Diana Mukpo: An Extraordinary Teacher

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Diana Mukpo - Dressage Rider/Trainer

Diana Mukpo’s talents extend beyond her skills as a rider and trainer. She’s an extraordinary person with a true desire to educate others and help them achieve their riding dreams. With this in mind, the program developed by Diana and Donna at Cutler Farm focuses not just on high performance riders, but also on the needs of adult amateur riders of all levels. “Certainly, our clinics are open to riders regardless of their professional or non-professional standing,” Diana says. “Shannon Dueck and I host a summer FEI Adult Amateur Camp for upper level riders who are, obviously, quite serious and quite talented, but who are on a different path than, say, our professional colleagues.”

Diana knows that while the excitement of internationally recognized clinicians is undeniable, it is the day-to-day aspects of training that engage her and her clients. “I enjoy working with all levels of horses and riders and since I was fortunate enough to have spent time in Vienna, one of my specialties is the development of piaffe and passage,” Diana notes. “I would like to continue to help horses and riders develop to their full potentials. I have a great deal of faith in the system that I learned in Europe and I appreciate the opportunity to transmit this to others. Correct training enhances the pleasure that riders can have in working with their horses.”

Diana described the primary elements of her system, saying, “In training riders and horses, the seat is incredibly important. The other issue is the clear communication with the horse – it’s very, very important. There’s a tendency for confusion to be created and behavioral issues develop when the lines of communication are not clear. It’s important that riders learn to break that down so that the horses understand what they’re communicating and at the same time, once one is sure about the communication, the consistency about the demand for responsiveness is primary. The final thing is never to ask horses or riders for something that they are not capable of doing because those are things that create confusion and problems.”

Her students inspire her, Diana says. “Seeing my students becoming effective, confident riders and deriving pleasure from their riding is very rewarding.” And, she inspires them. Sheila Elliott, whose 17-year-old daughter, Ariel, rides with Diana, cites the myriad of opportunities given to her daughter as reasons for her daughter’s success as a rider. “Diana has given Ariel the opportunity to ride several horses, including Diana’s own Grand Prix horse, Pascal. These opportunities have given Ariel the confidence to face more challenging situations and the sense of what it is like to ride a highly trained horse with immense power and collection. All of these things have inspired Ariel to redouble her efforts to become the best rider she can be.”

Ariel cites Diana’s skill as a teacher in knowing how much and when to push that has helped advance her riding. “Diana is a perfectionist and she makes me better by demanding my best and giving me the confidence to perform at a higher level.”

It is Diana’s ability to read both horses and people that students say is a key reason why she is so effective as a teacher. “Diana is very psychologically astute and understood what would help me improve as a rider. She was sensitive to situations that made me anxious. She is supportive and encouraging, at the same time she challenges me gently to move ahead with my riding,” said Leslie Cokin.

Leslie, like Ariel and other students, is quick to note that Diana has a special knack for being able to teach them more effective use of the aids. “Diana has taught me the tremendous importance of the seat and leg to activate the hind legs in dressage, rather than relying on the reins. She has worked hard to help me develop my seat in regular lessons and with lunge lessons and this has helped me to be a more confident rider.”

Joanne Lawrence has trained with Diana for four years and says Diana is a perfect match for her. “She is motivated to move my horse and me along at a rate that I feel is correct but also ambitious and my horse and I have improved a great deal because of this. So many trainers get stuck and never move along,” Joanne said. “Diana’s attention to detail and willingness to go above and beyond for her horses and students are qualities that make her an excellent trainer. She also is very careful with the horses in her charge and takes excellent care of them as the athletes they are.”

Diana sees this ability to explain as one of her strengths as a teacher. “As an instructor I think that I have the ability to break down the system of aids in such a way that it is easily understood. It is very important to me that my students really understand the importance of the seat position and the way that the aids affect their horses. I am willing to spend as much time as I need on these basics because I believe that a correct foundation is the most important basis for all of dressage riding. It is the only way that students can progress to the upper levels without encountering great difficulties.”

For Diana, the joy comes in watching students progress and for that reason, she derives as much pleasure from working with lower level riders as she does from helping the upper level ones. “I think that I am a good communicator and I like to work with a variety of students from breaking down the basic aids for the elementary movements to refining the Grand Prix work. I enjoy teaching very much and believe that it is important to give my students a positive experience. When riders feel confident, that is communicated to their horses and it is on this basis that solid partnerships are built.”

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