Eiren Crawford and the 4 year old stallion Instertanz V. Photo: Brenda Owen

I’m super excited to introduce Eiren Crawford to our team of bloggers!

I’ve known Eiren (virtually… we’ve never actually met) since she worked for Ingrid Klimke. As she often makes me laugh out loud (for real. in the office. it’s embarrassing sometimes) with her witty FB comments and photos, I figured she’d be perrrrfect as a blogger. No pressure Eiren…

Those eventers who think that dressage riders are all serious and boring are in for a shock…

So, “Live from Denmark”, here’s Eiren!  ~ Patricia

Hello Horse Junkies!

I thought for my first post here I would give you the background of how this Canadian girl ended up riding horses in Denmark. Since I’m one to make a short story long, get comfortable…

Growing up with horses, I’ve done everything from hunter-jumpers to anything in a western saddle (reining, cutting, barrel racing, western pleasure, etc.), but dressage caught my attention pretty early. At 14 years old I started cleaning stalls on weekends in exchange for dressage lessons and have pretty much been doing the same thing for the past 20 years. Through my labor as a working student and rider I have had incredible opportunities to learn from some outstanding riders as I work towards my goal of riding international Grand Prix, and hopefully one day representing my country.

In my early 20’s I had a few chances to go to Germany but always chickened out for various reasons. Then I was lucky enough to get a job grooming for Lars Petersen when he moved to America in 2002. In the year and a half that I worked for Lars I learned more than I ever could have imagined. I remember watching Lars ride and thinking, ‘holy crap, this is really hard work!‘ When all you see is 8 minutes of a Grand Prix performance in the competition ring, you have no idea of how much human and horse sweat goes into making it look effortless! Being exposed to the kind of hard work and dedication it takes to perform at that level really opened my eyes. Despite being a dork in the saddle, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to ride and eventually do some competitions in Florida and Virginia.

Somewhere during that time working for Lars I met and eventually fell in love with a great guy. This saw me staying in the US for much longer than I’d ever planned, working at various places and eventually having my own somewhat successful training and sales business in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful farm, I had great clients with high quality horses, and I could train regularly with Scott Hassler, and we had a lot of fun on the show circuit. I also had the amazing opportunity to ride the Hanoverian stallion Davignport, who taught me all kinds of lessons in FEI riding and dealing with stallion sexiness.

In December of 2007 my relationship came to a sudden, screeching stop. After a few weeks of wallowing in a pit of self-pity and Häagen-Dazs, I put my big-girl pants back on and got on with life. With the help of some invaluable friends I got on a plane to Germany and drove around to some top trainers, looking for work. I went to the stables of Carola Koppelmann, Heike Kemmer, Catherine Haddad, and finally Ingrid Klimke. And being one of the luckiest people I know, I got a job with Ingrid Klimke.

The business in Pennsylvania was shut down, horses were sold, returned, or moved, my stuff went in to storage and off I went for a new adventure. February 15, 2008 was my first day working for Ingrid in Münster, Germany, in what was to be a six month arrangement.

The glamorous life of working in Europe. Photo: Tik Maynard

Six months turned in to eight months, and then eventually to almost one and a half years. I will surely have a lot to say about the amazingness of Ingrid in future posts, as she is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. She trusted me enough to let me show some of her horses, from youngsters to “S” level (FEI), she encouraged me get work of my own with horses in training and students to teach.

Ingrid helped me find my next jobs in Germany, where I worked at the sales stable of Hermann Gösmeier and the lovely breeding station Gestüt Letter Berg. I rode at Letter Berg in the mornings, training and competing some of the stallions and young horses, and then drove to Gösmeier’s in the afternoon, where I had the chance to ride older, more experienced horses.

Between the two jobs I had the things I wanted: to do competition and ride horses of all ages. However, it was a lot of driving, long days, and it started to take it’s toll. Eventually I found myself a little unhappy and looked for a change. I thought I found a great opportunity in another part of Germany, and only after giving notice at my two jobs did it turn out that there had been a communication failure and this was NOT going to be a job for me. Doh! Suddenly things seemed a little desperate, with no jobs on the horizon, no inspiration, and no plan.

On a whim, I emailed Morten Thomsen. I’d never met the Danish trainer, but I’d read and heard a lot of great things about him, this trainer’s trainer. In my email I asked if he ever taught lessons near Münster, and imagine my surprise when he phoned me the next morning to tell me he’d be in the area the following weekend! I signed up for his clinic with the following plan: I would dazzle him with my incredible riding and then let him know that I was looking for a job (I was hoping that since he’s a busy clinician he might know of a place that was looking for help).

Unfortunately my horse was not down with my plan. She was quite a turd and instead of just flouncing around looking brilliant, I was bouncing all over the place, riding like a moron, and wondering what I was doing to make her leap and carry on like this?! At the end of my lesso,n Morten looked less than inspired when I told him I was looking for a job, saying that we’d talk the next day. After Sunday’s lesson, which thankfully had much less leaping and carrying on,  we talked a little about my work experience and what I was looking for. He said he might know of a job and would be in touch. (And let me add here – despite my riding like an idiot and my well-traveled mare behaving like she’d never been anywhere, the lessons were excellent. I understood right away why there was so many good things being said about Morten).

So it was a huge shock when it turned out the work he had in mind was at his own training and sales stable. I think I agreed to the job before he even finished describing it.  I packed up my life once again and, after almost three years in Germany, drove north to the rainy skies of Denmark.

I’ve been here for six months, since December of last year, and I have to say it’s amazing! I get to ride everything from green-broke 3 year olds to horses that know all of the Grand Prix. They let me compete four year olds at their first outing and take older horses their first Prix St George. The horses are happy and well taken care of. Morten freely shares his knowledge, so I get incredible lessons regularly. Importantly, I am also allowed the freedom to make some mistakes and sort it out on my own. It’s a small, positive group here with an outstanding team atmosphere. It’s true, I’m the luckiest person I know.

That’s the short version of it all, how I got to where I am. From the beginning, with my bumbling, wide-eyed border-crossing into America, there have been countless aha! moments and many, many doh! moments. As a horse junkie, you already know that our animals can make you feel on top of the world (Olympic Team here I come!) and then they will very thoroughly and usually very publicly humiliate you (could someone please catch that loose four year old stallion while I dig the arena sand out of my underwear?) and leave you wondering if training goldfish may not be better suited to your skills.

Since coming to Europe I’ve learned how to warm up in 20×40 meter arenas with 25 horses, I’ve had my butt kicked by A-listed German riders in local competitions, fed my Pikeur clothing addiction until it is an out of control monster, and tried (unsuccessfully) to act cool and nonchalant when standing just a few feet away from international stars of the sport. I’ve also discovered that pickled herring in curry sauce is actually kind of tasty, one can live without 24 hour shopping, and sarcasm does not translate well.

It’s still a big adventure for me and I hope I can share some of it here.