Jo is a 21 year old client. I have known her a long time. She is a powerful and self-contained mare who seldom admits that she needs help. Unfortunately Jo has been pagued by various health problems for a few years now, and most recently by pain in her limbs. After discussion with her owner, a knolwedgeable human osteopath, we decided that Jo would have a course of bodywork sessions, 2 weeks apart. Characteristically, Jo was not so sure about all this and tried to leave the Yard.
For her first session, Steve, her owner, remained close by, reassuring her as I worked, Heartwarmingly, so did her close friend and fellow geriatric, Mr C. Supported by these two, Jo was pleasantly receptive and I was very happy with the session.
Fast forward two weeks and Jo was less than enthusiastic about my arrival, and had to be caught by her owner. The bodywork session went well again though, and I was delighted to find a lot more mobility in Jo's previously stiff left hock.
When I arrived for the third session, Jo took one look at me and headed off up the track. Steve said he would catch her for me, but insitinctively I felt this would not be a good idea. Instead I followed Jo up the track. She stopped and looked at me superciliously. I stopped too. She walked, I walked. She stopped and looked at me. I stopped. In this fashion we proceeded up the track, me gradually catching up to Jo by walking just a little bit faster than her but stopping whenever she did, until eventually I was by her side. At this point she swung away from me. I did too, again positioning myself on her shoulder. She stopped and looked at me in much the same way as one might look at an annoying fly. I said: 'Jo, I am here to help you feel more comfortable but I am not going to force you to do anything.' She sighed, and immediately dropped her head and began to eat grass. This was good, but what now?
After a while, Jo began to walk again. I kept up with her. She stopped. I stopped. She looked at me and suddenly I knew that it was ok to begin. It felt very much as if Jo, in a queenly fashion had said: 'I would like my bodywork session here...' Here? Yes, here! In the topmost corner of the field, and me sans notepad, evaluation sheet or headcollar. However, I did have my hands, and hands are, after all, the most important tool in Masterson Method bodywork.
I started with Bladder Meridian and then went to sacral float. Jo pretended to ignore me at first but it wasn't long before she became quietly attentive. And thus we proceeded to do the whole bodywork session, out there, Jo very much in control, just as she needed to be. She only walked away when I attempted the under scapula releases; these were obviously not much to her liking. I tried again, using a much softer pressure. She walked. I tried a third time, and as in the story of 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears', this time it was obviously just right.
I was very thoughtful as I strolled back up the track to the stables a couple of hours later. I don't really advocate doing bodywork out in the field without any means of restraint. Both from a safety perspective and from the need to be effective it is better to be able to keep the horse's body where you want it while you work. However, this time it felt right to do so, and the results proved it to have been the right choice. Jo was able to receive the help she didn't want to admit she needed purely because I allowed her to dictate what was happening, where we worked, and for how long.
If I hoped that Jo would now be more pleased to see me, I was wrong. Upon my next arrival she was just as unimpressed about me being there as before. Horses like Jo are certainly not going to help you feel good about yourself; you have to have your own confidence in the efficacy of your work. But I'll tell you more about that session next time...