Vanessa Krikava, born 1972 in Vienna, Austria, had her first introduction to horses through her mother, Cindy Krikava. At the age of five, Vanessa accompanied her mother to a riding school, where Cindy would receive dressage lessons on various horses. Vanessa watched with excitement and a keen desire to one day ride herself. Too young to begin riding in Austria (pony size individuals are rare), she did not actually begin riding until the age of 11. By that time, the whole family had moved to England. After about a year of lessons, Cindy bought an inexpensive small horse to see what ownership would entail. A few years later, when Vanessa was 16, she was riding two horses (Easy Street and Solar Toy) at Preliminary level eventing in England. "Toys" loved the sport as much as Vanessa and never incurred a cross country penalty point in her six years of competiton. Vanessa was able to train with some of the greats, like Lucinda Green, Mark Todd and Yogi Breisner from Waterstock House, now Chef d' Equipe to the British Eventing team.
In 1990, when Vanessa was 18, the whole family moved to the United States. Cindy discovered that a top US event rider lived reasonably close by. Vanessa began to take lessons with Louise Meryman at Treeline Farm, Millbrook, NY; that quickly evolved into a working student situation. The whole thing was a wonderful learning experience.
Having decided to become a horse professional, Vanessa put her college education on hold. At the time (1993), she was having a blast studying art history and illustration at Parson's School of Design in NYC. During the next five years, Vanessa would acquire invaluable information as a working student for 6 different professionals (3 eventing: Marcia Kulak, David O'Brien & Louise Meryman; 3 dressage: Sue Blinks, Felicitas von Neuman-Cosel and Andrea Mc Cauley). What a spectacular insight into horse care, stable management, riding and competing this provided.
In 1995, the Krikavas moved from a home in Greenwich, CT to a farm in Warwick, NY, where Vanessa and her family would become very involved with farm and land improvement. A wonderful neighbor, Pete Masker, who as a boy had grown up on that property, offered his help building two big run-in sheds, a 60' extension to the small indoor riding arena and an addition of 7 stalls to the outside of that riding arena. Roland (Vanessa's brother), Vanessa, Pete and sometimes his grandsons would build these structures by themselves. Pete also helped with a multitude of other things almost on a daily basis for a number of years. He was and still is like a guardian angel to people who really did not have a clue about owning a farm when they started. His attitude was that anyone can learn.
Towards the end of an action packed event season at Prelim level in 1998, Vanessa had an unfortunate fall at an innocuous fence with her horse Gazelle. Following the accident, there was a natural evolution towards specializing in dressage. During the fall of 1999, Vanessa had her first clinic with top dressage trainer, Uwe Steiner. After the first lesson, Vanessa knew that she had found someone with tremendous insight into classical dressage in its purest form. Since then, Grey Dawn Farm hosted monthly clinics which were to last a decade. During the winter Vanessa would head south to train with Herr Steiner at Fox Lea Farm in Venice, Florida. The more Vanessa learned from the native German, the more she became astounded at the depth and range of his knowledge. Another classical horseman who helped Vanessa a great deal was Gunnar Ostergaard. From 2006-2007 Vanessa worked with Katie Riley at Cesar Parra's Performance Farm near Gladstone, NJ, where she was
inspired by the barn's fantastic working environment and positive attitude. At the time Hubertus Schmidt was a big fixture at the barn and his impact on the training system was felt by all. It was an amazing experience. Beginning in the fall of 2007 until the spring of 2009, Vanessa worked with Chris Hickey at Hilltop Farm, MD and also during 2 winter seasons in Wellington, FL. Chris has a very humane and systematic approach to training all different types of horses and riders. His strong work ethic and attention to detail came to fruition at competition, where he was frequently in the winner's circle at all levels. Chris often worked with Ulla Salzgeber, who is a world reknowned competitor and trainer at the highest level of dressage. Vanessa stayed in FL for the summer of 2009 and had the opportunity to train with Juan Matute, whose enthusiasm and passion for dressage was extremely infectious and fun. Juan is an artist at the highest level and his list of achievements at international level dressage competition is extensive. When Vanessa was no longer able to ride due to her pregnancy, she received invaluble help from Mette Kjellerup who hails from the famous Danish Blue Hors Stud. Mette kindly rode Vanessa's horses during the last months of her pregnancy until the beginning of November, 2009. Until the end of the winter season in FL, 2010, Vanessa worked extensively with Werner Van den Brande, who has made a huge impact on her riding. A native of Belgium, Werner has been in the limelight of dressage since a very young age. Specializing in importing and promoting quality dressage horses from Europe, he has found and started international superstars like Galant Du Serein. In the beginning of June, Vanessa, her eight month old daughter, Helena and her partner, made their way back up north to their homebase at Grey Dawn Farm, Warwick, NY.
Recently Vanessa has worked with Marius Schreiner of the Spanish Riding School and Catherine Haddad, both excellent clinicians. Elizabeth Campbell has been an enormous help with her eyes on the ground and test preparation skills, during the winter seasons of 2011 & 2012. Vanessa's stay at Michael Poulin's in April, 2012 was informative, encouraging and inspirational. Goals for the future at GDF include: to continue to impact horses and riders in a positive way; to put a solid foundation on all horses that come from Grey Dawn Farm; to become reknowned for producing top prospects in dressage who are all happy, sound, expressive and confident. Finally to keep learning and honing.