Living on a farm in the Limestone Coast feels like a world away from the United States, but young Mount Gambier rider Kate Crauford is about to fly halfway across the globe to resume her show jumping dream.
The 20-year-old has already achieved great things in the industry on both sides of the Pacific Ocean and hopes to continue her promising career after she was forced to return home last year. Crauford is travelling to the US to work as a competition rider for the impressive Holly Hill Farm facility and cannot wait to tackle the new opportunity.
“I got a job riding in quite a prestigious farm in America and I will fly to Florida and pick up from where I left off in July last year,” she said. “I have a great feeling about it,” Crauford said. “It is a big step out of my comfort zone, but even if it is a short stay, I am sure I will learn loads and have many great experiences.”
Crauford’s special role includes competing most days of the week, but it also entails many more tasks than just riding horses. She also has to raise, feed, train and manage the horses to make sure they are in the best shape mentally and physically for a long career, while she also manages younger riders and the barn’s surrounds at the same time.
During competition season, days working around the barns can begin before sunrise and not finish until nightfall. But being a horse lover for as long as she can remember, Crauford said the connection the rider builds with their animal is always worth the hours of hard work.
“There is nothing quite like the experience of producing and teaching a horse everything it knows,” she said. “It is mind blowing watching it achieve great success because it is a long and emotional journey. “We do not speak the same language, but somehow we can convey things across and when you get to go out and test everything you taught, the feeling is like nothing else.”
Crauford was destined to fall in love with horses as she was born into the activity. Both of her parents are keen horse riders and Crauford has been riding since she could walk. Her competition career started at the age of four and she went on to represent numerous state squads.
After school studies became a priority, Crauford took a break from the saddle before travelling around the world during her gap year. It was during her holiday across the US, Canada and Europe she decided to focus on the American horse-riding industry.
Crauford approached a friend based in the US, who helped the youngster build relationships and find horses to ride. The then 18-year-old said she initially found the American industry a huge step into the deep end rubbing shoulders with the daughters of well-known figures such as Bruce Springsteen and Bill Gates.
“When I first arrived it was very overwhelming because there were a lot of people with famous surnames who present themselves very well,” Crauford said. “I had no idea how much money goes into it and the most overwhelming part was the infrastructure, sponsors and money people had.
“It took me a while to fit in at all because I felt like a fish out of water for the first four weeks. “It was a lot to deal with for a small country kid, but everyone was so friendly, so it was great.” Despite the initial hard work to break into the industry, Crauford said things moved in her direction quickly.
“It is a hard industry to get opportunities in, so it was just I believed I was in the right place at the right time,” she said. “I did a lot of riding for different people just to build experience and then opportunities came out of that. “Next thing I was riding at shows and competing with people’s horses. “It all happened very fast, but then COVID hit and everything stopped.”
After a whirlwind seven months, Crauford was forced to fly back home after COVID took over the world and her VISA expired. Despite the disappointment of her American journey being put on hold, Crauford enjoyed relaxing at home and now she is refreshed and ready to tackle her next opportunity at the new barn.
Although the American COVID19 situation is vastly different to Australia’s, the wise rider does not hold any regrets and cannot wait to resume her career. “I have been over there during the pandemic and it is not as bad as the media portrays,” Crauford said. “I know the industry is very good at keeping to itself and I tried to be very organised taking out extensive health insurance just in case. “I am comfortable with what I have decided, so it is all excitement now.”