relax - reset - rebalance
Everything you do with your horse from training, to diet, to living environment shows up in your horse's body. As a Masterson Method® Certified Practitioner I work with you and your horse to help balance not only their body but also their needs with your aspirations to get the best outcome for both of you.
Covering Warwickshire - and some surrounding areas dependent on distance
Not Local? Check out the Masterson Method website for your nearest Certified Practitioner
Integrated Equine Bodywork
Restoring function and balance to the horse's body
Led by the horse’s responses, I work through the body finding any tension they may be holding onto and help them release it by allowing them to move through it whilst in a relaxed state. By working with the horse in this way it can reach deeper structures restoring a sense of balance and relaxation to the horse’s body.
The 3 Rs
I work with your horse led by their responses to bring the nervous system into a parasympathetic state. This allows them to let go of their physical and emotional defences
By gentle repetitive movement and touch, supported by myofascial techniques, I bring awareness to areas of the body that may be holding tension that the horse has learned to block out as a way of survival and allow them to safely release it, facilitating new information for the nervous system to process
By working in the ways described it allows the horses own healing system to take over and once the bodywork has been processed they are able to find a more functional sense of balance
The bodywork is designed to be a complement to routine training to maintain good health but can also be beneficial in supporting other professionals between visits e.g. facilitating rehab, dentistry, farrier and saddle fittings – anything that involves a change to the horse that could have a knock on effect to other structures and tissues in the body
Please read on for a more in depth explanation and find out a little bit more about me and my services
N.B. Any injury or illness must be seen by the appropriate professional first and I require veterinary consent to assist in any rehab work.
The Whole Picture
No one has a perfectly symmetrical and straight body. We’ve all got conformational anomalies of one sort or another and our bodies make adjustments around them to allow us to function as best as we can. The longer we live life, due to posture or injury, the more adaptations and compensations we lay down unless we are working to correct them. It is no different with horses. Horses have to work quite hard to adapt to the lifestyles we want them to lead. Despite what some people might say, they haven't fully adapted to domesticated life, they have merely compensated for it. The problem lies when these compensations increase resulting in a state of restriction of movement and/or pain which interferes with functionality and sets off a chain reaction of additional compensation around the body. Left long enough these restrictions become dysfunctional and often this is when pain shows up.
I work with the horse to release physical and emotional tension in key areas of the body to maintain or improve performance, whether that is competition, hacking or just living life to the fullest. I do this by tuning in and feeling to where it is the horse needs me to be at that moment. By using soft touch and positional releases I can facilitate the horse's body to make changes within the fascial network and nervous system, enabling longer lasting changes.
I believe most people want to do the best by their horse. However, there is a huge amount of available information out there today, and much of it conflicting. Unfortunately, the way we break down the body to learn it’s different parts when studying anatomy or training can lead us to viewing it as a collection of separate body parts and layers of bones, soft tissue and organs that work independently or in groups. The best way to view your horse’s body is as an integrated system which is constantly making adjustments to its environment to try and stay in balance, physically and emotionally. When one thing is off the rest of the system works hard to keep the rest of the body working. We now know that that everything under our skin is totally in a fibrous elastic mesh called fascia. You are literally connected from tongue to toe and everything in between.
There are many things that can impact a horse physically and emotionally; from its conformation to its posture, digestive issues, issues resulting from training, tack, farriery and dentistry – basically anything in its environment that causes it pain or worry. These issues can occur in retired or non ridden horses too, although riding adds another level of stress to the body.
Having previously trained in Equine Facilitated Learning and Development I have a keen interest in horse behaviour and psychology. In my experience of bodywork the less you interfere and the quieter you can get, the more there is to hear. For this reason I chose Masterson Method® Integrated Performance Bodywork as my main practitioner training. This method puts recognition of the whole horse at its core in a manner that respects and involves the horse which in turn enhances the results.
However, bodywork is only part of my relationship with you and your horse. I advocate a holistic ‘whole horse’ approach to equine health care. Although I do not diagnose or treat specific conditions, I will work with you, your horse and your team of professionals on any factors past and present which may have an impact on your horse with the aim of preventing the same compensatory patterns re-occurring. Often what's showing up for your horse isn't the origin of the problem and I will support you and your horse in working out a plan of improvement. I may suggest a referral to an appropriate professional for any issues outside my professional scope of practice depending on what would be helpful to your unique situation.
If you would like to experience what can be achieved by giving your horse a voice - please get in touch.
*Things to bear in mind*
I don’t diagnose or treat specific or acute issues - this is outside the scope of practice of a bodyworker, if you have a particular concern over an illness or injury please contact the appropriate professional who can provide a diagnosis
I can't be a substitute for good training or living environment. Species appropriate care, both physical and mental are paramount to the healthy functioning of a horse and rider.
Different professions and modalities provide different benefits. I am more than happy to work in partnership with other professionals, by addressing any tension and discomfort in the body, to facilitate recovery and improvement.
Bodywork is not always a quick fix. For some horses they feel fantastic after a session, but with other horses it can take time especially if your horse is not used to bodywork, if the issue has been there a while or is emotionally charged for the horse. In these situations it takes the time it takes.
The issue(s) may not be where the pain is. Chronic pain is usually associated with issues elsewhere in the body. For example the majority of leg and foot pain originates higher up in the horses body.
The Masterson Method is non invasive and will not cause an issue that wasn't there to suddenly occur - but it might allow a previously hidden issue to emerge. This can be frustrating but it is actually a step forward as without addressing all the body is holding you'll likely find old issues returning and optimal performance won't be achieved. It may feel like you’re going backwards at times, but you are definitely heading in the right direction if you are allowing the horse's body to lead the conversation.
What is the Masterson Method®?
The Masterson Method® of integrated bodywork was developed by Jim Masterson in the USA. It is a series of non invasive but highly effective light touch and positional movement techniques that release tension in key parts of the horse’s body that affect performance.
As a prey animal a horse is hardwired to brace against pressure, both physically and emotionally. In the wild, this means they can block out pain or discomfort to mask any weakness to predators. Unfortunately horses can't always turn off this block once the original pain or discomfort has resolved, leaving residual tension and due to the complex muscular-skeletal-fascial connections that run throughout the body, they can also develop tension or compensation patterns in other areas of the body to help them cope. It’s also what makes it difficult to do work to a horse or on a horse as they can attempt to block this as well. In addition, it is not always possible to release this tension with simple stretches as the horse can often only move as far as the tension will allow.
My job as a practitioner is to stay underneath this 'brace' at all times recognising the subtle, involuntary responses the nervous system sends which enables me to work with the horse, gently bringing their awareness to these areas whilst keeping them in a relaxed state. This is what allows the release of tension and reduction of any unhelpful compensation patterns that affect the horse’s wellbeing and movement. The bodywork is structured to allow me to influence deeper structures in the body that I can’t physically touch.This can often prove beneficial for chronic issues that seem to re-occur.
The Masterson Method is a non diagnostic bodywork modality, which is why I generally don't ask to see the horse ridden or moving to start with or work on a set of specific points to help a specific issue. I don’t want to form a bias or mental opinion of any issue(s) before I’ve heard what the horse has to say. I work where the horse’s body is telling me I need to be. That way I know I’m in an active feedback loop with the horse. Sometimes removing too much of a horse's compensation patterns can prove detrimental as the body needs time to adjust. The skill is in understanding how much or how little is needed. Your horse is the only one who has clarity on what he is feeling and where. At the end of a session I put together owner feedback and the horses feedback in the session, to come up with a plan of action, which may include other professionals if appropriate. That is not to say you won’t see benefits after one session, but the results will be cumulative over further sessions.
Why would my horse need Bodywork?
Routine maintenance to complement training
This is an excellent complement to your horse’s health, whether in work or at rest.
All bodies have issues with asymmetry and left to their own devices long term they can result in pain, sub-optimal performance, restricted movement and even injury. You may train in a correct biomechanical way, but this is only a tiny percentage of the time a horse spends moving in its life. Bodywork address a whole host of physical and emotional issues carried by the horse.
Non ridden doesn't necessarily mean retired! These horses can be as active as their ridden counterparts, undertaking agility and liberty work. and need as much TLC. Retired guys deserve comfort in their bodies too even though they are no longer as active. Masterson Method is a great modality to help older/stiffer/injured bodies in a gentle and respectful way.
Prior to saddle fitting or the farrier/trimmer
A horses shape and posture can change after bodywork. Having bodywork done before other professionals work is a great way to ensure the saddle is fitted or feet trimmed to reflect the changed body shape and posture.
After the dentist
There can often be residual tension for the horse depending on the length of time their jaw is in the gag and the position of any head restraint, plus the effect the teeth adjustments have on the rest of the facial structures.
*Your vet is always your first port of call if these are suspected or evident.*
However, once an issue has been addressed, associated compensation patterns, both physical and mental, can remain often causing the original issue to reoccur. Addressing this through the appropriate bodywork is the best way to release your horse from this cycle of pain and restriction. Masterson Method is a great preparation for physio, osteo and chiro appointments to help any adjustments.
Do you have any of the following issues with your horse?:
Problematic asymmetry: stiffer one way than the other, restricted movement/gaits, uncomfortable standing 'square'
Tacking up issues, such as girthiness, fidgeting, nipping
Rushing transitions, difficulty with canter leads
Reoccurring issues remaining after appropriate treatment
General reluctance when moving
Arthritis or age related stiffness
Past injury or scarring
Changes in/undesirable behaviour
A high percentage of behavioural issues have their root cause in pain and once these have been correctly identified and addressed, some form of bodywork will usually be needed to support the horse to rebalance.
The great news is that the Masterson Method® is something you can start to do with your own horse straight away. Check out the Masterson Method® website for details and videos of techniques you can learn for yourself. I can also teach you The Bladder Meridian technique to carry on the good work and increase the rapport with your horse.
Although the Masterson Method® is very simple to learn, it has many, many layers of depth and subtlety to it. A Practitioner has undertaken training in anatomy, correct technique and through hands on case studies and coaching, learned more advanced techniques and how to read the horse. A session with a Practitioner adds even more depth to what can be achieved through this bodywork
I work in an integrated fashion and sometimes will incorporate some myofascial techniques where indicated.
15-30 min phone call to take a history and get to know a little bit more about you and your horse
Free of charge
I'll talk you through the before, during and after of a session so you'll know what to expect.
Full Bodywork Session
1.5 -2 hours
Your first appointment will take about 2 hours as I take a little time to introduce myself to you and your horse for the best possible outcome. As we become more used to one another the sessions often become shorter. (please let me know if you have any time constraints before the start of the session!)
I will follow your horses responses and feedback to tell me exactly what they need in this session.
It is helpful if the horse is not worked a couple of hours beforehand and has the rest of the day off afterwards in order for the body to process the changes. You don’t have to do this, but you’ve paid for the bodywork you might as well maximise the benefits!
I'll leave you with some techniques for you to use on your horse so you have some resources of your own to continue with.
Occasionally a horse will have a particular issue that needs a more tailored approach. In this instance a couple of shorter sessions rather than a full bodywork session would be more beneficial.
Prices: £45 per session - plus travel
(free within 10 mile radius Kenilworth; 35p per mile thereafter)
If you have a particularly nervous or anxious horse I can adjust the techniques I use to be so light I don't even need to touch the horse. Then I can work at the pace of the individual horse until they are relaxed enough to accept more.
This is often useful in cases where a horse has not been able to tolerate other forms of bodywork
Case by case basis
The History of The Masterson Method®
The Masterson Method® of integrated bodywork was developed by Jim Masterson in the USA.
In 1998, while Jim was working on the U.S. hunter-jumper show circuit, he noticed while watching physical therapists work on horses that the horse exhibited certain subtle changes in behaviour that correlated to what the therapists were doing. He learned that if you trust and follow what the horse is telling you as you work on it, the horse’s body will participate in the process of releasing tension. The result is not only an improvement in performance, but also in the trust that develops between the horse and human.
The effectiveness of the method Jim developed meant that in 2006, Jim was invited to accompany the U.S. Endurance Team to the FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany. Team member Jennifer Niehaus said afterward, “Of all the things that were done for my horse Cheyenne, the bodywork Jim did was the most beneficial. He has truly never moved as nicely as he did in Germany.”
In 2008 Jim was again asked to accompany the Team to the FEI World Endurance Championships in Malaysia. Team member Meg Sleeper, DVM; “It is impossible to overestimate Jim’s ability to keep performance horses working at their peak level. Simply put, he is like having a secret weapon.”
He continued to accompany the team to the 2010 WEG in Lexington, the 2012 World Championships in England, and the 2014 WEG in Normandy, France.
Nowadays Jim and his team of instructors travel worldwide to teach owners, trainers and therapists.
“If we are impatient, it is because we are concerned with ourselves. When it becomes about the horse, then we'll have all the time in the world.”
You made it! Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my website. It means a lot. (Unless of course you just skipped straight to this page -but that's ok, we also like people who are keen)
Orla Whalley BSc (Hons), MMCP
Kenilworth, Warwickshire UK