The Magic Masterson Touch

There’s a new addition to your horse’s healthcare team starting to take the world of equine horse healing with a subtle, yet powerful, touch. The Masterson Method, pioneered in the United States by Iowa’s Jim Masterson, is designed, in the words of Cheltenham-based practitioner Kathryn Reid, to “help the horse enter a parasympathetic state through our touch, by following the horse’s responses – knowing when and where to stay, and helps build communication, release tension, and build trust.”

For the past three years, Reid (who became certified in this method in 2018) has been working with case study horses, Viggo and Cooper, among many others, owned by sisters Jackie Sawrantschuk and Erika Sharples at Sharples Farm in Erin. Erika Sharples comments: “Cooper loves it. He totally gets into it…stoned out and relaxed. Once he even laid down after a session and started to snore!” The horses realize when Kathy comes, and stands at the gate patiently waiting. Kathy is a very calm person and really connects with them. She has gained their trust and confidence, and creates a space to let them feel safe, relaxed, and free to release tension.”

Reid uses the Masterson Method to help release physical, mental, and emotional tension. “There are areas of tension [in a horse’s body] we don’t even know about, and Kathy really gets in there and finds them. It’s both a mental and physical thing. She works as long as the horse needs it, and it’s very therapeutic for them,” Sawrantschuk adds.

All the horses on the farm receive treatment, and today’s patient is Timeo, a retired Appaloosa show horse, who specialized in liberty and trick-riding, with a long and illustrious career – travelling the world through the Odysseo-Cavalia Horse Show. He came to the farm four months ago, and is still working on finding his hoofs in the pack. He also had an injury to his right hind leg.

Reid begins with an initial evaluation, moving her hands over the horse’s entire body, looking for reactions that indicate tension. While she does that, Timeo’s ears point backwards, which might often be thought of as a sign the horse is upset or angry, “but the way and the location I am asking ‘how are you right here’, as well as other signs from the horse, help gather insight into where I can help the horse. He figures it out very quickly that I’m just here to help him release tension. The horse senses my intention, and that I have no agenda except to help them feel better.”

She does add that it can take some time and often a few sessions to earn the horse’s trust and that in The Masterson Method we work in “horse time”. Individual sessions could be an hour, or two, averaging an hour and a half, depending on the horse. “You have to give the horse a chance. Even with more difficult cases, I always find a way. There are certain techniques to help you know you’ve made a connection. You can feel that he’s here with me, and everything a horse does tells me something. Horses don’t waste energy.”

With Timeo, he is not lifting his front leg. Reid checks his teeth, which some new research shows a link to the front hooves.  I’m always curious.  She then checks the frogs of their feet, or hoof cleft, because that can indicate where a horse is bearing its weight.

“I didn’t know about this work until 2011,” Reid explains, “as it was only offered in the United States.” Already a trained Reiki Master, and Komyo Reiki Shihan, Reid took an initial weekend course, which led to five-day training course, “and I was hooked.  I joined the Masterson Fieldwork program, completing the intensive training in 2018.” The method, she says, takes horse bodywork to another level. “This work uplifts me. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. It teaches you so much about the horse as a sentient being.”

Reiki (Rei – universal/higher power and Ki – energy that runs through all life) is a Japanese healing art which helps to balance energy, letting it flow where it’s needed. “It might be my hands that pick up a type of energy that needs help shifting, or it may be intuitive, but I stay and let Reiki work. In both cases, when I am working, ‘I’ disappear. The Masterson Method brings in anatomy, plus so much more.  It works with the horse.  This participation and interaction are what makes the method fulfilling for those who use it and transformational for the horse.”

Reid says learning this and feeling its results alongside the horse “sometimes feels like magic. You throw away the clock, check your own energy and ego at the door, and flow with what the horse needs. You can see him processing – his ears move, eyes change, his demeanour changes. How long it is going to take, is not for me to say. In the case of Timeo, he’s going through a lot right now. He’s integrating into a new herd… It’s just so meaningful for the horse, and they relax in parts of their body where they didn’t even realize they were carrying tension. They appreciate the environment I am creating for them. It’s peaceful and safe.  Two of the most important feelings for all sentient beings to share.”

Reid picks up on another issue with Timeo. He is favouring his left side, which is obvious from his initial stance because his head is off center to the left. It’s not an uncommon problem with horses, as they are led from the left, and learn to watch humans out of their left eye. “By the end of the session, we want to have his head centered on his body. There’s a lot of feel that goes into this work,” she says as she asks him to rest his head on her arm – taking all the weight for as long as he needs to release tension in the poll/atlas junction and even relax his Temporomandibular Joint. “Subtle movement in a relaxed state goes deep into the horse’s body.”

Timeo pulls his head up, and it’s noticeable from his resting stance that his neck is starting to release and straighten. “We’re chipping away,” Reid comments, “With the Masterson Method, an important part of the work is standing back and giving the horse time and space to release and process. Releases might look like licking/chewing, yawning, stretching, shaking, rolling their eyes, etc.  It’s beautiful and then they often step towards me, and I know they are asking for more.”

This year, Masterson Method created a new course called “LIGHT TO THE CORE” and Reid is one of the first instructors in Canada now teaching this course to horse owners. “It’s wonderful for any horse owner whether their horse is healthy or recovering from illness or injury (vet cleared), or even before/after riding, or before the farrier visit. It really helps the relationship between horse and owner.” Classes are kept small, and another Masterson practitioner assists, so there is a lot of support for students. 

For more information about The Masterson Method courses go to

To contact Kathy Reid: email:


Author: LivingSpaces

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