Brussels, Belgium and Toronto, Canada – January 13, 2014
To become a top international competitor, it takes a village – from sponsors and owners, to grooms, veterinarians, farriers, talent, and most importantly, the partnership of some great horses. Twenty-four-year-old Tatiana Dzavik's dreams are becoming a reality as she advances to the top levels of equestrian show jumping after years of hard work and dedication.
Dzavik said of her motivation, "I have known that I wanted to do this since I was about eight years old and it has never changed. I have been pushing and fighting for it ever since then." And it is paying off. "I work with the horses and I sleep; that is all I do. But I would say that my dreams are actually starting to come true. I still have a long way to go, but I am very happy with the way things are going."
With the opportunity to ride and compete on some very special horses and the help of many generous, knowledgeable individuals, her climb to the top is within reach.
In the Beginning
At 14 years old, she moved to Florida for the winter show circuit under the tutelage of Wayne McLellan, one of Canada’s most successful hunter trainers. At 15, she rode as a working student with respected trainers Christina Schlusemeyer and Bobby Braswell, living with Braswell and his family for over two years. At the end of her junior career, she also worked with international jumper trainer Missy Clark.
As a working student, Dzavik thrived riding with and learning from Clark on the east coast show circuit. Through Clark’s tutelage, Dzavik’s final junior year was a pivotal one. She was ranked in the top 10 junior riders in North America and won significantly, competing at some of the nation's top horse shows. She also had the opportunity to compete in the jumpers for the first time, a turning point in her aspirations. She discovered her love for the sport of show jumping.
Formative Years, Formidable Talent
Looking back, Dzavik counts Clark as one of her biggest influences in the sport, as her time with the renowned trainer shaped her as both a rider and a person. "I think I learned a lot about style from Missy," Dzavik acknowledged. "I learned at an early age about horse management and work ethic, what it really takes to make sure everything goes well. One of Missy's things is that she never leaves anything to chance, so I feel as though I have picked up that mentality and I would like to follow it, certainly for the rest of my career. If I ever had the opportunity to train with Missy again I would do it in a heartbeat. She is one of the best."
Clark had the same positive feelings about her time spent working with Dzavik. "Definitely very talented from the beginning, she has always had a lot of natural ability," Clark stated. "It was fun to work with her. She is just a good kid and a hard worker with a great disposition. Those are always good traits to have in this business. You knew she had the ability; she always had the ability. She just needed the mileage, and she is getting to the point now where she is getting that and she should have a bright future."
Clark also remarked on Dzavik's skills as a rider and her ability to form a relationship with her horses. "She has great timing, and she is very sympathetic," Clark acknowledged. "Horses like her. When she rides a lot of different types, they always seem to like her."
Ask Dzavik about her abilities and she replies humbly. "Dr. Mukherjee, one of my Canadian sponsors and a huge supporter, has said that he really likes my passion and my drive and also my ability to connect on an emotional level with my horses," Dzavik mused. "I really do form a very strong bond with them, which I think is one of the most important things."
Career, College, Calamity, Climbing...
Following her final junior year, Dzavik's love of show jumping prevailed, and she began an exciting professional career. She spent two and a half years in Europe; one year with Stephex Stables, and the subsequent one and a half years with Jan Tops out of Valkenswaard, Netherlands and Jos Lansink (who at that time was the reigning world champion in show jumping).
In the summer of 2010, Dzavik moved back to Canada for college and studied psychology, business and languages. She continued to ride and successfully compete in Canada and Florida. In the winter/spring of 2013, Dzavik worked part-time helping Great Britain's Nick Skelton (2012 Olympic Team Gold Medalist) in Wellington, another top notch experience.
Her career was taking off when a disappointing riding injury put everything on hold. Not certain if she would be able to ride at the same level after two surgeries and six months out of the saddle, she bounced back. At that time a newly formed partnership with well-known horsemen Ilan Ferder and Tal Milstein brought her riding career back to life.
Ferder and Milstein now own some of Dzavik’s top competition horses. "Ilan and Tal kind of picked me up and gave me a big boost," Dzavik recalled. "They got me some great horses, and they sent me out to California to develop them. They essentially jump-started my career again after my injuries. I owe a lot of my recent success and my current career route to Ilan and Tal."
Building Special Bonds & Olympic Aspirations
Although she has the opportunity to ride many great horses through her partnership with Ferder and Milstein, Dzavik adores her horse Delphine. "I would say my heart belongs to my mare, Delphine. She came from Ilan and is probably the most special horse I have ever had, particularly because she is actually mine. She is a unique horse and very hot, but once we connected it really clicked, and she has been more than I could have ever asked for. I think she will keep getting better."
With Dzavik in the irons, Ferder and Milstein have been able to market horses successfully in the California. Admittedly, she gets attached and wishes she could keep each one. And ultimately she wants to represent her native Canada in the Olympics.
"Of course that is what most riders want, to ride for their country," Dzavik said of her Olympic goals. "It is very difficult to get there, especially if you don't have the funds to back it. I would say that that is what I have been working towards. Every experience is an important step."
Currently Dzavik is in Europe and in the process of forming her own enterprise. She plans to stay to train and compete for the next year while building up the string of horses from her various owners and sponsors. Her goal is to build a team strong enough to be competitive in the international Divisions in the near future.
Paving the path to show jumping stardom, Dzavik perseveres with dedication and passion.
Stay tuned for the announcement of Dzavik’s new web site. She looks forward to sharing the ups and downs of her travels down the competitive show jumping road online.