Two of Canada’s top dressage riders crossed the ocean to go hoof-to-hoof with some of the best riders in the world on their home turf.

Diane Creech of Caistor Centre, ON, and Jill Irving of Moncton, NB, did the maple leaf proud at the CDI 3* Uggerhalne in Denmark, June 1-5, and the CDI 4* Achleiten in Austria, June 8-11.

“We were super impressed with the organization and the care we received, from arriving from the airport and throughout the show,” said Creech of her experience at the CDI 3* Uggerhalne. “It was an incredible, one-of-a-kind event. It was the first time Helgstrand Dressage has run a show like this, but they sure know how to draw in a crowd. Not only did they have high quality athletes competing in jumping and dressage, they also had a top foal auction, stallion showcase, and an appreciation evening with four well-known Danish brands performing on the showgrounds. I brought back lots of memories from the show!”

Some of those great memories are sure to include the impressive results she earned with partner, Chrevi’s Christo (Chrevi’s Cavallo x Matador), the 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding she co-owns with Louise Leatherdale. On June 3, the pair finished fifth in the Grand Prix, earning a score of 68.720%.

“For Chrevi’s Christo it was a little like a homecoming as he was born and raised about an hour from the show,” Creech noted. “That gave his breeder, Mrs. Vivian Havebaek Thomason and family an opportunity to reunite with him. You can image how proud they were. Christo was really happy to give out lots of kissing and licking.”

Creech and Christo also had an impressive showing in the Grand Prix Special on June 5. They scored 71.118% to finish third and earn a place on the podium.

“Christo was so great dealing with the big European atmosphere,” Creech praised. “He was attentive and more than willing to show his home country how happy he is to perform. Receiving fifth in the Grand Prix and third in the Grand Prix Special was a great honour and I’m so proud Christo was able to start our European tour in such a great way. My daughter Vanessa and I are so grateful to Mrs. Louise Leatherdale for believing in us and giving us this once-in-a-lifetime chance to get European exposure and grow as trainers and riders.”

Creech’s daughter, Vanessa Creech-Terauds, rode Fleur de Lis L (First Dance x De Niro), an eight-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by her mom and Leatherdale, in the CDI-Y Young Rider classes at both the CDI 3* Uggerhalne and the Future Champions CDI Hagen, which ran June 13-19 in Germany, where she finished third in the Young Rider Freestyle with a score of 68.250%.

For Irving, competing in Europe at the CDI 4* Achleiten was a surreal experience.

“Competing in Europe has always been a dream of mine,” she exclaimed. “I’m happy to say I felt prepared due to the training I have had and competitions I have been able to experience in Canada and the US. Thomas Bauer, who runs the shows in Florida, highly recommended Achleiten as a great show to compete at in Europe. It was a beautiful competition in a gorgeous setting. The show is run by the Max-Theuer family on their property and I felt very special to be part of this event.”

Irving brought two horses with her to Austria, earning great results on both. With Arthur (Jazz x Contango), Windhaven Farm’s 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, she finished fifth in the Grand Prix on June 9, scoring 68.340%. Irving and Degas 12 (De Niro x Regazzoni), another of her Windhaven Farm horses, also finished eighth in the same class with their final mark of 66.420%. She and the 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding returned to the ring a day later to bring home sixth in the Grand Prix Freestyle, scoring 72.525%. Not to be outdone, Arthur danced his way around the Grand Prix Special to earn a personal best with Irving. Their score of 69.471% was good enough for second place.

“I was thrilled with both my horses,” said Irving. “To travel to Europe and place in all of my class at my first show was something I never imagined. My horses exceeded my expectations to say the least! Degas’ Freestyle was a highlight. To hear the crowd loudly cheer when I finished my ride was something I honestly didn’t expect. People kept coming up to me and saying how much they loved my ride! On Arthur, his piaffe and passage in the Special were like we were dancing. It was so fun!”

Irving attributes her success as a direct result of her strong bond with her horses, and the team she’s surrounded herself with.

“I’ve owned Arthur for two years,” she explained. “Ashley Holzer, my trainer, rode him for the first year to finish his Grand Prix work. When I took over the ride, it took a bit of getting used to, but now I feel really at home with him. I’ve had Degas for eight years, so we now know everything about each other. We’re like a married couple. He knows what I’m thinking and I know what he’s thinking.

I’m part of an amazing team, and that’s where success is derived. I’ve trained with Ashley for 32 years. My groom, Jordan Laughlin, has been with me for two years and has been outstanding in her commitment to me and making the horses a priority. She was complimented at the jog in Achleiten for how well-groomed the two horses were, especially Degas’ shiny coat. And of course our vet and farriers are a huge part of the team. Most important are my husband and four children who are patient with all my time on the road. I couldn’t have done any of this without their unfailing support.”

Thanks to her strong support system, Irving is planning on staying and competing in Europe until mid-July before coming home to Canada to finish the season.

Congratulations to the Creech family and Irving for showcasing Canada’s talented dressage contingent on the world stage.