If we experiment with levels of touch, he will tell us which level he prefers and is most effective with him. He will tell us where the discomfort is, where the restriction is. He will tell us through his blinks, by flinching away from our touch, or through his resistance to a technique when we have stumbled onto the point of restriction in the mobility of a joint. The more experience with horses we have, the more effort we have put into understanding them and their way rather than thinking about how they fit into our plan, the faster we will learn to accurately read the language of the horses responses to our touch. It is a language as clear as any spoken language, but it is unique to the horse. In bodywork, its our job to learn his language of response and release, not his job to learn about us.  So, in a nutshell, prior horse experience is vital because you have to be able to intuit and feel your way to the inside of the horse. The Masterson Method is not a mechanical practice, but rather nearly a “feeling” art. 

      So, remember the Masterson Method maxim….. when in doubt.. Go Slower… Go Softer!!

    • Off the Track Thoroughbred resists Head Up

      Question: I have to start by saying that I discovered the Masterson Method several months ago. I devoured the book & recently purchased the DVD. Both are excellent and compliment each other perfectly. I have a 15yr old OTTB gelding that I've owned for 4 years. I'm his 5th owner since he came off the track at 4yrs. old. He's my first horse and we've had our ups and downs! Over these past 4yrs, I've utilized various trainers to help me with him and it usually ends up with the suggestion that I sell him and move on because of poor behaviors. (ie, pinning his ears, or grinding his teeth trying to pick up the (R) lead canter, not wanting to move out in general at times, etc.) While I'm no trainer, or even a highly experienced horse person, I've resisted their suggestions. Vet checks have usually always been clean but with the idea that since he came off the track, he's bound to have sore areas, arthritis, etc. I think the RN in me wanted to heal him more than sell him. Since discovering MM, and a wonderful trainer experienced in OTTB'S, I'm beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel-and it's not a train!
      He has responded to the MM exactly as described in your book & DVD. I believe he has shown every sign of release you talk about! I can't even describe the joy I felt watching him yawn one right after the other, the first time I did the bladder meridian! WOW! Truthfully, there hasn't been one technique that hasn't elicited a textbook response. I'm thrilled to tell you that he has gone from moving stiffly to moving freely and beautifully under saddle- no ear pinning or grinding his teeth. He's eager to move out and happy in his work. My trainer is going slowly and building a solid foundation in classical riding for both of us.
      I have to mention that when I started the MM, I sensed a friendly skepticism among some around the barn. Now, watching my horse, people have been eager to have me work on theirs!
      I've wondered two things over the past few months.....I usually work on my horse every third day and I start both sessions with the bladder meridian, as I feel that it gets us both in a relaxed mental state. During the first session I do the front end and during the second session of the week I do the hind end. I've con't to alternate back & forth and each session is usually an hour and a half. Do you think this seems like a reasonable routine. I guess I've figured if a new ache, or strain comes up, I'll find it if I cover his whole body weekly.
      The second question is that despite trying to do lateral flexion into head up, I can only get him to relax into my arm. As soon as I try to move him onto my shoulder, he braces and won't have anything to do with it. I've tried to squat down before placing him on my shoulder, and doing nothing (or air gap) as far as pressure, I've tried air gap pressure to his temple and jaw, etc. It seems I just can't master this technique. Any suggestions?
      Thank you SO much for sharing your techniques with all of us! I know my next step is to get to a 2 day clinic for the invaluable 1:1 I know it will provide!

      Answer:

      First of all congratulations for what you have done with your horse already, It sounds like you have made a huge difference to him by using the technique in the book and DVD.  The routine you are working with sounds good to me, doing little and often is a great way of helping your horse relax and is a great way of improving your relationship with your horse.
       
      I was going to suggest you attend a 2 day seminar but you beat me to it, another thing you could do is call out a Masterson Method practitioner to do a session on your horse, this will not only give you a one to one over view of the techniques but you would get some great tips about how to improve what you know already.  They would help you with your head up too.
       
      But just to help you out for now it is important to remember that the goal of head up is not to get the head up ...... it is to get the horse to relax the weight of their head on your arm or shoulder to help them release tension in the poll, as they relax the weight of their head the muscles behind the ears shorten and soften, then once they are comfortable you can ask for a little movement in a relaxed state by lifting the chin a little.  If you find your horse braces when you ask for movement it is because they are not relaxed enough, to help them out there are 4 things you can do while the horses head is resting on your arm or shoulder.
       
      1.  Nothing!  Just let them relax onto your arm or shoulder (often the shoulder can be too high for them to start with) This alone is giving them a lot of help.
      2. You can search for a blink around the poll, when you find the blink stay on it and wait, often you will feel the horse relax and the head gets heavier (this is a really good sign)
      3. Once they are relaxed you can massage the poll area.
      4. If they feel really heavy you can then start to ask for movement in the poll in a relaxed state by lifting the chin or moving the head around a little.
       
      So long as you remember that rather than getting the head up your goal is to get the weight of the head on your arm then I think you will find you will master this a little better.  Pay close attention to your horses eyes, when they are soft you can ask for more, when they are not you soften and wait.  This should make a difference.
       
      Good luck and I hope this helps.

    General Questions About Bodywork

    • What the best thing for the horse after a bodywork session?

      After a bodywork session, the best thing for the horse is to be able to move around comfortably. Hand-walking, a relaxed ride on a loose rein, or turn-out would be good. If you have a choice, turnout is best. The idea is to let the horse’s body move and feel what’s been released.

      If your horse needs to be ridden, give him as easy a ride as possible. If you start asking for work too soon, the tension will return. Usually one day is enough, but if the horse is uncomfortable it means that he needs a little more time. This may be the case if he had a lot of tension in the body and you worked on him for a long time.

    • Should I work on the horse before riding or after?

      In my experience, with this method of bodywork it’s much easier for the horse to release tension when the muscles are not in an active state. This means it is better to work on the horse when he is ‘cold’,’ or before he works out. In this respect, this differs from stretching, which should be practiced when muscles are warm.

    • How long should I work on my horse?

      If you are taking your time and not doing too much in one go, then over two hours is not too much. If you are doing a lot, then you should make the session a little shorter. Sometimes the horse will just tell you that he has had enough. You will know you’ve gone too long when the horse simply stops giving you responses.

    • How often should I work on my horse? How much is too much?

      For general guidelines, if the horse is competing or training hard, then two times a week may not be too much. If the horse doesn’t work hard, yet has issues from past work that you want to help him clear up, then you might work on him a couple of times the first week, then once a week until you feel that he’s doing better, then once a month. It’s good to give the horse at least two or three days between two sessions. It’s better not to work on the horse more than two times a week. When the horse stops giving you responses, then his nervous system needs a break or there is nothing more there to release.

    • Do I always have to perform the entire sequence?

      No. Go by what’s comfortable for you and the horse, or by what areas of performance you are interested in improving.

    • Ear is sensitive

      Question:
       
      We got a horse that will not allow his ears to be touched and always jerk his head up when the hand approaches his pole. We have worked with him for about a year on this and there is improvement but there's no way I could do any pole work without creating a lot of tension, even just putting my hand up behind his ears would have him locked in tension. Do you have any suggestions of how to proceed to help him release tension in this area without causing more tension by working in other areas? 
       
      Answer:
       
      We had a horse that was a bit ear shy and worked on desensitizing him by “accidently” brushing our hands across his ears, however that may not always work for everyone. One would ask why he is head shy. Wrong training or is he hurting around his poll/atlas area, ear infection, sinuses? You would want to rule out any health issues as a cause first. What I would suggest is starting with the Bladder Meridian at air gap, which maybe barely touching the hairs to 6 – 12 inches or more off from the horse, as you stay and he releases you may start to get closer each time until you can actually touch his poll area. The other thing would be to start from the opposite end (C7) and work upward, again going very slow and air gap and see how that goes. 
    • Masterson Method vs traditional massage

      Question:

      I just picked up the Beyond Horse Massage book and could not put it down. I am recently certified in equine massage therapy and I'm fascinated at the methods discussed in the book. Does the MM work alongside traditional massage or is it more a standalone therapy that can be used instead of, in most instances? I like the idea of working with the horse and not causing undo pain, looking for pain, to a horse that is already Ouchy. 

      Answer:

      The Masterson Method is just one more thing for your tool box to aid the horse, you can certainly incorporate it into your own work or it stands alone. You may find after using this method you will use no other it's that effective. Good luck and perhaps you'll want to go further and take a seminar or Phase I class. Check the calendar page on the website to see if there is one near you or you could attend, you'll learn much more of what you are reading in the book.

    • Ethics

      Question:

      I would like feedback on charging clients. Is it ethical to charge a small fee for a session when still a 'beginner'? I have attended the weekend seminar and watched the DVD’s MANY times as well as practiced on my horses for months. 

      Answer:

      Before charging, it’s best to become certified. Even though you have watched our DVD and have attended a weekend seminar, you still don’t have enough information to be effective. 

    • Which should I do first? Bodywork vs. Chiropractic

      Question:

      If a horse seems to need both, do you get as many releases as possible FIRST in the hopes the Chiropractic will be easier, or do the Chiropractic first and follow-up with the bodywork methods for continued improvement? I will start by saying that I’m a beginner with this method. SCENARIO for a horse that has always been sound, supple, energetic and athletic, and is still visibly sound in his movement, but with known physical issues: Has club foot on RF (right front) 

      Has old back injury near junction of thoracic and lumbar vertebrae (slight visible dip/ledge) Recent RF tendon injury (no bow) Recently pulled all 4 shoes because of hoof wall damage from nail holes (and many other reasons, which aren’t relevant here) Very slow hoof growth, so the last time the RF heel was trimmed was 4 weeks before the tendon injury, and the trimmer didn’t want to take too much off the heel because we didn’t want to blow out the tendon (we have a plan going forward to rasp frequently but in very slight increments, to bring the heel down very SLOWLY to give the tendon time to stretch) Because of all the recent changes, the heel that is probably twice the length of “normal” for him, is shoving his right shoulder UP, limiting his movement, and I haven’t been able to do the scapula release on that side yet.

      So, since I know he’s now sore in many places (LOTS of releases from each of the techniques though!), and is stiffening up, would you recommend doing the Chiropractic now or wait until the heel & shoulder issues are more under control? Unfortunately, I have limited funds at the moment, so only want to have the Chiropractor out when the most benefit is likely to occur. 

      Answer:

      As to your question whether to do Chiropractic or Bodywork first: with as much going on and wanting to help him to get sound and least amount of soreness, and if you feel there is nothing majorly "out" of place the bodywork will probably be more beneficial as this is less invasive as chiropractic work. It will help him to relieve tension and stress while you are changing his feet and he is healing. It helps to keep the body loose and gets circulation moving to those restricted areas and since you are doing it yourself, this will save you $$. I would keep working on the scapula release, even if he is limited on his hard side, eventually you will start to see results as you continue with correcting the foot. Work both sides and also under the scapula (C7 release). You won't hurt him doing the bodywork, you will only help him, but it takes time as you are "peeling the layers like an onion" – a little at a time. 

    • Lactic Acid Question

      Question:

      I potential Client has asked if massage is contra-indicated for the following situation: A vet dx'd tying up in a horse and the vet has done the following: They have put him on a Vitamin E, selenium, some acepromazine (a muscle relaxant), anti-inflammatory, and electrolytes. Is massage appropriate in this situation?

      Answer:

      Tying up is a pretty scary thing, and anything you do that could physically damage the tissue wouldn't be a good idea. It is handy to have in your toolbox, however, more subtle techniques, and peripheral techniques that you could use that might help.

      About ten years ago our thoroughbred, Keep started to tie up one day after Conley tacked him up and headed for the arena. Not knowing much about tying up, I was reluctant to do anything aggressive. I did know that you need to not move the horse until the condition improves. I spent some time use the bladder meridian technique on the gluteal muscle until the muscle started to relax, he started to relax, and his breathing and eye (he only had one eye) calmed down. I do think it helped with circulation, which I believe is the most efficient healer in the horse, and that it kept the episode from becoming more serious. I imagine you could use the air gap technique in this situation not only on the affected muscle, but on the sacroiliac joint, lumbar, flank, or any other area that might help relax the muscle.

      As far as knowing when you could do more, blood levels and vet's recommendation are good. When the horse is moving well again, I would start by using techniques that didn't put direct pressure on the muscle but relaxed the area in general such as hind leg releases, and of course the ever present atlas release, as often a regular muscle spasm in the gluteal at the hip joint will disappear with poll work.

    • Do you think my horse is releasing when I’m not around?

      Question:

      I have been using your method for about 3 years. I have a new laid back, 17.1 hand, TB G that I have owned for about 3 months. He is fairly green under saddle and I have been working him with the method to prevent future pain. He enjoys it! I've had great results, but I have noticed he does some of the same releasing in the stall on his own when I am not working on him (yawning, eye rolling, snorting, etc.). I wanted to know if this is a sign of trouble or am I gifted to have a horse that releases tension on his own. He is also very different when I am around. It has been observed by the barn manager that he has a very mellow/ peaceful energy when we are together. I have noticed the personality change, but could not compare it to times I am not around. Do you have this same response?

      Answer:

      What you (and your observant barn manager) are seeing is the horse releasing and relaxing when you are around. The thing that makes this method work is the involvement of the horse and the part he plays in the process of releasing tension.

      You may have noticed with the Bladder Meridian exercise that we are doing very little, and the horse is doing all the releasing.

      What we teach in the seminars regarding these behaviors (release responses-blinking, twitching, licking, yawning, etc.) is that even though horses always blink, twitch, stretch, yawn, etc, for whatever reason, what we are looking for as we do our work on the horse is the correlation between the response or behavior, and what we are doing with the horse with our hands in that moment. (I’m sure you’ve already got this part if you’re getting results with your horse.) The key is that you’re using your awareness of what the horse is telling you to allow-help-condition his nervous system to release pain and tension.

      When a horse is holding a lot of tension - and this is very apparent in the poll area where many horses hide tension - once we get the ball rolling the horse continues letting it go. His instincts have told him to cover up and even block it out pain, but once we bring his attention back to it in a way that doesn’t excite the survival/bracing response, then it probably feels pretty good to him to let it go.

      Some horses are programmed to be more guarded than others. If you can get the horse trusting enough to begin releasing tension without even touching him as with the bladder meridian, then you can get his nervous system to begin releasing tension without touching him, without the bladder meridian!

      I’m in Bristol England now, and at our seminar here yesterday a young lady did the entire bladder meridian on the hind end of a rescue horse with her hand at least a foot away, because that’s all the horse could handle. The horse couldn’t stop yawning the entire time! The correlation was pretty clear.

      A lot of people tell me that once they start working regularly on their horses that the horse starts to relax and release when they show up. Of course it probably helps if you have a mellow, peaceful energy to start with!

      Another thing we emphasize while doing the work is that not to doubt (if it’s not clear to you already) what is going on. Doubt the doubt!

      Hope this long-winded answer helps. I don’t need to explain to you what an amazing animal the horse is, but I thought this experience with your horse was a good opportunity to explain how this process with the horse works.

    • Massage before a lesson?

      Question:

      I wanted to know if it is OK or not recommended to do a massage on a horse before that horse does an easy lesson, trotting and some cantering.

      Would this have an effect on how he does during the lesson? And when is there if there is an optimum times for massage??

      Answer:

      It is OK to do a massage on the horse before an easy lesson. Easy movement after the massage is generally good. However, any big changes you make in the horse during massage could be affected by hard work afterward, and could also affect the way the horse moves, so it is not recommended to work on the horse for the first time just before an important class, for example.

      But if the work the horse is doing isn’t hard, and the massage isn’t major, it will be ok.
      Ideally, for any deep work on the horse, or any serious riding afterward, it is best to work on him the day before, let him move around a little afterward, such as in turnout, then ride the next day.

      Hope this helps.

    • Doing treatment for a horse in training & a horse with injury

      Question:

      How often should you do treatments for a horse in training and a horse with an injury? For the horse in training, is once a week enough? If I don't have time to do a full treatment can I do a different section every other day over the week, so everything is treated once a week?

      For my horse recovering from a hip injury, I have been treating her once a week for a full treatment but working the injured area every day to help make her comfortable and promote circulation. I have been working on the opposite hip where she is carrying most of her weight, to keep it loose too. This comfort treatment is every day. Is that too often? She responds and appreciates the treatment.

      Also, when at competitions, is it ok to treat the horses the night before the endurance phase and a couple of hours after? Or is that too much? Look forward to hearing from you.

      Answer:

      It sounds like you're doing everything right. Once a week is a good schedule for training or injury both. You don't have to do the whole horse at the same time.

      As a general rule, as long as the horse is responding and releasing, then continue to do the treatments. If you are seeing results and benefits every day with your mare, then I would do what you're doing. I often do horses the day or night before an event. If it's a new horse that you don't know, especially someone else, it is better to do it a few days ahead of time the first time.

      After the event I usually get better responses the next day, but with endurance horses anything you can do to relax muscles and get circulation going right after is good. Keep up the good work.

    • Can this work help my performance horse relax?

      Question: 

      I have bought your DVD, watched YouTube, and get your newsletter.  I have been trying my "amateur" body work on my 6 year old Appendix mare and it is amazing!  The feedback I get from her is text book.  It's like actually having a conversation with her.  I can't even explain the feeling when she falls asleep in my arms. My question is, I have a very talented 4 year old QH mare who we want to show western pleasure and trail.  The problem is she is such a nervous nelly that she can't relax her brain enough to translate to her feet.  Will this kind of work help her relax?  Where should I concentrate?

      Answer:

      Wonderful to hear that you are having great results. The short answer to your question is 'yes', this work can help your horse become calmer or at least contribute to a calm and unworried demeanor. While there are many reasons why a horse can be nervous (personality, training, new situations), one of the causes of nervousness/worry in a horse is soreness or discomfort. Walter Zettl says in his book "The Circle of Trust": "A sore horse is a worried horse...". When you first start working with a young horse, you are not only asking her to learn a whole bunch of new things, but you are also asking her body to change, develop muscle, find confidence in certain movements etc. Releasing tension that builds up during the process can only help make your horse feel relaxed and comfortable. Keep up the good work!

    • Laser Therapy

      Question:

      I've been reading a lot about laser therapy and was wondering about anyone's experience with it, pros or con's. Many websites seem to think it's the best thing ever, and I'm wondering if it's just a passing "treatment du jour" or if it’s really therapeutic.

      Answer:

      I don't have any direct experience of the effectiveness of laser therapy (on me for instance), but I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who use it on their horses. I think there has been clinical evidence that it stimulates circulation, which is how horses heal themselves, so my guess is that it probably is effective in that way. As for whether it is just another "treatment du jour", I guess we'll have to wait 'till another jour to find out.

    • Feeding prior to bodywork. Does it matter?

      Question:

      I have heard different schools of thought on whether a horse should have: Some feed at dinner or breakfast or none, or a full meal prior to body work.  My thought process is that the animal’s blood flow would be directed toward digestion rather than new blood flow heading toward the areas that healing/work is occurring... Does it matter?

      Answer:

      Horses really naturally eat all the time, they are designed to eat constantly and do everything while they are eating. In my experience it does not have any negative effect on the horse, if the horse was fed right before the bodywork.

      Of course, you'll want to remove hay from the stall while you are working and may want to let the horse finish his grain if you show up at a barn during feeding time. The barn's schedule is something you cannot influence. Food as a distraction can be a factor, so you'll want to eliminate that.

      I usually let the horse eat, if we are interrupted by feeding time. I just take my notes while he's eating, then return to my work once he's done.

    • The horse sweats in around an injured shoulder when performing bodywork

      Question: The problem with this young mare is that the damaged muscle is pretty much hidden by the scapular though I can get some access from cranial border of scapula and she responds really well to massage. She is very sensitive around C4/5 and starts yawning and blinking as soon as I touch lightly. She also curls towards me as I do the foreleg stretches as shown on Jim's vid and really stretches her neck down.

      She doesn't sweat when I work on her.

      Owner is so far really pleased with the bodywork results - the mane used to flip to the other side top and bottom of neck but is now lying flat. When the chiro looked at her she was really pleased with the improvements and feels she will always need some soft tissue work to keep her freed up.

      Answer: As the problem may be affecting muscle or in nerves under the scapula, I think that the shoulder/scapula releases might be a way to release tension that may be putting pressure on nerves in the area. Getting your hand under the scapula with the C7 - T1 release may also help.
      Injuries to the shoulder causing nerve damage were common enough in the past to be given a name; "Sweeney". I don't know who the guy was who was unfortunate enough to have his name attached to the condition, but that's what it was called. 

    • Horses sweating while doing bodywork

      Question: I was wondering why a horse can start sweating during/after massage? The same thing happened again with a different horse on Monday, the mare sweated in areas that she had shown sensitivity in during the evaluation.

      Answer: Your question is a good one and very observant one. I see it mostly in the summer months when it’s hotter and it’s easier for the horse to sweat from any type of exertion. I’ve seen it a lot when working with the Pap-IMI machine. It’s a European physical therapy device that causes muscle contractions in areas that are inflamed. If you work on the spot long enough the muscle will release and the spot that you’re working on will break a sweat. After the sweat the tissues are softer and when you show up the next day or whenever the next session is, then the region has released and the muscles are typically much more relaxed and the spinal segments and nerve reflexes are less sublimated and reactive when I check with the Activator adjusting tool. When working with Jim’s technique (in the summer months), then I notice the same type of reaction when you get a good release, which is typically at the base of the neck and shoulder region for a TB in race training. Sometimes just the heat of my hand on their coat in the summer will cause sweating. All the horses that I worked on over the past two days at Del Mar had big sweat reactions. One of them had their entire left side of the neck break into a full sweat when he started getting agitated. I call this the “Sweat Barrier.” Some horses break a sweat easily, some only after getting really agitated or as Jim calls it “fidgety.” When we use the Thermotex Infra-red diode blanket we go until we get sweating, even in the winter. I take it as a sign of release and the muscle changing its “steady state” or homeostasis level of tension.
      There is some “deep science” involved with this reaction, which was (of course) analyzed by the Germans. There is what the Germans call the Connective Tissue Matrix (or Matrix for short) and sometimes referred to as the “Ground Substance,” which is a complex of compounds and cells formed by the connective tissue or Mesenchyme. A lot of the Functional Medicine treatments in German Biological Medicine are aimed at activating the Mesenchyme which is considered by them to be an organ on its own right. It holds all of the various organs and tissues together and is responsible for cell-to-cell communication (which occurs not only with cellular molecules such as peptides and proteins, but also with light and electricity and temperature as some of the healing peptides and molecules are only produced under certain temperature conditions, such as Heat Shock Proteins) and the transfer of groceries into and toxins out of the cell system. Fritz Pop’s pioneering research on the colors emanated by cells resulted in the development of soft lasers for physical therapy application. By flooding a dysfunctional area with light from specific wave lengths the cells begin to behave more normally or healthfully because it effects the functioning of the Matrix. This Matrix has two main states: Gel and Sol. The Gel state is when the tissues are firm and tends to be cooler, the Sol state is when the tissues are more pliable and tend to be warmer. So by warming the tissues up, or as in the summer when they’re already warm (One of my Chinese medicine teachers used the summer to do more of this type of work on people because he could make progress more easily than in the winter) and improving and provoking circulation of blood, lymph, nerve, and mesenchyme (which includes the fascia) we can effect change at a cellular level from the Gel state, which is more solid, to the Sol state, which is more fluid. This will sometimes produce sweating from the spot you are working on. I consider this a good thing as it is often accompanied by progress in the work in the days and weeks ahead, which is extremely hard to produce at all in a Thoroughbred in active race training. Remember, it takes 99 Calories of energy to raise water to 99 degrees Celsius, and another 99 Calories to raise it the last degree to start it boiling. That last degree is the “Sweat Barrier” and some horses and people go into it easily and comfortably, while others get very agitated and uncomfortable or angry when approaching that last degree before the sweating release. 

    • Race Horses: When is the best time to massage?

      Answer from Jim Masterson:

      You need to focus on the right poll, neck/shoulder/withers junction, and left hind to help your lead-change problem. It might also help to work on the horse (just kidding). Make sure the poll/atlas is loose after each session. Don’t go straight for the problem or get too attached to one spot if it gets too difficult. Back off, maybe move to the other side, or approach it from a different angle every few minutes. Go back and forth, break it up a little. Stop and have a hot sake or something. Take it easy on yourself. If you get into too much of a struggle on one spot, it will turn into a…well, struggle.


      I know you’ll be able to make him more comfortable taking the right lead. Let me know how it goes.

      Jim Masterson


      PS More advice: when his head is down or relaxed even a little bit, try gently (I said GENTLY!) rocking the nuchal ligament back and forth. Often this helps with the release process.

      Another answer from Geoffrey Pfeifer:

      I just spent a couple weeks working in India in March and got to spend some time at the race track in Bombay and Dehli, so now I am Swami Equinanda... I wish I had a crystal ball for questions like these...The interesting thing about Standardbreds is that they are completely different than Thoroughbreds. Most TBs can't tolerate racing more than once a month, while the SBs will go every week and are trained and warmed up in a much more vigorous way than TBs. About the time a TB is in good enough shape to run in a race they're also ready to breakdown. The other interesting thing is that the TB breeding is starting to dominate in the SB. The old-timers tell me that just in my lifetime the SB head has gone from jug shaped to looking much more like a TB now. Just look at the old photos and you'll see the difference a few decades can make. SBs are trotting and pacing much faster than they did a few decades ago. Meanwhile the TB times haven't changed at all.


      So how do you treat them? With TBs I stopped working on them (even lightly) on the day of their race because they always ran terribly when I did. Always. It didn't matter if it was a graded stakes horse or a bottom-of-the-barrel, non-winner-of-a-Ham-Sandwich Claimer. Sometimes you can work on them lightly the day before the race, but you really have to have a good relationship with the horse to have that turn out OK. My rule of thumb for the TBs is that I won't touch them for a minimum of 2-3 days before the race. That tells you how much time they need to recover from a decent Masterson Method, Myo-fascial, Microcurrent or Instrument-assisted spinal adjusting session. My favorite race prep program is to work on the horse right after their 3 racing speed exercise works before their race. So that usually means start working on them 3-4 weeks before the race they're being pointed towards. When they get off the track from their work and have been cooled down, showered, legs iced, legs poultice, groomed and fed, then you can work on them. If you can't get them that day, then get them the day after. If you can work on them the same day they work, then you can decrease some of the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). If you get them the day after the work or later, then a lot of what you will be working on is the DOMS. My summary of working on Albertus Maximus before his Breeder's Cup win that I wrote for Jim's Blog summarizes this process. It is also a good example of what type of strange little problems pop up after works and shows that if you don't get it worked out when it's a small problem, it might become a big problem later on. I recommend that they have at least one real racing speed exercise work after you've worked on them, because if they release well, their entire stride pattern will change and sometimes that feels strange to a TB and they might train worse initially as they are adjusting to a more open stride.


      With SBs you can get away with a lot more. They are much less sensitive to being disrupted than the TBs. You can work on them once or twice a week and will notice that they're mostly improved from the work the next day. I'm too gun-shy from my experience with the TBs to work on them the day of the race. 3 days before is still my minimum unless I have worked on the horse extensively and the driver said the horse trained great the next day. Then you know that particular SB can recover from the bodywork in time to race well the next day. In that case I might work on them the day before the race because I have established a good working relationship with that particular horse. Plus the SBs are being driven at night so it gives them more time to integrate the work. If you've never worked on the horse before, give it a minimum of 3 days before the race in case the horse takes time to recover from having their compensation patterns disrupted by a lot of releases. If it's a really big race and you've never worked on the horse before consider giving it even more time, especially in a TB.


      Good Racing Luck to y'all.

      May your Jockey or Driver be making more money by having your horse win than having your horse loose.
      May the Stewards actually run the race they wrote for your horse.
      May your times in the Winner's Circle be many.
      May your time spent healing horses be a blessing to you as well as the horse.


      Geoff

    • I’ve watched equine massage before so I think I know what you do?

      Actually, the Masterson Method is unique and quite different from equine massage. We use a variety of techniques that are very light to the touch that essentially invite the horse to release tension in the soft tissue of his body. We also have techniques that restore range of motion of the most important junctions of the body:  the poll, the neck, the shoulders, the hind legs.

    • Equine Ulcers

      Question:

      I was wondering your thoughts on giving Masterson Method when the horse has an ulcer. The vet Dr Renee Tucker advices not to give any body work therapy if your horse has ulcer, of which according to reports 80% of horses do! As we are so non-invasive I cannot see why, maybe we can cause bleeding as we stimulate the blood circulation, but we also cause relaxation which lowers acid levels ...... your thoughts please.

      Answer:

      Your question is a common one as a lot of performance horses do have ulcers.  If the horse is under Veterinarian care than I would not do the bodywork per their instructions.  However, anything that reduces stress is known to help with ulcers and you can work on them if they are being given medication for them, but just keep in mind it should not replace Veterinary treatment or go against the Veterinarians instructions, we don’t want them upset with us.

    • Was wondering after doing the first session with a horse and getting get responses to the session how often can it be repeated?

      If you are paying for a session often people have their horses treated again after around 6 weeks, but that would be after a full blown all over bodywork session.  If you haven't done any courses and are working from the book and DVD you will probably find little and often works, you can do a little each day.  Your horse will tell you if they have had enough.

      If you find you are getting huge releases and a change in the way they are going then give them at least a week in between so their body can adjust.

    • Flehmen Response

      Question:

      I have a question regarding the flehmen response. I have just started using your method on my 7 year old reining horse. I have your book and DVD. I was using the head up for the poll and two different times during the treatment my horse displayed the flehmen response. He was moving around a lot a grinding his teeth. I stepped back and he locked and chewed and shook his head. So my question was does the flehmen response mean? Was I applying too much pressure or was this way of releasing?

      Answer:

      The flehmen response is normally the horses way of taking in a scent they are not used to, in this case you may pay more attention to the licking and chewing, shaking the head etc.  This sounds like you got a really good release, well done.

      Maybe the flehmen response was your horses way of trying to distract himself a little, when a horse starts to release it can be a little uneasy for them and they start to fidget.  I think this is probably what he was doing.

      Hope this makes sense, keep practicing!

    • Cold back horse

      Question:

      Any particular suggestions on cold back horse? Also Tb can't even work on with air gap pressure.

      Answer:

      If your horse is really sensitive to light tough and air gap try placing the palms of your hands on his back, (more definite touch) watch his eyes and stay where his eyes are soft or blinking, play around with pressures to see how he responds.  If you find a good spot then gently bring your hands closer to each other (lightly) to shorten the muscle.  This can help relax and soften the muscles and fascia.

    Horse's Behavior

    • What if my horse is mouthy or keeps nipping at me or the handler?

      If you are working on the horse that is mouthy or nippy, then tie him with enough room to bend and flex as much as he can without reaching you. If you are in a stall tie him to a piece of baling twine or something that will break if he pulls back hard. You don’t want him to break anything in the stall, and pulling back on something hard is often the cause of poll problems to start with.

    • Is intestinal gurgling a response?

      Question:

      I'm working my way through the DVD to learn this method. I've noticed while doing the bladder meridian that I hear LOTS of gurgling. I'm not sure if that can be a response, but I stay in that area until the gurgling quiets down a bit and then move on. I've also just gotten as far as working my way down his back massaging and I hear gurgling while I'm doing that too. So I'm wondering, is that a response, or is it unrelated?

      Answer:

      I've been researching a bit but have not come up with a solid answer for this question. My personal take on this: since the absence of gut sounds it a bad sign, the increased occurrence of gut sounds should be a good sign (up to a certain point).

      When gut sounds become overly active, it may also not be a good sign. However, we are looking at gut sounds in the context of bodywork and you will want to interpret anything the horse shows you in correlation to other signals, such as facial expression, position of ears, tension/relaxation of lips and muzzle, etc. When your horse displays the gut sounds, does he seem relaxed at the same time? This could then be the same relaxation response as passing gas. Or does he seem agitated? Attached a link on how to check your horse for gut sounds. I do feel - from your description - it can only be a good sign.  http://www.equestrianlife.com/videos/watch/241/How_to_Check_for_Gut_Sounds/

    • Food anxiety and generalized nervousness

      Question:

      Can Bodywork influence things such as food aggression and general anxiety/nervousness? One horse I work on (6 yr) gets VERY worked up at feeding time - pawing, jumping up and down, etc. When the feed is given to him, he dives right in, but if he's distracted and picks his head up, he eats with the food falling out of his mouth - teeth are fine. Otherwise he's a very nice, sensible horse for the most part. Another horse (mid-teens) will often have little OBEs (out of body experiences!), and will spook, drop a shoulder and spin - sometimes dumping his rider. Rider is a novice and I was hoping Bodywork might help him be more comfortable in his own skin. Sorry for being long-winded here. Anybody have any thoughts? 

      Answer:

      I don't see the food or eating being a result of bodywork, just that this horse is an overzealous eater and gets excited at meal time, have known a few like this. As for the second horse this could be a way of ridding himself of a rider, (taking advantage of the novice) you don't mention any lameness or other indicators something is bothering him. Bodywork certainly wouldn't hurt in either case and you may discover an underlying restriction or tension that may be relieved and they can be calmer. 

    • The horse bit me with I attempted to approach her poll on the right side

      Question:

      As someone new to the Masterson Method, working in a barn with thoroughbreds at a racetrack, I find the mares to be most difficult. I tried to help one of the mares in our care who spends her days with her ears pinned back. She was quasi-under the radar from withers back, until I attempted to approach her poll on the right side. Then she bit me in a place I would never show in public. Working with another mare who was more in tune with what I was doing, I found her to be more sensitive the second time I attempted the bladder meridian technique. I had light dawning when I realized she could feel the heat of my touch without even touching her – lighter than air. Most mares I take care of are so sensitive. I want to help them; I just have to learn how. 

      Answer:

      Sorry you got bit, but that's some of the hazards of working with horses and some of this could just be attitude. You will find with these very sensitive horses (TB's are very sensitive) you will be anywhere from 6 inches to feet off of them. And if possible have a partner to hold on to them so they can't kick or bite. In the MM "less is more and softer and lighter.” So you are seeing how effective the technique is. Another thing to be just keeps your intensity low. The big thing with the MM is that you want to take things slow and you not have an agenda. You are on the horse’s time clock, step back and allow the releases. If you are rushed or thinking you wants to get something done, the horse can pick up on this and reflect your intensity. 

    Performance Issues

    • Horse nodding at the trot

      Question:

      I work a 20 year old thoroughbred who nods his need a lot for the first 15 to 20 minutes of trot. Apparently he has always done this. I take my time letting him stretch. He seems worse on the left. What causes this and which Masterson moves are most beneficial? He has a nice round jump on single jumps but battles a bit with related distances as if stiffer. He also wind-sucks since he was sold. 6 years later the previous owner saved him from going to the butchers in a sale! I would love to help him.

      Answer:

      It sounds like something that has developed stemming from an old injury and became habit as he moves or starts out. There is probably some type of restriction in his shoulders that causes him to start out stiffly and as he warms up is able to work past it or comes out of it somewhat. I would suggest working on all 3 Key junctions – even the hind end, as this can be affected if a horse is trying to get weight off his front feet for some reason. Then focus on Scapula (Under Scapula, C7/T1 Release and LCF). If he’s been doing this for some time, it’s going to take time to stop the head bobbing as you are peeling away layers. As for the jumping and his feeling stiffer may be coming from the hind end as he has to collect and push more, so lots of hind end work will be helpful here. As for the wind-sucking, is a nervous habit that is very difficult to break, this can cause tension around the head poll/atlas. So releasing tension here would be helpful. A big pasture and turn out is helpful for these types of horses, so they have less to be bored with and start sucking. But it’s an addictive habit. Using the Masterson Method is all about working on the whole horse, because even if one area seems to be the issue, it involved the entire horse due to compensation they are using to relieve the pain in one area, so concentrating on all the techniques you’ll find that working in one area will transfer a release onto another area that you weren’t working on and gain a great benefit. It’s great that you are trying to help this horse and wish you good success. 

    • Mare will not engage bit on one side

      Question:
       
      I have a 4 year old mare that we cannot find a snaffle bit that she likes. She is very one sided and will not push up against the bit on that one side. She has had a few dental problems that have been dealt with by our vet. She has improved greatly but on occasion she still cocks her jaw (always to the same side) and will completely let go of bit. The vet did say she was overactive about anything that was done dealing with her head/mouth and said she may have TMJ issues. Are there specific things that could be done to address her possible TMJ problem? 
       
      Answer:
       
      Since you’ve eliminated medical issues with the Vet and had dental work done, there probably is a few things that can be done using Masterson Method. I would first start with TMJ, if you are familiar with MM, this would be just putting your fingers at the TMJ hinge and watching for blinks and wait for releases, then you could work with Tongue Release and Lateral Cervical Flexion, Head Up and Down. If there is restriction in the poll/atlas this can affect the whole head and once you’ve released tension this can help improve you horses reactivity. If you are not familiar with using MastersonMethod, you can try and find a practitioner in your area. 
    • Sweeny Shoulder

      Question:

      I have a 9 year old TB gelding that had a major injury to his shoulder when he was younger, I have had him for 4 years and the scar has been there since before I owned him. I am not sure what happened, based on what it looks like and the scar from the stitches, it looks like something penetrated his shoulder (fence or pole maybe). He has always had some soundness issues, shoulder being one, but the major ones have been dealt with. Now I want to figure out his shoulder! When he moves, specifically at the trot, he always looks lame and at the walk, he always has a bit of a limp. He normally works out of it, sometimes he doesn't. He doesn't seem to be able to fully extend this shoulder. 

      Answer:

      I am wondering, if he had Sweeney shoulder, but it was never diagnosed and not treated properly, would light work benefit it? Or would it be worse now? Since I have owned him, he has always been in light work, turned out ALL day, sometimes 24 hours, gets regular massage and chiro work and also wears back on track products. If the issue is not Sweeney, would it be possible that he has no nerve endings? or would he not be able to walk if he had no nerve endings? I did some research on Sweeney and watched a couple videos, and it sounds like my horse and watching the other horses move, moves like him Sweeney shoulder is the atrophy of muscles in the shoulder area. Some of the muscles that may be involved are supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and triceps. The lack of use of the muscles usually follows some sort of trauma or any lesion of the limb or foot. Often the nerves are also involved (suprascapular nerve involvement). This nerve supplies the muscles. 

      Causes: 

      Trauma of some sort is often the cause. Traumatic injury caused by the horse running into an object such as a fence, tree, or another horse. Also, a kick can be the culprit. A fracture can cause Sweeney shoulder. If there is no visual trauma it is often hard to diagnose Sweeney shoulder until there is visible atrophy. The shoulder blade muscles shrink up near the withers and narrow near the point of the shoulder. Also, there is a noticeable hollowing on each side of the spine of the scapula, especially in the infraspinatus area, resulting in prominence of the spine. Another sign of Sweeney shoulder is the horse's inability to extend the shoulder. In some cases there may eventually be looseness in the shoulder joint. The shoulder will look like it is slipping.

      Treatment: 

      When treating Sweeney shoulder the cause needs to be determined. Massage or electrical stimulation may be of help for atrophy. Anti-inflammatory drugs are often given. Sometimes surgery is performed. 

      Prognosis: 

      If the cause can be determined and removed, the prognosis is often good. If there is neurogenic atrophy, the prognosis is guarded. Mild nerve damage should recover in 6-8 weeks. A cut or scarred nerve is considered more severe. Also, if there was a loss of blood supply healing of the damaged area is usually diminished. Nerves can regenerate, however, in severe cases it may take more than a year or perhaps, not at all. "Such cases are candidates for surgical release. If the nerve has been severed, recovery is unlikely." Sweeney Shoulder Much of your success will be based on whether the radial nerve has been too badly damaged. However, radial nerves will repair if given enough time; the main thing to do is to support the opposite leg while the injured leg is not being used, as the horse is frequently lost due to the support leg failing during the healing process. Sweeney can respond well to massage and ROM, but be aware you will not be able to do “Masterson Method” specifically on this shoulder and the opposite, so there will be work around you’ll have to use to “reach” these areas. A very good start is Bladder Meridian, but the more physical moves are often just too much for these horses, especially if the injury is rather new. You might be able to use only pressure points, and Bladder Meridian techniques…which can be very effective and help to chip away the restrictions more gradually. If his lameness is intermittent then possible with regular light work and the bodywork you may able to bring him to a certain level of functionality, however, there is a chance he may never be wholly sound. Nerves will regenerate and if they’ve been damaged from the injury it takes a very long time for them to heal. Some of his restriction with going forward with his leg could be due to scar tissue that is binding as you don’t know the extent of the injury, how deep it went? It sounds like you are doing everything possible and glad he has a carrying owner. But you may have to resort to a Veterinarian for a complete diagnosis of Sweeny Shoulder and other options. I hope that this is helpful. 

    • Testing positive on hoof points

      Question:

      If a horse test positive on the hoof reaction points (in the girth groove area, for example) is there any release that can help this? I know we discussed some hoof concepts at the clinic but can't recall this. Or, because it is hoof pain, is it something that can't be addressed through MM?

      Answer:

      Testing of a hoof point on the girth is a sign that something in the front foot or leg on that side might be hurting. You want to put that information together with other signs that there might be front foot pain, such as atlas/poll pain on that same side, and possibly tightness or soreness on the hind diagonal, to get a more accurate possibility (how’s that for a concept!), or accurate assessment of front foot pain. You can put that all together with any other data, such as movement, flexions, etc. to determine if you might have a problem. As far as getting rid of the soreness in the girth area or anywhere else in the body related to the foot, all the front end releases such as poll, neck, shoulder, etc, will help, and massage of the pectoral muscles at the girth will help, but if the foot is not taken care of, then the muscle soreness will come back.

      As far as the hoof, joint, ligament, or whatever the primary cause, the bodywork will probably not “fix” the problem by the time it has reached a lameness stage. But it will help in other ways; it will increase circulation to the limb (circulation is the biggest healer in the horse), enervation in the limb, and most of all, it will release tension in the body that prevents the horse from using the rest of the body efficiently and providing cushion and suspension to the legs and feet.

      That all said, you have to take the whole picture into account before getting too worried about a foot problem. For example, if the horse is in regular work, training, showing, everyday, and is standing in a stall the rest of the time, then he will probably have sore feet. So it may not be a veterinary issue that you need to be worried about. However if all the signs point considerably to one foot more than the other, then there might be a reason to have it looked at. Does that make sense?

      Hope this helps to clarify the hoof points in general. Let me know if there is anything else going on with your horse that I can help you with.

    • Cold Back, cinchy horse

      Question:

      Can you explain how to deal with cold back? I'll be massaging a horse that is very cinchy; it takes almost a half hour before they can cinch him tight enough to mount the saddle.

      Answer:

      Cinching can come either from a very sore back, possibly due to poor saddle fit, present or past, or more commonly in my experience, from pain in the caudal pectoral muscles down near the "armpit" where the girth tightens behind the front legs. If these muscles are sore (poke them to find out), it is often a sign of sore front feet. If the horse's neck, shoulders and poll are also tight and sore, this is probably the case.

      The first step to easing this pain is to release the tension in the neck/shoulder/withers junction by releasing the shoulder blade or scapula as shown in the DVD. If the sore feet are causing the problem, then the pain will continue to come back, but if there is an improvement at first then you know you are on the right track.

      If the cinching comes from a sore back (palpate down the back to find out), then the back may be sore from the present saddle fit, or accumulated pain from poorly fitting saddles in the past. I always release everything I can in the front end, then the hind end, then work on the back. It is especially important to release tension in the sacro lumbar/pelvic junction to get the back to relax. If the back is really "cold", then the muscles will have atrophied and the back will be flat and dull to pain. If this is the case, then the girth area is probably the culprit. Again, see front feet, pectorals, neck, and poll connection.

      The last area that may be causing this is the withers. After you release the scapula and get rid of the pectoral pain, palpate for pain in the withers area or wiggle the withers to look for a reaction. Withers pain can come from poor saddle fit, or from accumulated tension from compensating from (sorry to keep bringing this up) sore front feet. Hope this helps. Let me know.

    • Horse jaw

      Question:

      I have a unbroken four year Warmblood mare and over the last couple of days I've noticed that when she eats her jaw is clicking. Is this a growing thing or TMJ problem? She's due the dentist in June. What's your advice please?

      Answer:

      Good that you are lining up a dentist as this could be very well be a dental issue, if her teeth are uneven it could be causing stress in the jaw and TMJ as she chews, which could be creating the clicking sound you hear.  Something you can do to help alleviate some stress and tension is find the  temporomandibular joint and very lightly hold your fingers over that joint, watch for blinks from the horse and hold there until the horse responses with a release.  By lightly, meaning air gap touch, which would be barely touching the hairs on the joint to egg yolk touch, which would be the amount of pressure you need to break the yoke of an egg when you are on the spot where the horse is holding tension in the joint they will blink, if you aren’t sure move away from the spot and come back and watch for the blink again, this should be consistent with where there is tension in the joint and your direct contact with the point.  Releases from the horse would be licking and chewing, dropping their head, eyes half closing, sometimes yawning. Sometimes if there is a lot of tension the horse may get a bit fussy, just lighten your touch more and stay.  When they’ve had enough, they will let you know, but doing this in the meantime before your dental visit will help.  There are other helpful tips and demo’s on how to do this on YouTube if you google MastersonMethod. 

      Once you’ve had the dental checkup and the condition persists, then there may be other factors that are still affecting the joint.  Some other MM techniques can help here as well.

    • Drop shoulder

      Question:

      Could you please help? My horse has recently started to drop his front left shoulder on canter. He then gives a good buck and throws you. Any ideas what the problem may be and can this treatment help. Teeth and saddle checked. I have also had someone to check his back and have been told that's it ok too but I’m not sure as I really don't know what else it can be. Can this treatment help or do you have any ideas. He is a lovely gentle natured horse in the field and always very we'll behave hence so out of character.

      Answer:

      Thanks for contacting us and if you are familiar with the Masterson Method (MM) at all you know that this can provide relief for a horse ins so many ways.  What you are describing so often the horse is labeled bad and it’s a training issue, when actually it’s a physical issue and he is reacting to the pain with his “flight/fight” response.  It’s always worth a try to use the MM or find a Masterson Practitioner that is close to you and determine what is bothering your horse.  It seems that you’ve tried to rule out a few issues already.  I would next perhaps look at his feet?  Is he barefoot or shod, have you noticed any compensation in his front end as he moves out?  Other than just the dropping of his shoulder and bucking?  Bucking is usually indicative of a sore back and is pain-related rather than training issues.  You’ve eliminated the possible saddle fit issue and “back” issue, however other indicators could be from soreness in other parts of the body, Pain due to issues in the feet or legs and Pain or anticipation of pain in general.  So when examining him it’s a good idea to check him all over.  As for your explanation this occurs after you ask for a lead on the left and he drops his shoulders I would definitely examine his feet and legs all the way up.  The C7/T1 vertebrae junction is located under the scapula, which is held on to the body with only muscles and tendons/ligaments there is not “collar bone” to attach the front leg to the rest of the skeleton, and this junction can get “stuck” and we do have a technique that lets us get to that junction to help release it.  How about when you tack him up, does he appear “cinchy” on his left side as you tighten the girth?  This also indicates soreness in the feet.  Is he short strided in the front, especially his left leg?  Also this could come from the hind end on the opposite side, so I would also concentrate on checking for reactivity on his right hind end, if there is something going on there it will compensate to the left front.  You can start with using the Bladder Meridian and go over both sides of your horse and make note of where you find reactivity, i.e. blinking, licking and chewing or other reactions.  You will find the reactive areas are where he is carrying tension and stress which would indicate something there has causes pain and/or restriction.  Long term pain creates restriction.  When you do this remember to go slowly, search for blinks, stay on the blink until it’s gone and usually the horse will release with a lick and chew, then continue on, if you aren’t sure of a response, go back over it and check, if no response you move on.  If he gets real fidgety, that is a response and there is probably pain or restriction in that correlating location.  Once you’ve done the Bladder Meridian, you can move on with the other techniques, especially the shoulder (Under Scapula Release, C7/T1 and Wither Release) and see what transpires, you will probably see an improvement on the first attempt.  Let us know how this goes and if you want you can check our website and locate a practitioner close to you.

    • Front Leg

      Question:

      My mare has a limp on the left front at the walk & trot. I have had a vet & a chiropractor check her to no avail. I was checking her left leg yesterday & noticed that she would move her leg when I rubbed the splint bones. I also noticed that the little bones up between her ears were different heights so I held light pressure their & she didn't like it. Also her fetlock joints don't flex to 90 degrees but she doesn't seem sore anywhere else. Is there anything I can do for her to figure out why she's limping & fix it. Please let me know if you need more info.

      Answer:

      Sorry to hear about your mare.  First, a couple of questions.  Did the Vet do any x-rays of the lower leg or foot?  Is there any heat or swelling in the areas you say you rubbed on?  No possibility of abscess in the foot,  no recent injuries that you are aware of, and a recent onset injury?  How old is your mare and what is her main job?  Sorry to ask all these, but need a clearer picture.

      How does the mare bend to the left, does she seems stiff and can’t round herself?  When you pick up her leg and bring it back or forward is she reluctant to do so, does she seem restricted in the left shoulder and neck?  How familiar are you with the Masterson Method so I can make some suggestions as to what to do for her

    • Buckling at the knees

      Question:

      When my horse is sleeping standing up, his front legs buckle and he nearly falls over before catching himself. He also doesn't want to give his hind feet for trimming. I rarely see him lie down to sleep, although he does roll, so he may be sleep deprived if he is not lying down at night. Have you seen this and had any success correcting it with your bodywork?

      Answer:

      While it is uncertain why the Stay apparatus becomes dysfunctional, there are many theories but some of it can be due to biomechanical stress.  Given the fact he is reluctant to pick up his hind feet points to his inability to possibly support himself on his front as the stay apparatus isn’t functioning properly.  As for lying down, if a horse isn’t comfortable or feels safe in his environment they may not lay down, or you may just not see him when he does.  They don’t lay for a full 8 hours as humans do.  Either way and if you’ve eliminated any necessary Veterinarian concerns, it is possible that with MastersonMethod that some of the tension release can help in improving the horses stance and make him more comfortable in standing.

    • Severe head tosser

      Question:

      I have a confirmed head tosser - he was that way when I bought him as a 9 year old, 3 years ago. He has some history of abuse in his past, and when I got him he was distrustful of everyone and everything. He's a lot better now, but still is defensive. I've been working with a chiropractor (who is also a vet) on the head tossing issue - he does it in all settings - not just specific ones. Her assessment is that he is "loose in the poll" and a little crooked in the sternum.

      Here is my challenge. I am 5'3", he's 15.2.I can reach his poll area, but he "freaks out" with any kind of pressure, even light pressure. When he jerks up, I am not tall enough to 'stay' with him, and he can dislodge me from any stool I might stand on. Also, if I try to do the lateral neck release, he doesn't like any pressure anywhere on his face; even just to rest a hand there, so encouraging the bend is a challenge. Looking for any suggestions that might help. He has thus far responded well to the bladder meridian exercise thought he wither area, I'm not getting much on the hind end so far. I am hoping I can figure out how to release his tension. I am mostly a pleasure rider focusing on dressage, a little jumping and trails in warmer weather.

      Answer:

      Head tossing can have numerous root causes, best explored with the help of a vet. For example, I was once called to a notoriously head-tossing pony, as a 'last straw' kind of attempt to help this horse. He did calm down during the session and responded nicely to soft work. However, bodywork did not solve his head-tossing problem. The horse was later diagnosed with numerous allergies and photo sensitivity and did much better after receiving respective supplements and medication as well as a mask when going outside.

      As long as you stay soft, slow and considerate, you can do no harm and only help this horse, especially to overcome some of the tensions developed through this habit. However, there will be more investigation necessary to really help this horse.

    • Nerve damage and proprioception etc.

      Question:

      Do you have any specific techniques or advice for horses that have sustained nerve damage and as a consequence have poor proprioceptive and are not using correct muscles for the job. A client's horse sustained damage to her shoulder and possible nerve damage (though client is not sure which nerve/muscle was affected) probably the nerve serving subscapularis, as a yearling. She is now 5 years old and ridden but suspects she is using other muscles to compensate for damage.

      Answer: This is an excellent question. While I am not a vet or neurologist or anything like that, I did have a recent experience that was similar and prompted me to get expert opinion from my vet.

      My horse Yogi had a flip over accident where he severely injured his hind end, resulting in nerve and muscle damage. The accident happened in August of 09 and still today he has hard and lumpy tissue in the area.

      My vet - who is very open to bodywork and knows of the Masterson Method - advised me to do bodywork and massage Yogi's hind end. I heard the same advice from a physiotherapist who works with race horses in Kentucky, while at an internship at Kesmarc Equine Rehab center last year. Anything that brings blood flow to the area will enable the horse to heal as much as possible.

      Releasing tension through the Masterson Method bodywork will put the muscles in an optimal relaxed state. Then, all other therapy like muscle manipulation, light or laser (if planned) will have an even better effect.

    • Why are my dressage horse’s pectoral muscles sore?

      Of course, there can be many reasons why any body part is sore. However, if you have recently started working the half pass with your horse, or stepped up the amount of work you do at the half pass, the pectoral muscles of the chest can be sore due to the increased use of these muscles in the half pass. After the inside foreleg has reached out to the side in the half pass, the pectoral muscles pull the body sideways over the planted inside foreleg.