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autistic horse trainer

Diana Waters

  • BHSAI

  • Enlightened Equitation Teacher ( Level 2)

  • EA accredited coach

  • Equine Assisted Psychotherapist

Diana Waters is a riding coach, equine assisted psychotherapist, author and entrepreneur. She lives on the Central Coast, NSW, Australia.

 

Diana grew up in the UK, where she trained and qualified as a riding instructor and worked at over 15 different riding schools.

 

She has always been passionate about riding and teaching, but was unhappy with the normal way of riding, both in riding schools and competitions, where she felt too much force was used and the natural beauty and spirit of the horse was diminished as a result.

In 2004, Diana met international teacher and founder of Enlightened Equitation, Heather Moffett. Diana was inspired by Heather’s beautiful riding and ethical training, and enrolled on an Enlightened Equitation Teacher Training course. She attained her Level 1 EET with a glowing report from Heather, and is the first person ever to be awarded Distinction. In 2019, she spent a further month as a full time student at Heather's. In 2022, she was awarded her Level 2 EET. She is one of only three EE teachers currently in Australia.

Working as a self employed freelance coach in Australia, Diana became interested in Working Equitation and qualified as a WEDU Working Equitation judge. She found herself teaching Working Equitation clinics all over Australia, using her foundation of horse and rider biomechanics and classical dressage to teach a kinder, more harmonious way of riding. She found that she attracted clients who were invested in building a harmonious relationship with their horses.

Diana noticed that those of her clients that were competing in dressage were often inclined to push and drive their horses with strong aids. When she showed them how to allow the horse to find a natural, slower tempo, clients could nearly always see and feel the benefit, but when riding this way in competition were continually given the feedback "Needs to be more forward". Diana noticed a discrepancy between what judges were looking for visually, and what actually felt good and benefited the horse in the long term. In response to this, Diana created her training programme "Sentient Riding" - a series of 12 dressage tests with a unique marking system that prioritises harmonious riding, light aids and synchronisation between the horse and rider. The tests work through a classical dressage system so can be used purely for training. For a while, Diana ran a regular club with monthly competitions combined with lessons on her Equisimulator (mechanical horse) and on their own horses, so that people could hone their riding skills and then put them to practice working through classical exercises. This resulted in competitions where the most harmonious and happy combinations were the winners, regardless of breed of horse. The Sentient Riding book is available for sale here.

classical dressage
enlightened equitation teacher

At home, Diana was experimenting and developing her skills with the art of in-hand, and becoming especially interested in the benefits of walk work in rehabilitation and the building of skills. She used this work to develop the tӧlt in her naturally gaited Icelandic horse, Vikingur. Without ever working the tӧlt, she was able to transform him from a horse who was fairly crooked and only offered trot under saddle, to a light, balanced and straight horse with a beautiful, easy and flowing tӧlt. This was all done using classical dressage exercises carried out in walk.

Icelandic horse tolting

With her keen eye for detail, Diana found that as well as being able to improve the position and synchronisation of riders, she could see and feel the subtleties of equine biomechanics. She was able to recognise subtle blocks and balance and straightness issues which were preventing energy flowing through. Using the gentlest of methods, she found that nearly every horse became more supple, balanced and forward, with stiffness and tension often melting away, resulting in horses which began to really enjoy being ridden. She also discovered that she was able to explain what was going on and why this was important, in a way that people really understood, so that she was able to show people how to "release to impulsion" - helping the horse to find and express impulsion, by first slowing and straightening rather than by pushing and driving. This, of course, is the true premise of French based classical dressage, but is very often misunderstood, or thought to be unattainable unless you have a baroque horse and fancy tack. Diana's strength lies in her ability to deeply understand and teach the method in a way that works for everyday riders and all types of horses.

dressage trot

In 2022, Diana schooled a client's thoroughbred "Kevin", every day for a week, and filmed the process. In this way she was able to document the dramatic changes that took place using only walk work (ridden and in-hand). Originally intending to release a documentary, Diana decided instead to create a series of online lessons which included her unique insight into the theory behind why the method works, as well as detailed instructions on how to carry out the exercises, and of course video clips of Kevin carrying out the exercises so that riders could see what the changes looked like at various stages of the programme. With no funds available for start-up costs, Diana launched a Kickstarter campaign and nearly doubled her goal via pre-sales of "7 Days of Walk". As a result, it is now on sale worldwide, along with the thriving  Responsive Equine Podia community, where riders submit videos for discussion and feedback.

In 2022, Diana trained and qualified as an Equine Assisted Psychotherapist with the Equine Psychotherapy Institute. She founded Central Coast Equine Psychotherapy and works alongside her small herd running individual therapy and psychoeducation groups.

She continues to teach riding to people on their own horses, and now finds her coaching to be influenced and enhanced by increased understanding of human psychology. This combined with her equine knowledge and experience results in a style that is highly empathetic to both horse and rider, and effective in bringing about significant and lasting change to the performance of horse and rider as a team.

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