Overcoming Personal Challenges and Moving On

Friday, May 22, 2009

Diana Mukpo - Dressage Rider/Trainer

Diana Mukpo and husband Dr. Mitchell Levy
Diana Mukpo and husband Dr. Mitchell Levy
Diana returned to the United States in 1984 and traveled to Germany periodically to train, but when her husband became ill and died in 1987, she took four years off riding. During that time, Diana and her children moved to Hawaii for three years, where she remarried and resumed riding. In 1994, the family moved to Rhode Island where Diana developed a training and sales business. She imported well over 100 horses from Holland and Germany. Four years ago, Diana was diagnosed with breast cancer, which required chemotherapy and kept her out of the saddle for four months. Diana addressed her illness with the same strength and intensity that characterizes her riding. “I am now healthy and very glad to have my life back,” Diana said.

As a trainer/competitor over the years, Diana has earned her USDF Gold Medal and many Year-End Awards. In 2004, Diana and her five-year-old Hanoverian gelding Rossini M by Reggazzoni were named to the USEF short list for the Young Horse World Breeders Championships in Verden, Germany. Currently, Diana is at a high point in her riding career with Pascal, her Grand Prix mount. “He’s the best horse that I have ever owned,” she declares.

Diana Mukpo and Pascal
Diana Mukpo and Pascal
Pascal is a Dutch Warmblood gelding by Julius (Voltaire) out of a Burggraaf mare. He was sent to Diana as a sale horse in 2005, trained to Second Level. “I had an incredible chemistry with the horse. Even though he was so behind in his training, I believed that this would be a Grand Prix horse,” Diana recounted. She sold Rossini to acquire Pascal.

Pascal learned quickly and made his Grand Prix debut in July 2008. Diana and Pascal recently completed their Grand Prix tour of the Florida winter circuit. “I was thrilled – by the last few shows in Florida he was consistently placing in big classes with good horses and riders,” Diana said. “I feel that we’ve just begun to tap into his ability and his talent.”

Pascal’s talent has ignited Diana’s competitive spirit, but it is not competition per se that thrills Diana, rather, it’s what competition says about you as a trainer. “Competition is a litmus test of your training. It’s a way to show your quality of work and my goal in competing is to show what can be produced from good, classical training,” she said. What most excites Diana is competing at the CDI level with horses that she has developed. “Certainly, if someone offered me the ride on a well-trained and talented horse, I would take it. But it is personally more rewarding to me when I can compete on a horse that I have developed myself.”

Diana Mukpo and Pascal photo: Susanjstickle.com
Diana Mukpo and Pascal photo: Susanjstickle.com
Pascal is just such a horse. “I look forward to his development over the next year. He has a fantastic work ethic and real talent for piaffe and passage. I’m hoping to realize my competitive dream on this horse. I don’t know where it’s going to bring me, but I’d like to go with it wherever that may be. If making a team were possible, of course, I would like to do that. I want to take him as far as he can go,” Diana said.

Pascal is also the culmination of another dream – finding the right horse. “Having a horse like this you realize that you can have the best training in the world, but you have to have the right horse,” Diana points out. “You’re only as good as your horse ultimately, even if you’ve learned well. A lot of things are converging for me in a very positive way. I’ve had the opportunity to have some fantastic training and now I have a horse with whom I can express that experience.”

In addition to Pascal, Diana is working with another wonderful horse, thanks to support from Cutler Farm owner Donna Cameron. The six-year-old Rubato was purchased this year and Diana believes he has the talent to become a wonderful Grand Prix horse. Diana first went to look at him as a potential mount for a client, but felt he might be a bit hot. Still, “he was such a phenomenal horse that I didn’t want to let him go.” Donna agreed to purchase him but when they called for him, he was already sold. Fortunately, the sale fell through. “We got him from Ilse Schwarz and she did a wonderful job putting on the foundation and that’s making my job very easy,” Diana said. “He is most certainly a Grand Prix horse and it’s also our goal that Donna will eventually compete with him at Grand Prix. They will be a nice pair as he is very talented and Donna’s riding is coming along so beautifully.”

Watch the Video: Diana Mukpo rides Pascal in the Grand Prix Freestyle, Wellington, Florida 2010

Joining Forces with Donna Cameron to Build the Cutler Farm Dream