Written by: Kim King

A chat with an ambitious Canadian dressage rider, coach and clinician.

Thumbnail for Game On: Eiren Crawford

Purple Horse Designs Photo

British Columbia native Eiren Crawford can’t remember her first ride. Her mother, an avid English and western rider, and her father, a cutting horse competitor, had her on the back of a horse before she could walk. Early in her riding career Eiren’s mother, Mary Ellen, impressed upon her how dressage could improve a horse. In 1988, a lesson with Canadian Olympian Gina Smith made a lasting impression on the then-12-year-old rider. “Gina made dressage seem fun and exciting,” she recalled. From that day on she was hooked on the sport.

Eiren’s riding education took her to Europe from 2008 to 2014 to train at some of the most well-respected stables in Germany and Denmark. “A [planned] year of training turned into six-and-a-half years,” she said. During this time, Eiren worked for Ingrid Klimke for a year and a half, describing the experience as “an absolute privilege.” Eiren worked with Morton Thompson in Denmark for two years, and also trained out of the barn of Andreas Helgestrand.

Eiren, 42, feels she benefitted from the complete immersion in the culture of dressage while in Europe. Every facility she rode at provided an opportunity to gain insight into different styles of riding and barn management. Eiren also gained valuable experience riding and competing young stallions and made her grand prix debut in Europe.

Upon returning to North America, Eiren settled in the Baltimore, Maryland, area at An Otherwise Perfect Farm (now AOPF Stables, owned by the Germain family). “I fell in love with the farm and the area,” she admitted. The other advantage of her current location is the exposure to the varied equine culture of the area, including fox hunting and steeplechase racing. Eiren has even taken part in an occasional fox hunt, which she greatly enjoys as a break from the dressage ring.

Eiren’s barn is cozy and very well-organized. There are spacious grass paddocks for turnout and each 12 x 14 stall has a window for the horses which looks out over the beautiful Maryland countryside. Two working students, Caroline Chochran and Emma Count, assist in keeping the barn running smoothly, aided by a whiteboard with detailed notes and updates on each horse in the barn. Eiren’s eye for detail is apparent when you watch her work with her staff and horses. The atmosphere in the barn is that of a positive learning environment where the priority is top care and training for the horses.

For the past three winters, Eiren has relocated All Points Dressage Systems, of which she is head trainer, to Sunshine Meadows Equestrian Village in Del Ray Beach, Florida, closely accessible to the Wellington showgrounds. When busy schedules allow, Eiren trains with top US dressage rider Allison Brock, a trainer who, according to Eiren, is creative, a straight-talker, kind to the horses, and one who exhibits the attention to detail and precision required in the competition ring.

Eiren travels to Canada to teach clinics on a regular basis, something she finds gratifying as she observes the improvements made by riders over the long term. Her popularity as a clinician has taken her to Saskatoon, Calgary, and Kelowna as well as multiple locations in the US. In between clinics, Eiren often enjoys a quick break visiting family in the Okanagan region of BC. Her keen eye for dressage prospects has resulted in successful sales of several talented horses from Europe to North America including Countess, the mount of American rider Molly Paris, as well as Ashley Holzer’s mare Valentine.

Eiren typically rides seven to eight horses a day at home. Her 14-year-old Alberta-bred Canadian Warmblood gelding, Warello (“Connor”), is her current top horse and her goal is to continue to compete him at CDI3* level to see where this will take them. The up-and-coming star in Eiren’s stable is Godot SSF (UB40 x Sir Sinclair), a KWPN gelding owned by his breeder, Scot Tolman of Shooting Star Farms. Eiren and Godot (“Sammy”) were very successful at Devon this past season, winning the USDF six-year-old class with scores of 79.6% and 77.2%. “The goal with Sammy is to begin doing some FEI work this year,” she said of her plans for this horse, whose future she is quite excited about. “Sammy is the happiest, most easy-going horse I have ridden. He has no flaws!” Other horses waiting in the wings include two of her own: the three-year-old Jabam SSF (UB40 x Everdale) and Kanadian SSF, a full brother to Godot.

Eiren identified her career highlights as her wins at Devon with her young horses, as well as competing in her second-ever CDI grand prix there riding Warello to fourth place. Eiren and Warello were also invited to compete in the Royal Invitational Dressage Cup at the 2017 Royal Horse Show in Toronto, ON. Despite the big show atmosphere and having to learn a brand new freestyle, she rode beautifully and exhibited the cool composure of a true professional. Eiren collaborated with fellow Canadian Jacquie Brooks to perfect her kur – typical of the mutual support and camaraderie of the riders in this event.

There is no doubt that Eiren possesses the drive and motivation to make it to the top of her sport. Hanging above the front door of her house is a picture with the inspirational caption: SHE THOUGHT SHE COULD, AND SO SHE DID.

Words to live by; it’s ‘game on’ for this Canadian rider, every single day.