Life at the Famous Spanish Riding School

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Diana Mukpo - Dressage Rider/Trainer
Riding Favory was an important part of Diana’s education. “Apart from the obvious thrill of being able to ride a horse of that caliber, the training was pivotal for me in my understanding of how the end product should be,” Diana explained. “The horse was incredibly sensitive to the aids. He always answered. He was a complete pleasure to ride. He could go from the extended trot to the passage and back to the extended trot with the lightest of aids. I became aware that it is actually possible, if you’re a good trainer, to teach your horse to become completely sensitive and submissive without tension.”

To this day, Diana relies on concepts she took away from the Spanish Riding School and notes them succinctly, saying, “First is the degree of discipline and attention to all details that one needs in order to compete at the highest levels, to perform, and to train properly. Second is the focus on the seat; even the more experienced riders spent considerable time on the longe line working on their seat positions. And third, I had a great deal of experience with piaffe and passage – from teaching younger horses to riding many different horses that were the finished product. I was really able to understand how one develops piaffe and passage in different horses – that is a specialty in Vienna and that was a very helpful part of my education there.”

While training in Austria, Diana was also competing her two Warmbloods – Shambhala and Warrior – at the FEI levels. In 1980, to complement her Austrian education, she applied to Herbert Rehbein’s program in Germany and was thrilled to be accepted with her two mounts. Between 1980 and 1986, Diana spent a total of 18 months studying with Rehbein.

“I had always idolized Herbert Rehbein,” Diana said. “He was at that time a German champion many times over. He was the quintessential master. He had a sixth sense for horses. I really respected and appreciated how much he loved the horses. He created an environment for students and horses where learning and progression were automatic. He actually was brilliant at creating the environment where the horses and riders have success after success. That was the hallmark of his barn.”

Diana considers herself fortunate that while in the program, she was given horses to ride that Rehbein had trained. “The consolidation of what I’d learned in Austria and Germany was the degree of sensitivity and consistency required to produce a successful dressage horse,” Diana sums up. “The horse must maintain relaxation throughout his body and mind and at the same time one has to be completely consistent in demanding immediate sensitivity to the aids.”

Overcoming Personal Challenges and Moving On