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I first made contact with Gerdi at Water Farm 6 years ago, when I was looking for somewhere to school my two boys. I went up to see her and she kindly agreed I could book and use the school on a regular basis. This I have been doing ever since. Gerdi has been so much help with my boys, both during regular lessons and on an ad hoc basis when she has seen I have been struggling, or not quite getting things right. I have learned to let go, relax and allow the horse to stretch and naturally work in an outline. She is an amazing person, very kind, very empathetic with the horses, and she can sort out problems in a very short time. I have come a long way with my riding since I first turned up at the door. My horses come on holiday to Water Farm at regular intervals, and they absolutely love the relaxed atmosphere. Although it is a very busy yard, there is an air of calm, and the horses thrive on this.
I am always made to feel very welcome, whatever time of day I turn up. There is always a cup of coffee or tea and, a piece of cake and a willing listener, and Gerdi has become a very good friend.
Water Farm Dressage Centre sits amongst the rolling hills near Hadleigh, Suffolk (location of the recent Olympic Mountain Biking competitions). Headed up by Gerdi Warner, who brings years of both international and local experience to the art of dressage riding. The centre is quietly run, with all 23 horses encouraged to lead as natural an existence as possible, turned out for as long as possible through the year in herds of between 3 and 11 depending on the age and sex of the horse. The horses take advantage of the extensive grazing, naturally moving and stretching as they graze up and down the hillsides. Both horse and rider benefit from the calming atmosphere.
There are numerous examples of horses on the yard who have joined Water Farm with ‘issues’, and through time, patience and Gerdi’s understanding of how the horse works, function as happy horses. My own ‘agoraphobic’ equine is now a full time member of his herd who happily hacks out alone and in company round the quiet lanes and off road tracks which surround the yard.
Riders and owners benefit from the philosophy of Water Farm too and are confident that the horse always comes first! Training and lessons start with riders learning to ‘listen’ to their horses, who will tell them when they are ready to work. There is no achievement without full co-operation from the horse and Gerdi teaches all her pupils to understand that concept. This is all done within the safety of the large 20x40 indoor arena or out in the scenic 20x60 outdoor arena.
Water Farm also plays host to numerous courses and various competitions throughout the year
What can I say about Water Farm dressage center - only that it has changed my way of life, they have helped me in every way possible with both my thoroughbred and my gypsy cob. The training is superb from the ground to the saddle, they are always pleased to see you when you arrive and there is always a cup of tea or coffee offered on arrival, as well as a cake.
Someone is always on hand to help when it’s required. I never thought it possible that I would have the courage to go hacking again, or even try to move on to the next stage of wanting to try my hand at a dressage test.
I lost my confidence three years ago when I had a bad fall from my thoroughbred which put me in a wheel chair for six months. I am confident now on my cob but lacking with the thoroughbred, but with someone that is confident she is well behaved. When Alley the thoroughbred arrived at Water Farm she was a mental wreck and totally unfit. In three months Water Farm changed her mind set and condition so I was confident to walk and trot; it was a miracle that Alley could be so calm in such a short time.
Without the confidence of Gerda Warner and all the staff at Water Farm I would probably have just kept my four-legged friends as pets. I can’t thank them enough for their time and work and they still constantly help me through trying times with the horses and personal problems. They are agony aunts as well as being the best of the best horse trainers that I have ever come across, being with horses since I was three and I am now 50. They have helped me in so many ways, and I hope to have many more years of friendship from them. THANK YOU GERDA AND ALL AT WATER FARM.
I turned up at Water Farm nearly three years ago with a horse that I adored, but had completely lost my way with. On the ground, he and I were a team, but once on his back I was lost. I knew he was a big, still fairly young horse, who needed me to get the best out of him. I had no clue where to start. Yes, I could 'ride'. But I couldn't actually ride.....
I knew what I wanted from a yard - 24 hour turn out as much as possible, good feeding, proper pasture management, good schools and stabling - and most importantly somewhere that wouldn't treat my 18hh horse like he was some kind of big monster. Not much to ask? It was, but I found that and more the day I turned up in Raydon and ended up on the back of a quad bike (it was November!!) being whizzed around the fields and shown the turnout and horses etc
So that was me - sold on Water Farm. But what makes you stay somewhere is how relaxed your horse becomes, and the patience with which you are encouraged to become better every time you sit in the saddle. Gerda is honest about your abilities, but pushes you hard and praises in equal measure. And then then there is Kerstin. Under Gerda's watchful eye and instruction, she has ridden Basil week in and week out teaching him what I couldn't. To say I owe them both my gratitude would be an understatement.
Today, Basil has never looked better or been happier and I have somewhere I trust to look after my horse, to be my escape from working in the city and to constantly move forward, at my pace, and truly enjoy riding again.
I found Water Farm Dressage Centre by accident and am very glad I did. When I arrived here just over a year and half ago I was I little apprehensive as I didn’t know a lot about horses or dressage, fortunately for me the staff at Water Farm are always so generous with their time and are always willing to lend a hand. One of the things I look forward to most is my weekly lesson with Chrysi, who has been extremely patient with me and has taught me so much, not just about riding but also about horse management and behaviour.
The setting here is beautiful and the facilities are superb, but most importantly the horses are so well cared for. With so much land the horses have plenty of room to live out almost all year round, and as a result are happy and content. The yard has such a relaxed atmosphere and it is all too easy to spend most of my weekend down at the yard. I couldn’t imagine a better place for horse or rider than at Water Farm.
Gerda has a passion for ensuring that the horses in her care are produced correctly and that they do their work calmly and happily. This is with the gentlest reinforcement of ground rules, starting in hand and moving on according to the horses’ timeline. The result is that the horses, young or old, are happy and harmonious in their work.
Riders benefit too from her insistence on a proper classical position. Any resistance in the horse is traced relentlessly back to the rider and corrected. The horse is never at fault.
Not that this is a place without fun. Riders are often to be found bareback and bridle-less, practicing balance and feel or doing grid work. Hacking is encouraged. Horses live out as much as possible to retain fitness and freshness.
The clubhouse is usually filled with a variety of people dropping in for a chat or cup of tea and catching up on the news. Criticism is discouraged—debate and discussion are the order of the day, with a big dose of laughter thrown in.
Water Farm is a totally unique centre for equestrian excellence. I have known Gerdi for a number of years and have found her method of teaching and training a breath of fresh air. No gadgets, no force. Just sound basic classical principles as taught by the great masters. The dressage world has a reputation for being highly elitist and unattainable to all but the most privileged. However, this is not the ethos of Water Farm. Gerda has taught me that dressage is for all, and for the benefit of all. She has totally transformed the way I perceive the horse/rider relationship, and therefore, totally transformed my understanding and ability as a rider.
The first time I drove down the drive to Water Farm was to hire the indoor arena one evening in the middle of winter and I have to admit that I felt a little out of place. The drive is long with fields of beautiful dressage horses either side and there was me with an old trailer and a horse that I have struggled with to achieve anything. I needn’t have worried as the welcome you receive is the warmest you will get anywhere and the facilities are perfect to hone your dressage skills. I used the arena, struggling to control my rather strong and opinionated horse the way I had been taught, which obviously was not working for us. This is where my introduction to classical dressage began. Gerda was confident that she could help. This was over two years ago and the difference in my horse and my riding is unbelievable. The horse has muscles like I never thought possible for him as he has arthritis and a couple of other conditions that I thought would make it impossible for him to progress to a higher level, but through the sympathetic and consistent training from Gerda, following the German scales of training and even with the back-up from her team of professionals—from the farrier to chiropractors—and endless support from her riders—especially her daughter—you would not believe it was the same partnership that first arrived.
I regularly compete in local dressage competitions and even won the winter series at a local competition centre, with judges commenting on how harmonious the tests look and what a lovely horse I have and how he always looks like he is trying his hardest for me. One judge even wanted to take him home. The next step is to take him to affiliated competitions, something I never thought I would be able to do but is very much on the cards in the next month or so.
With the never ending encouragement from Gerda and her confidence in my ability I have become involved in the training of horses that visit the yard. This is not always as straightforward as it first appears. Water Farm definitely seems to have a reputation of being able to get results where other people have failed, so horses that have had unpleasant experiences come in with issues but leave with a much more relaxed outlook on life and the ability to work with their rider/handler confidently and progress, many of them returning for regular lessons. I am now assisting in the backing of the three and a half year old Westphalian stallion which is such an amazing opportunity and a privilege and I can’t thank Gerda enough for her infinite dedication and encouragement.
Water Farm is a family run business where liveries and clients are encouraged to become part of the family. A more relaxed place where results are still achieved you will not find. I cannot recommend this place enough.
Lessons at Water farm are always an enjoyable experience. The facilities are excellent and you are made to feel very welcome. Gerda has given me no end of help both in my riding and in general horse care, it is obvious that the wellbeing of the horse is always her number one priority. In lessons she gives clear instructions and is happy to ride the horse herself to demonstrate! I always leave Water Farm feeling that good progress has been made and cannot praise Gerda highly enough!
Water Farm to me is like a big pair of arms waiting to give you a hug. It doesn't matter whether you've never sat on a horse or are a PSG or Grand Prix rider, you are made to feel very special and welcome; you are taught at a pace that is right for you, nothing is ever rushed and each visit is an experience—a nice one!
Where else could you go and find a ‘horse herding pig’ that also likes to do show jumping? It's all at Water Farm.