Masterson Method: working on the neck, withers, shoulders and forelegs

It’s not unusual even for experts, such as your equine vet, not to know where a horses’ pain originates especially if it is expressed as intermittent lameness. Doing regular bodywork massage with your horse can help you locate the issues and IMO the Masterson Method is one of the easiest to learn and apply with the lowest chance of user error resulting in unintended harm to your horse.

Here is the how-to video for neck and flexion starting with the Masterson Method’s Lateral Cervical Flexion:

Under Scapula Release: drops the shoulder in a relaxed state. This is NOT the traditional foreleg in front of the horse stretch (which is a stretch I don’t use as I feel it could be harmful) and is much more gentle.

These you can do before or after exercise or you might prefer to do it on a day off so the horse has a day to recover (this last option is what I prefer).

Related Core Stability Exercises I’m doing are shown here with older photos of my horse Tristan. These are strengthening and stretching exercises – not massage. Most of these are very familiar with anyone who reads horse magazines; I do these almost every time I work my horse and at the end of the workout. I like to use carrots as it gives me a chance to “tease” the horse to stretch deeper without putting my hand too close to curious teeth.

On the long forward stretch, I am using the mounting block to hold Dante in place so he is really stretching over his back and not just moving forward with his legs. In starting out with this exercise you can use the bottom half of a stall door or a gate to block forward movement and to deepen the stretch.

After stretching long, the opposite stretch is for the nose to come between the legs. Both feet should remain straight, hoof soles flat on the ground. This is the hardest stretch for Dante to do, so here I’m using a target with clicker training).


The key to side stretches (done on both sides of course) is to keep the forelegs square and the chest front. Bring the horse’s nose to the hindquarter fetlock and hold the bend as long as possible. Tristan cheats a bit with the left foreleg being further behind.


When Dante bends – to the right – he has to stretch and elongate the left. Dante shows he is uncomfortable bending to the right by backing up to resist the deep stretch on the left side, showing his left side is stiff. I’m thinking this may also show how his right hindleg which was injured about 45 days ago is still bothering him.

What he shows you in these exercises, can help you understand where your horse is sore or stiff. Stiffness in these lateral stretches can show where your horse may have difficulty later in canter leads, going straight, or doing lateral movements (such as leg yields and shoulder ins) as well as circles.

Each individual horse has an easier and harder side. Keep a log on what you observe and you will soon be connecting the dots!

This entry was posted in chiropractor & massage, Core Stability Exercises, Dante, Masterson Method MM, videos. Bookmark the permalink.

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