by Stephanie Wilkins, MMCP and Coach

To answer how I became a Masterson Method Certified Practitioner (MMCP), I have to share why.  It was because of our spotted saddle horse Lincoln, who was having intermittent lameness and performance issues that were becoming chronic.  It got to the point where we questioned if his career was done and if it was time for retirement.  He was only 12 years old.  Vet checks and other modalities had been done, but nothing seemed to help in a profound or long-term way. So we decided to try something new.  I had heard about The Masterson Method® (MM) and knew that there was a certified practitioner near us, Kathy Tow.  Kathy came to us and did a full bodywork session with Lincoln and he was quite willing and responsive the whole time.  Two days later we went for a trail ride and Lincoln was a different horse.  Literally from the minute he hit the trail, he looked as if he was walking on a cloud.  I had never seen that much movement in his hind end.  He immediately went into a full gallop the minute he got into the woods, it was like he was saying, “I’m back and I feel great!”  That was the day we got Lincoln back!

The next day, my Masterson Method® journey began, but not before a phone call to Kathy thanking her for what she had done for Lincoln and asking her how I could learn more about this horse-changing method!  My next phone call that afternoon was to instructor Becky Tenges who would be teaching an upcoming Weekend Seminar, the introductory 2-day course based on the book, Beyond Horse Massage.  The course was scheduled for early January 2018 in Houston, Texas.  So my partner Jeff and I made it a family affair, and by the end of the day we were both signed up for the course.  We learned a lot at the seminar but it left us wanting more.

We were so impressed with Becky and her supportive method of teaching that we headed to Wisconsin for the Advanced 5 Day Course, which teaches even more techniques with 5 days of hands-on learning and a variety of horses and barns.  After the Advanced 5-Day, I couldn’t imagine stopping, I wanted to dive even deeper into the work because I felt that there was still so much to learn.  Seeing the benefit that it was continuing to have on Lincoln and our other horse, Ace, my desire to help other horses began to grow. The frequent and continued bodywork was profound for both of them and we were creating stronger and more trusting relationships.

Jim teaching the Sacrum Float Technique to a group of Advanced 5-Day Course students.

The next step I took to become certified in The Masterson Method® was the Fieldwork Course.  The course is split up into three separate learning blocks where you do full bodywork sessions with 5 different horses, two times each (so that’s 30 sessions).  After each bodywork session, I wrote up a report and shared it with my mentor, who then gave me written feedback that I could take with me back to the stall.  With the 6-month timeframe allotted for each of the three blocks, I knew that I would have to manage my time wisely since I also had a full time job.  But I didn’t want to rush through any of it, so the timing worked out well for me.  I enjoyed getting to know many different horses as I worked through the required case studies along with the mentors that would review each case study report and provide valuable feedback.  Those horses and mentors became some of my greatest teachers.  I would like to thank my Block 1 mentor, Sara Hein and Fran Cilella, my Block 2 & 3 mentor.

I enjoyed the progression through each block—they each have a specific focus or emphasis.  Block 1 is about gaining basic proficiency in the techniques, refining my timing, feel, and flow, and ensuring that my body mechanics were supportive and safe.  In Block 2 we added a focus on anatomy and what parts of the horse’s body were being affected in the techniques we were doing.  Jim wants us to have a basic understanding of anatomy, so during Block 2 I completed the Anatomy Course which really helped to solidify my knowledge.  In Block 3 we learn how to put all of the puzzle pieces together—between the information we hear from the owner, to the reactions and restrictions in the horse—I can start thinking about what the primary issue(s) might be. This is important because if we don’t help the owner see what’s causing tension or restriction in the body, we won’t ever really get to the bottom of it.  And I wanted to really help horses and their owners make a lasting difference.

The coaching sessions at the end of each block were the most enjoyable and most helpful part of the process.  Getting to work one-on-one with a MMCP coach to work on horses, ask questions, get feedback, and see where I was vs. where I needed to be, helped build my knowledge and my confidence.  I also assisted at courses as an advanced student.  After my Block 2 coaching, I traveled back to Houston, Texas to assist at an Advanced 5-Day Course. That was an incredible experience for me, I HIGHLY recommend this!  Not only did I refresh what I had already learned, but I was in a very different place with my technique proficiency and added knowledge. Getting to support and help teach others really helped me to take my skills, knowledge and learning to another level.  I would like to especially thank my coaches, Coralie Hughes for Block 1, Becky Tenges in Block 2 and Fran Cilella for Block 3.

The final step of the journey was the Certification Completion Course (CCC), which I completed in June 2019 in Jim Masterson’s hometown of Fairfield, Iowa.  Getting to meet the man who had created this incredible method and all of the horses that were benefiting from it was a wonderful experience for me. Being able to work with Jim one-on-one was truly a highlight!  I think it’s really special that Jim certifies each one of his practitioners and it was something that I had looked forward to throughout my entire MMCP journey.  The CCC was a remarkable experience in many ways, but sitting around a dinner table with Jim, his wife Conley, other assisting MMCPs and the other students getting certified, I realized that I was becoming a member of an incredible community of like-minded and passionate people.  Together we were all a huge part of something much bigger than just ourselves.  I had anticipated and waited for this final step in my journey—becoming certified.  A big realization came to me during my certification course, when I realized that there was no finality, it was simply the beginning of my journey.

Stephanie's graduation class photo at Jim's home in Fairfield, Iowa.

Since then I was asked to work on the Masterson Method Education Team as a coach.  As a coach I work with Fieldwork students to both guide and evaluate their progress with the techniques.  As far as Lincoln is concerned,  what has been so incredible to see is that with regular bodywork (every 1-2 weeks) his issues are much less and we continue to see improvements in his whole body.  I am convinced that with his chronic problems things just stored in his body and I am peeling them off one layer at a time.  With this training, I now see that some of his front end issues were related to hind end issues; I know that because of how he would ride. He wasn’t collecting himself and would put a lot of weight on the forehand.  We don’t see those issues much anymore, he uses his body much more freely and much more collectively.  His strides could sometimes be short and choppy and now his strides are nice and long.  I continue to be amazed at his responses to the work and continued improvements in his body!

I am so honored to be among the community of Masterson Method Certified Practitioners around the world.  I encourage any horse owner, rider, or trainer to seek out a MMCP near them to see what they can do to help improve their horse’s way of going. I live on a small farm in Flintstone, GA and serve a Tri-state area of Northwest GA, Southeast TN and Northeast AL. Feel free to learn more about me on my business Facebook page, High Point Equine Bodywork. To find a certified practitioner near you, I’d suggest you go to the Find a Practitioner page and see who’s near you!

Stephanie doing Lateral Cervical Flexion with Lincoln.

Editor’s Note: The Masterson Method Certification Course has evolved and developed since 2012 and is available in many countries all over the world.  To start your journey to becoming a Masterson Method Certified Practitioner, go to How to Become Certified.