Russian Riding Hero Diana Zakharova: Ready to Compete at the “Best Place in the World for Dressage”
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Wellington, FL - “I want to have new riding experiences and Wellington is the best place in the world for dressage,” says Diana Zakharova, whose overseas achievements in CDI dressage competition led to her recently being approached by the Republic of Kyrgyzstan with an offer to ride for the country’s FEI team.
Kyrgyzstan lies along the ancient caravan route between China and the Mediterranean known as the Silk Road, and has retained much of its natural beauty, including rolling jailoos (summer pastures). The Equestrian Federation of the Kyrgyzstan Republic has been affiliated with the FEI since 1993 and, as of 2018, has 16 registered athletes and 22 horses competing from Regional Group 3. Zakharova has deep ties to Kyrgystan as her husband Marat is a native of the country.
Not one to take so weighty an offer lightly, Zakharova - a former Economics major at Russia’s University of Geological Studies and a ‘rock star’ among Russian amateur riders for “going pro,” - moved to Florida four months ago because that’s where the international action is.
Zakharova became an idol of her Russian riding companions when she decided after only a few years of competing to step up and out of the amateur ranks and challenge herself as a professional competing in the CDI. With more than 34 successful CDI under her belt she decided it was time to raise the bar again and set her sights on the Global Dressage Tour in Wellington, Florida.
Zakharova hasn’t regretted her decision for a second, especially now that her equine partner, Torress, a 14 year-old Latvian-bred gelding she tenderly calls “Prosha,” has navigated the long trip from Moscow to join the family: “He has arrived. It’s all good!”
The pair is off to a good start in the show ring. During the Wellington Classic Dressage Fall Challenge at the Palm Beach Equine Sports Complex, they earned their first American horse show ribbons, finishing fourth in the Prix St Georges. “In Russian classification, that would be considered ‘small prize,” she said.
Much bigger prizes, like riding for a nation in Olympic or World competition, still await this mother of four (including a baby daughter) but she isn’t daunted. “I am putting it all together,” she laughed. “Raising kids is all about staying organized and that’s not so different from training dressage!”
Zakharova trains with Nicolas Fyffe out of Marcus Fyffe Dressage in Wellington. “My horse is well trained but we want to make our performances even better. It’s interesting to notice that some of the judges (in Wellington) judged me when I competed in Russia!”
She and Torress are planning to start 2019 competing in the CDI Small Tour before moving up to Grand Prix next fall. “We’re still getting accustomed to training and the Florida climate. Everything is a new experience, especially the hot weather!”
“It’s like starting life from scratch,” she says. “New goals are my favorite thing.” Raising her game in a new country, against many of the world’s best riders, doesn’t intimidate her at all. “I have never felt any pressure over anything,” she says with a grin. In fact, she sums up her mindset right now in three simple words: “Positive. Communicative. Happy. Definitely happy.”
For Zakharova, dressage is about tests. And life? It’s all about the joy of taking on new challenges, balancing her family life, and riding life and “enjoying it all”.