My name is Becky Tenges and I am presently working my way through Phase II of the Masterson Method of Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork.
So here’s a question very few people can ask: What do McLain Ward, Rodrigo Pessoa, Bruce Springsteen, Jim Masterson…and me…all have in common?
The answer: All five of us were at the Altech National Horse Show that was held at the Kentucky Horse Park this year during the first week of November. And all five of us were completely focused on Saturday night November 5th. Rodrigo and McLain were riding in the Grand Prix. Bruce was in the audience watching his 19 year old daughter, Jessica, ride Cincinnati Le Silla to a 3rd place finish, beating out both Rodrigo and McLain.
And Jim and I…what were we focused on? Well, for those of you who have been to one of Jim’s seminars, we were doing what he teaches in his Masterson Method. We were touching horses: searching for reactions and restrictions; watching for the horses’ responses; releasing stress; improving range of motion…and all of this before these equine athletes were set to compete in the Grand Prix, the Maclay Finals and other National Horse Show classes leading up to those two major events.
Now for Jim, perhaps, the novelty of having the opportunity to work on this caliber horse has worn off…but for me? Not so much. This was definitely an amazing experience. Not in a million years and never in my lifetime could I have had this opportunity…not until I began the certification process in the Masterson Method and not until Jim put the wheels in motion for me to shadow his Florida-based partner, Bill Stanton, as he and Jim worked on the horses of Bill’s clients, as an adjunct to my assisting at the Masterson Method Weekend Seminar which also took place during the National Horse Show.
Of course it was pretty cool (and gave me great bragging rights to my 13-year old daughter) to get up close to these equine celebrities and their riders. But, truly, what was the most amazing part for me? I was afforded the opportunity to observe Jim and Bill, these two amazingly gifted men, working on some of the world’s best horses, bringing release and relief to these equine superstar athletes prior to and after their competitions.
Thanks to Jim, and together with Bill, I had the opportunity to watch and assist with somewhere in excess of 50 bodywork sessions on some of the nation’s top horses competing at the National Horse Show, including 4 of the 31 horses competing in Saturday night’s Grand Prix…and even including McLain Ward’s mount for the night. In addition, I was also one of Jim’s assistants at his Weekend Seminar Workshop that was conducted at the Makers Mark Secretariat Center located on the Kentucky Horse Park Grounds.
With the exception of about 6 hours of sleep a night, for me it was all equine bodywork…all the time…from Wednesday, November 2nd through Sunday, November 6th. After all of those bodywork sessions, I have been asked to write about what observations I can make about The Masterson Method and about this form of equine bodywork.
Besides the validation for this bodywork which comes from industry leaders choosing to provide their horses with this service, the other observations I can make are those related to things that I finally ‘heard’ which Jim says over and over again during his training seminars and videos. The most relevant and most applicable to others pursuing this work might best be summarized in the following three words: Relax, Release, Re-Evaluate.
Relax: In order for the horse to actually let go of their tension, the motion we are asking for through our technique must be accomplished with the horse in a relaxed state…which, of course, requires that we ourselves also be relaxed…and in my case not demanding…as we make our ‘request’ of the horse through the technique. In retrospect I now hear in my mind’s ear Jim saying—repeatedly—that the horse must be in a relaxed state. I get it now…he really means it!!
Release: This work is about the horse’s release (either the visible release given by the horse or the disappearance of the restrictions or reactions upon re-evaluation)…not about the human bodyworker’s rote doing of the techniques. The techniques we use are the process…the method (and not the end objective) that we utilize to encourage the horse to do the work of letting go of their tension.
Re-Evaluate: The tools we have at our disposal—the methods—to encourage the horse to release tension might need to be used more than once—actually two, three or even more times before we move on to another area of the body. Ummm…Really? Duh! I’m not sure why I had not grasped this fact from Jim’s teaching and my own bodywork sessions prior to this trip. Perhaps it is because when I had watched Jim work on horses during his training seminars and on videos, he is the ‘less interesting actor’ of the two…when casting my eye between horse and man. I realized during my time in Kentucky that in this dance that Jim does with horses, I had been more focused on the demonstrative releases that the horses give and not on keeping track of what Jim was doing. I was more focused on those spectacular moments Jim elicits from the horses, perhaps because they are so much more remarkable—and noticeable—than I was on Jim’s subtle, almost-indiscernible-at-times, actions…and his repetition…or continuation (STAY!) of those actions. It was not until I had the opportunity to observe Bill, Jim’s partner, doing his equine bodywork…and then later to observe Jim that I figured this out. These two men work on horses in much the same way. They use most of the same methods. Both accomplish extraordinary benefits for their equine clients. But, like me, Bill is more of a ‘checklist’ guy. So when I watched Bill do his initial evaluation of a horse; then begin to sequentially move through his techniques—using the Evaluation as his road map—but only progressing to a subsequent body location and technique after interim Re-evaluations revealed that Reactions and Restrictions had been eliminated (or at least improved); it was then that the light bulb of Jim’s lessons turned on in my head. After watching Bill work on countless horses prior to Jim’s arrival in Lexington, I then was able to watch Jim work with ‘fresh’, more patient eyes…and eyes that actually focused on watching Jim and not on looking for the horse’s releases. And guess what? What was available for me to see, to hear and to learn all along from Jim…was right there in front of me: he too is re-evaluating and repeating. I had simply been looking at the wrong character and missing the moments of Jim’s Re-evaluations…which are subtle and look a lot like inactivity to the unobservant eye!
It is said that a person needs to hear new information at least three times before it registers into his/her mind for immediate recollection. This truth has been taught to us over and over again. Sharp individuals might catch what they hear the first time, but most auditory learners need some repetition. Some people will never learn it by hearing it, and are visual learners and must see it. Still others only learn through doing it themselves.
The beauty of The Masterson Method courses is that Jim has structured them to offer auditory, visual and experiential learning opportunities. In the Phase II Certification process, we have the opportunity to learn by doing…by practicing to become proficient. Even so, I am the perfect testament that it is possible to hear (many more than three times), to see, to do…and, yet even so and still, to have missed some very crucial (and oft repeated by him) elements of what Jim has taught.
How lucky I am to have had the extraordinary opportunity—a multitude of times over 5 days—to hear, to see and to experience equine body work under the leadership of Jim and Bill, two masters in the field of equine body work. Thank you to Jim Masterson for making this body of knowledge accessible to those of us driven to helping horses in this way. And thank you also to him for creating the opportunity for me to shadow him and his buddy, Bill, at The Kentucky Horse Park, the greatest equine venue in the world, during a week with some of the World’s greatest horses in attendance…and under our fingertips.