Monday, January 2, 2012

Horses Would Most Like to Whisper to ~ Jim Masterson

Jim travels the world as a physical therapist and bodyworker to some of the world’s top performance horses, from hunter-jumpers to trotters, racehorses to Olympic endurance competitors –
as well as horses that are regarded as beloved family members.

Horse whisperer.

Horse therapist.

A horse’s best friend.

All descriptions that come to mind with Jim Masterson in his very special work with horses.

Photos compliments of Jim Masterson.

To watch the way horses interact with Jim – is pure magic. For the casual observer, the first thing you would notice is how a thousand pound animal goes from a survival response and being on guard to becoming puddy in his hands in a matter of minutes.

 With each expert move Jim applies to a tender or tight muscle, the horse responds with less and less resistance. Eventually, he is able to gain complete cooperation from his charge that allows him to bend and twist a horse into a position that might remind you of a pretzel – for the purpose of stretching important muscles in the poll, neck/shoulder/withers junction, and sacro/lumbar junction. Some horses have even been known to lie down after a good massage and go to sleep. Just like a human.


For horse owners accustomed to a cantankerous, obstinate, or independent personality – the transformation from errant teenager to docile, sweet, cooperative, and adoring being is a sight to see.  Jim has pinpointed different levels of relaxation that include eye blinking, yawning, lip licking, shifting of feet, snorting, showing teeth, neck stretching, and shaking of the head.

Some horses go out of their way to give Jim an affectionate lick or nudge. This cross specie communication is an absolute delight to see.

Jim Masterson may very well be the person horses would most like to whisper to – and say, “thank you.”

SHAN: How does physical therapy for the horse help performance horses reach their goals?
JIM: Horses are similar to people in that they are not perfectly symmetrical. For example, they have a stronger, more predominant side, and a shorter or a longer leg, the same as most people. 
Under the stress of work, this asymmetry can develop into imbalanced muscle tension patterns that can pull the horse’s body out of alignment or eventually lead to lameness. 

Bodywork can help release imbalanced tension patterns that cause the horse discomfort or pain, and impede performance.

SHAN: What changes have you witnessed in this type of horse care since you came on board?
JIM: Interest in massage, bodywork, and “alternative therapies” for horses is booming. I think that certain therapies, such as cranial-sacral and acupuncture, are just as effective, if not more, on horses than on humans.

I think with horses there is less clutter between what’s going on with their body, and their brain or nervous system. They are in the moment.
While you’re working on a horse, he’s not lying there thinking, “this isn’t working,” or “what’s this gonna cost me,” or “if I come home to spaghetti one more time, I’m gonna….” Humans can spend thousands of dollars learning to be “in the moment,” and it can last a few minutes, or seconds at a time. For horses it’s natural. Even more veterinarians are learning and using acupuncture and chiropractic.

Masterson seminar in Palo Alto, California.
Jim loves teaching what he knows and has launched a physical therapy certificate program for horse-owners, which is accredited through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork Organization for continuing education units. He travels the globe holding trainings in Ireland, England, Germany, Australia, Canada, and the United States.

See Jim in action by going to:
For more information about Jim Masterson’s method and his DVD and recently completed book, “BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE: THE MASTERSON METHOD” or his worldwide training schedule, please visit
or call 641-472-1312

Shän Boggs is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. Her interests include science, technology, the environment, health, education, multimedia, art, and gourmet cooking.

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