Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Therapy: Masterson Method (Iowa)
A horse of a different color
Therapy has a new meaning for equine expert

By SCOTT NILES Courier staff writer

FAIRFIELD — Jim Masterson of Fairfield is an internationally known therapist ... just ask any horse.

Masterson has been doing equestrian therapy for nearly a decade after working with show jumpers across the country.

“I was working with the top-level show jumpers and I saw they had horse therapists and I got interested in it and ended up developing my own method,” he said.

His method, the “Masterson Method,” uses massage and manipulation of the horse by reading the animal’s reactions to certain techniques.

“I try and read the responses of the horse; usually their mouth or eye movements tell you when their pressure is being released,” Masterson said. “Other indications are yawning and snorting or even chewing.”

Masterson said he learned the technique just by doing.

“I just started noticing the signs of when the horses felt more relaxed,” he said.

He said his method is a user-friendly way to help the horses relieve tension so they can be at their best during a performance. He mainly works with horses during top-level show jumping events, including the Equestrian Games in Germany in 2006 (which he was with the U.S. Endurance Team), the National Cup and the World Cup.

Masterson said the therapy he performs on a horse is similar to human massage, but different in that you cannot communicate verbally with the recipient.

“Each horse may have different signs to tell you when the pressure is released,” he said.

Masterson said his techniques are used by some jockeys on their race horses, but it is more likely to be used for show horses.

“We’re talking million dollar horses that I’m working on most of the time,” he said.

Masterson has traveled across the United States and throughout Europe, including Italy, England, Spain and Belgium, teaching his method and working on show horses.

He said the massage is usually performed the day of or the day before the event.

“It’s a way to release tension in areas they will need to use to perform well,” he said.

He also said different horses can have tension in different areas depending on the sport.

“Most of the tension is usually in the neck region,” Masterson said, adding horses are like athletes.

“You wouldn’t go tell your ball player to go home and have a beer if you were their therapist, you would try and work them out in the areas that needed to be worked out,” he said. “It’s the same for the horses.”

Scott Niles can be reached at (641) 683-5360 or via e-mail at

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