Diana Mukpo couldn’t be happier that her first win of the new year came aboard her favorite partner, Pascal, in the FEI Grand Prix de Dressage Open GAIG/USDF Qualifier with a score of 66.4%. Aside from the win, their relationship is the cherished highlight for Diana. “I enjoy this horse tremendously on a moment to moment basis. I love riding him and that is the most important component. This horse has never once said no to me. He can be a bit hot in his work ethic but he has never once shown any resistance in his daily work in the six years I’ve owned him. He always tries his heart out,” she beamed.
Sent to Diana as a sale prospect in 2005, without much education as a nine-year-old, the handsome bay Dutch Warmblood gelding by Julius (Voltaire) out of a Burggraaf mare was clearly not amateur material. “He was hot, never naughty but as an over-achiever in wanting to work, and that’s where problems sometimes came up because he would try so hard in his work.”
He learned all of the Grand Prix movements in a couple of years but Diana feels he is finally coming into his own in a positive way now. “He had some time off this last summer, which was very good for him mentally. Now he feels completely settled and on his game.” Whether it was his summer break or that Pascal is simply maturing, Diana says his wanting to work without the over achiever impulse has led to a much more harmonious performance.
“Right now, he feels extraordinarily rideable and focused,” she says. Mukpo also credits gaining greater nuance from Lars Petersen who helps her once a week in Florida and travels to Cutler Farm in Medfield, MA, twice over the summer. “I tend to be an overachiever myself and he has really helped me to refine my performance.”
Diana was also pleased with Pascal’s third place effort in the Grand Prix Special. It was a chance to do a dry run through the new Olympic Grand Prix Special test before taking Pascal into the CDI arena. Diana described the condensed test for London as a “meatier” format. “We had a few minor misunderstandings. He cantered during the passage but he’s so smart, he knows where things go from doing the old tests for a number of years. I was thrilled with 66.5% score and thrilled with his performance.”
Diana also had a successful ride on Rubato, a 2004 Oldenburg gelding by Rosario, owned by Donna Cameron, winning Sunday’s Fourth Level Test 3 with 68.75% in only his second outing at Fourth level. She believes this is another horse with a Grand Prix future. “He just needs time to build his core strength and balance. I have no set time table, the horse dictates your training pace.” She also had praise for assistant trainer, Mary Bahniuk Lauritsen who rode Ansgar, a 2005 Dutch Warmblood by Special D, owned by Nicole Polaski to a Third Level Test 1 win with a 71.3% score.
Stable of Stars Ready
In addition to riding herself, Mukpo is excited by the caliber of her clients and thirteen horses stabled in Wellington from Cutler Farm ready to show this season. “I feel very fortunate. We have a unique situation with almost a perfect confluence of events. We have a group of very educated riders, many who’ve bought new, upgraded mounts in the past year, mostly from Holland.” Selecting horses for her clients, Diana emphasizes temperament foremost, then balance and ability. And her choices are paying off. “We now have a barn full of horses with fabulous temperaments and movement. We have clients who want to learn on correct horses. I firmly believe in my training system - all the pieces are starting to come together and work really well.”
Days later, Diana is savoring her win at the first show of the year with Pascal. “I am just really, really thrilled by this. We love showing at the Brandon Center, it’s a wonderful venue, the footing is great and the Wellington Classic Dressage is so well organized, it’s a pleasure for the competitors. We love bringing our horses here.”