It’s officially winter time and depending on where you live, you might have to deal with either mildly uncomfortable cold weather or a diabolically freezing nightmare. Horse people are very aware of the downsides of cold weather: lack of daylight hours equals less time to ride or for horse’s turnout, friskier horses, ice in water troughs, icy, snowy, or muddy soils, rug changes or (the horror) mucking out in a cold hard and slippery field. Those of you who live in tropical areas may not know what we are talking about, enjoy your good fortune!!
Most horses love cold weather though. They are much more stressed in the heat, with flies and other annoying insects bugging them. But what about bodywork in winter? Is it still effective in cold temperatures? Well, we questioned our MMCP and Fieldwork Students Facebook Group and researched this, and our conclusion is that it can still be effective even in cold temperatures!
It is going to depend on how extreme the weather conditions are, on the horse’s living conditions, and on the horse’s health needs. And of course in people’s ability to keep warm and not freeze in the process of doing the bodywork. Let’s get into this!
Making Bodywork for Horses (and Humans) Comfortable in Winter
Because of the winter downsides mentioned above, horses may get less turnout time in winter and less exercise, which implicates a reduced amount of movement. Lack of movement is never good for horses, especially for their joints. For this reason, maintaining a regular bodywork schedule for these horses can be very beneficial.
The majority of the questioned MMCPs answered that according to their experience, practicing The Masterson Method® in winter is still very effective, and claim that after a while, both the person and the horse warm up. It will depend of course on how cold is cold and where the bodywork is being performed. It would be very difficult for the person or the horse to focus on the bodywork if they are outside in extreme cold, a snowstorm, or heavy rain. This is the time to use our common sense.
If you do bodywork with horses in a barn, cold temperatures are going to be less of an issue than if you do it outside. After the bodywork you should keep the horses warm inside for a while, in a stall or better yet, if there’s the chance, letting them move around lightly in an indoor arena. If they have to go back outside, it would be best to wait for a little while and put their blanket (or rug, as it’s referred to in some countries) on, if they usually wear them, so as not to suffer a big temperature contrast.
If you are working with a clipped horse or any horse that is shivering with cold, you may consider doing the bodywork without removing the blanket or using a wool or fleece cooler, as it will help keep the horse feeling more comfortable. You can fold back areas of it as you need to access parts of the horse. Some practitioners claimed to have tried doing the bodywork over the blanket and that it still had the same effect: the horse blinked in the spot where he needed it and then released accordingly.
Tips for the Humans Doing the Bodywork
Ok, so now we have covered how to take good care of the horses so that they keep warm and cozy, but what about the humans? Many times when doing The Masterson Method we are following the Search Response Stay Release technique, and that “Stay” means to stay still for a while. What can we do to keep ourselves warm when doing bodywork?
First things first: warm clothes! Layer yourself up in clothes. Wear thermal shirts and pants under your work clothes, put lots of layers on top, and use wool socks. Put hand warmers in your pockets to have them ready to use anytime or even put them in your boots to warm them up before you wear them. There are also heated jackets or vests available, so that might be a great option for people living in really cold areas.
And what about gloves? We want our hands to be warm when doing the bodywork, are gloves going to get in the way? Some people claimed to do bodywork with cotton gloves on and it worked as well, some people still preferred not to and warmed their hands now and then with hand warmers. That is going to be a personal preference, but if doing bodywork over the blanket can work, it is probably going to work if you have gloves on. A mixed option can be to use cotton or even wool gloves with the tips cut off.
Some people shared that they like to do some stretches or light exercises to warm themselves up before doing the bodywork, so that’s always an option too, as long as you center yourself again and relax before starting to work with the horse, of course!
In conclusion, we can say that bodywork is still effective in winter as long as we are sensible in choosing the best possible time and place to do it. It is also, of course, important to make sure that we keep ourselves and the horses warm and to avoid the horses experiencing sudden temperature contrasts after the bodywork.
Visit the Masterson Method Store to purchase learning resources such as the Beyond Horse Massage book and DVD or Online Streaming, and visit Masterson Method Courses to find a hands-on Seminar near you.