A horse owner since the age of seven, Diana’s first professional horse experience came during high school. She handled foals, started young horses, and showed and managed a breeding stallion for a Palomino quarter horse ranch. She also managed a boarding stable during college before taking a break from horses to finish her degree in journalism.
Diana’s college credentials quickly brought her back to the horse world as she joined EQUUS Magazine as a staff writer soon after graduation. This position enabled her to interview some of the top equine veterinarians and research professionals in the nation.
In 1980 Diana opened Winter Creek Farm near Newport, Oregon, where she ran a full care horse boarding and training business. She started young horses under saddle, schooled English and Western show horses and conditioned race prospects. She integrated heart rate monitors and other sports medicine practices into her conditioning programs and became a licensed exercise rider on Oregon and California race tracks. During her time at Winter Creek Diana realized the importance of teaching horse owners hands-on ways to work with their own horses. Then, when the horses left her farm the owners would know how to meet their needs for training and care.
In 1983 Diana received relief from her chronic back stiffness and pain through lessons in The Feldenkrais Method. Her success with this work on her own body came at a time when she was questioning conventional horse handling and training methods. As a result, she sought out education in equine anatomy, movement, alternative health care and training methods. Today, this extensive education and over 30 years of practical experience training horses gives Diana a wealth of knowledge to pass on to her students. See “Acknowledgements” below for a listing of her education in massage and other holistic health care methods.
Diana’s Equine Facility and Family
In February, 2003, Diana opened an equine facility on her farm in Fulton, California. The location is near the town of Santa Rosa, approximately 1 ½ hours drive north of San Francisco. The facility includes a spacious barn with an enclosed classroom, stalls and attached paddocks and a large covered riding arena.
Diana lives on the property with her husband Bob Murphy, two cats Maple and Bunny, her gelding Handsome, and companion horse Fred. Other horses come to the farm for private lessons and to help with group classes. Click here to read about Bunny the previously wild cat.
Diana teaches private lessons and group classes in equine acupressure, massage, movement exercises, ground handling, and Bach flower essences at her farm. She also teaches acupressure and massage to students who are enrolled in the equine science program at the Santa Rosa Junior College.
Horse Rehabilitation Work
As Diana’s education progressed, one of the horses she rehabilitated was the stakes-placed Thoroughbred Timothy’s Hope. Timothy was barred from tracks in Canada and the United States for refusing to break from the starting gate. He was terrified of gates of all kinds and was unable to be on the race track without tying up (muscle cramping), refusing to work or eat. Diana used massage, natural health care and reconditioning to return Timothy to racing form. He clocked “black type” works (the fastest time of the day) from the starting gate in 1987.
Diana was featured in a September 1987, EQUUS Magazine case history article and August, 1989, EQUUS Followups article for the rehabilitation of another horse. She led efforts to save and heal Cimarron, a Thoroughbred stallion who was partially paralyzed and unable to stand following a trailer accident. As documented in a 2011 special edition of U.S. News & World Report called Amazing Animals, Cimarron not only survived his life-threatening injuries he went on to become a beloved lesson horse for The Pegasus Riding Academy for the Handicapped.
Diana’s Methods and Services
Diana Thompson’s approach to horse handling includes equine acupressure and massage, movement improvement exercises and many gentle, effective training methods. Since these methods soften the horse’s body and open up his ability to learn and perform, they are effective for any breed of horse taking part in any riding or driving discipline. Diana’s goal is to teach horse owners how to use these training and wellness methods themselves to help their horses. Her services include private consultations and lessons, multi-day intensive training programs and club or event demonstrations.
Diana also educates horse owners through writing and photography. In 1996 she founded The Whole Horse Journal – A Guide to Natural Horse Care and Training. During The Journal’s first three years, Diana served as Editor-In-Chief, guiding the publication to eight national media awards and an international readership. Her articles on massage and alternative training have also appeared in Horse and Rider Magazine, the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) Endurance News, The Anvil Magazine, RIDE! Magazine and California Riding Magazine.
Diana’s first book Acupressure Point Charts for Horses, An Illustrated Guide to 128 Point Locations and Uses was published in 2008. It features how-to-acupressure instruction and 400 photographs and 100 illustrations showing the individual point locations. Quick point charts listing the point combinations that are used to address horse health issues are also included. Click here to see sample charts and table of contents from the book.
Diana also created the six-page color laminated chart Emergency Acupressure Points for Horses as a barn-ready guide to points horse owners can use to support the horse in shock, heat stroke, colic or respiratory infection while veterinary help is on the way. Click here to see a sample page from the laminated chart and a detailed description of each page.
Diana’s second book, Acupressure Methods for Horses: Calm Your Horse, Support Health, and Improve Performance with 8 Powerful Points, was published in 2018 as part of Diana’s Acupressure Instruction Package. The package includes the book, a 4-page laminated chart, and 5 online videos. The 136-page barn-friendly wire-bound book provides step-by-step instructions in the art of acupressure for horses. The well-organized text and 55 quality photographs show horse owners and caregivers how to use eight powerful points to: calm the nervous, impatient, or irritable horse; relax the muscles of the horse’s neck, shoulders, front legs, and low back; support the health of the digestion, lungs, heart and other internal organs; and increase mental focus and deepen the horse-handler partnership. Click here to see sample book pages and online videos.
Study in Traditional Chinese Medicine
For approximately 25 years, Diana has studied Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and application with Dr. Bill Fannin, Dipl. Ac. and Sean Fannin, CH, Dipl. CEM, herbalist of The Center for Traditional Health Arts, in Petaluma, California. Bill Fannin helped Diana rebuild her health following a debilitating car accident. He also introduced her to the fundamental concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Sean Fannin has been Diana’s primary professional teacher for the past 18 years. He has helped her develop the course materials for her Equine Acupressure Level One and Level Two courses. This material includes Diana’s 550-page text manual with the working title: Acupressure for Horses, A Comprehensive Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Sean offers training to lay people and professional practitioners in Traditional Chinese Medicine, qi gong, acupressure and the use of Chinese herbs.
Diana completed a number of in-depth equine acupressure courses taught by veterinarian Dr. Kerry Ridgway of Aiken, South Carolina. Dr. Ridgway also provided technical support for Diana’s book Acupressure Point Charts for Horses, An Illustrated Guide to 128 Point Locations and Uses. He wrote the foreword and proofed the charts for the 128 acupressure points. Diana clearly states in the acknowledgements section of the book: “Simply put, without Dr. Ridgway’s help this book would not have been possible. During his classes he taught me simple yet correct ways to locate the points. When I needed assistance with this book, he not only appeared in several photo shoots, he proofed all of the point pages in Section Three to assure their accuracy.”
Diana’s other teachers in equine acupressure were veterinarians Dr. Bob Anderson of Dallas, Oregon, and Dr. Peggy Fleming of Dade City, Florida. Both Dr. Fleming and Dr. Ridgway were instructors for the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) acupuncture certification program for veterinarians.
Acknowledgements and List of Diana’s Teachers
Diana provides this list both to thank the following teachers for their contributions to her education and to give the reader valuable resources for their own journey.
Diana’s initial horse body work education began in 1983 with Linda Tellington-Jones, founder of TTEAM (Tellington-Jones Equine Awareness Method). Tellington-Jones studied with the late Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais and adapted for horses many of the processes Feldenkrais developed to change painful or restricted human movement patterns.
Diana’s study with Tellington-Jones included a two-week trip with Linda in the spring of 1985 to Moscow, USSR, to teach Russian veterinarians, Olympic riders and trainers. Diana became the second student in the United States to gain certification as a teacher of the TEAM method. Diana’s work with top performance horses, however, led her to look for additional training tools. She left the TEAM organization in late 1985 and no longer maintains current teacher status.
Diana’s first experience with a veterinary practitioner of equine acupuncture, chiropractic care and homeopathy was with Dr. Bob Anderson, DVM. Diana found “Dr. Bob” in 1984 while looking for help with her training horses. He had a veterinary practice based in Dallas, Oregon. Dr. Bob helped Diana heal impaired horses and support performance horses while she was located at her farm in Newport, Oregon. A pioneer in his field, Dr. Anderson served as secretary of the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) and president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA).
Dr. Stephen Blake, DVM, of San Diego, California, specializes in the use of veterinary homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic care and Bach Flower essences. Diana attended Dr. Blake’s classes in the use of homeopathy and Bach Flower therapy for animals while she lived in the San Diego area.
The late Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais was a pioneer in human movement education and founder of The Feldenkrais Method. Diana undertook Feldenkrais education for rehabilitation from injuries she received in a car accident in 1987. In 1988 and 1989, she completed two of four professional trainings (approx-imately 500 hours) required by the Feldenkrais Guild to become a practitioner for humans.
In 1992, Diana completed the course required by the State of California to become a Certified Human Massage Practitioner. She blends this knowledge with Feldenkrais movement education methods to develop movement improvement workshops for horseback riders.
Zahourek Systems of Loveland, Colorado, offers in-depth courses in horse anatomy and movement. Diana has completed three of their week-long “Equiken” programs — a total of 130 classroom hours. This understanding adds to her skill in analyzing horse movement problems.
The late Jessica Bear, N.D. was a talented teacher, author and specialist in the use of the Bach flower essences. Diana took both group workshops and private instruction with Jessica to increase her ability to use the Bach essences with people and animals. Click here to go to the Bach flower section of Diana’s website.
Harry Whitney is a clinician from Arizona who uses nonviolent training methods to help horses become a willing, athletic riding partner. Harry’s knowledge of horse body language, herd behavior, ground work, round pen and riding exercises is extensive. Diana studied with Harry in 1996 through 1998. She wrote five extensive articles with Harry for The Whole Horse Journal on his training approach.
In order to develop her skills in using positive reinforcement methods in training horses, Diana has incorporated clicker training and liberty work into her rehabilitation programs. She studied clicker training with assistance dog trainer Nanci Shapiro of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and liberty work with Robin Gates of Glen Ellen, California. These methods have proved invaluable when working with physically injured horses, horses with emotional difficulties and horses with deeply ingrained habits that need to change in order to reach soundness.