Have you heard about the Masterson Method yet? This innovative form of bodywork for horses was created by equine massage-bodywork therapist Jim Masterson. In many cases, all it takes is the tiniest of movements on your part to illicit a significant release of tension, stress, and pain in your horse.
Here’s an example: The Withers Wiggle may sound like the newest equine dance craze, but really it’s a gentle Masterson Method Technique that targets largely inaccessible muscles surrounding the thoracic vertebrae beneath the scapula. Release of tension there improves the horse’s suspension, extension, and fluidity of movement in the front end, and comfort and mobility in and behind the withers themselves.
The withers are the ends of the vertical vertebral processes that project up from the fourth through the eighth thoracic vertebrae. Your horse will tell you if there is tension to be released here by his subtle (or not so subtle) responses to this technique.
THE WITHERS WIGGLE
1 Place your fingers on the first knob of the withers.
2 Gently wiggle your fingers from side to side, using almost no pressure at all, searching for a subtle response such as the lips twitching, sighing, or a blink of the eye.
3 If you get a blink, pause, wiggle again, and pause. As long as you are getting responses, continue this a few more times on that spot.
4 Move on to the next knob of the withers and wiggle-wiggle (you won’t actually feel movement and you aren’t pushing or pulling), pause and move on to the next knob of the withers. With your thumb and first finger on either side of the withers, simply “wiggle-wiggle-wiggle” slowly and gently, using your wrist and fingers, not the muscles of your arm.
5 You only have to do the Withers Wiggle from one side of the horse. Continue on down the withers, following the horse’s responses as you go. Bigger releases will be accompanied by bigger release responses, such as shaking, snorting, and repeated yawning.
Yes, that really is all there is to it! The Withers Wiggle is almost more of an intention than a movement.
For more great techniques that will make your horse feel good while improving his performance, check out THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED WITH THE MASTERSON METHOD, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.