Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Allison Springer's How To: Win Best Turnout at Rolex and/or Make it to the Top

Another beautiful photo by Josh Walker
Arthur at Rolex 3-Day Event; jogs 2009

Allison's Mom says she's tenacious. And, you know, she is. We talked first on the tail end of her cold and a lost voice. We made it through about a quarter of the interview of Allison gamely pressing on before we agreed perhaps it was best for her to rest her voice and talk again later. So we did that and I got to finish the interview perched on the wooden steps of my barn after a lesson with Allison in Aiken, SC resting between Team Training Sessions. She talked enthusiastically about everything from her childhood, to her involvement in the Professional Rider's Organization, to how happiness happens works for her. So she was more than tenacious. She was an inspiration.

Q. What happens at training sessions? Can you walk me through one?

A. The training sessions begin the year before they put out the high performance list and developing rider list. The people that are on those lists will receive training. It used to be that developing riders got to do one or two days of lessons. It seems to me that they’re really trying to make our developing rider program a little better now and they’re getting more training. Last year [Captain] Mark [Phillips] started training them as well. It’s great they’re doing something more.

I do have mixed feelings about having him teach the developing riders. I’ve felt he should spend more time with riders on the high performance list getting them ready. I’ve liked what I’ve heard about what they do in England where you go to each of the riders’ farms and spend a day with them and ride a lot of their horses including their young horses. It’s funny, here they pick who’s hot on what horse and you get lessons. For the long terms and building a team and understanding individual rider’s needs. Not every rider is the same. Some need pressure, a kick in the pants. Some need training. This year they’ve been trying to get some more specialized help. In the past we’ve used Laura Kraut and Lauren Huff; they’re both really good showjump riders. This year we’re using Katie Prudent who’s my showjump instructor and one of the best horse people I’ve met. She’s amazing. We’re also using a grad prix dressage rider and we’re really taking all the horses to a whole new level of engagement.

photo courtesy of Allison Springer

Allison and Arthur dancing their way through the World Cup Finals, France

When the high performance list comes out there’s a conference call and we decide on what dates work and set a calendar. Generally that changes a couple times! They’ll schedule lessons. I feel like we’ve done something every week in February. It’s been a hard month. I’m excited Arthur isn’t competing this weekend and gets a few easy days.

It’s set up like a clinic where we have our ride times and come and take out lessons. It is open to auditors and it’s free for people to come and watch. Especially when Katie Prudent comes back in March. She actually teaches the auditors as well. You can’t help but learn when you’re around her. Katie really talks to the crowd. Everyone should come and watch. I think it’s March 16th and 17th

Q. You grew up in a place called Barrington Hills. What was it like?

A. It was amazing. It’s kind of why I’m doing what I’m dong today. I was blessed to grow up in that area. I owe so much of my riding to that place. Barrington is a North West suburb of Chicago. It’s a really neat place with a forest reserve and a park district with a riding center with indoor and riding arena. No one boarded but you could trailer in. They had such a dedicated riding community that Barrington Hills Riding Club kept an extensive riding system and from anybody’s place you could take a trail and get over to the forest reserve. I Pony Clubbed and fox hunted too. My playtime was with my friends cruising around on our ponies. I had a wonderful childhood because of that.

photo courtesy of Allison Springer

Allison Springer with some Barrington Hills fans

Q. Your mom uses the word “tenacious” in describing you. How would you describe yourself?

A. I think I’m very hard working. I’m very hard working! I’m very honest. Even if I have plans to go to dinner and I didn’t want to go I wouldn’t make up an excuse. I am honest. I think that I’m a happy person. I think that happiness is something you can choose to be and I choose to have a happy life. Everyone has problems. Everyone knows someone who has been sick or had tragedies and I’ve had them as well. Even with those things I choose to be a positive person and I choose to see the positive side. Even when something is tough or doesn’t go well like at a competition I choose to see the positive. That’s kind of me. I’m pretty positive and choose to be that way.

Q. A lot of eventers go to Aiken, SC or Ocala, FL. You go to both Wellington and Aiken. How did you make that decision?

A. My time in Wellington is all about me. I don’t take students down there and I might have some horses in training but it’s really the time I take to get the lessons I need and work a lot with Katie Prudent. I used to be not great in dressage and the winter I went to Wellington I started working with JJ Tate. I had been doing well at Advanced but I felt like I’d gotten to a spot where I ‘d been doing well, but how do you make it to the top? That’s a foundation thing. It’s the basics that make you the best. I went down to Wellington the first winter and I went thinking I know nothing and I want to learn all over again. I want to produce horses correctly and do it right. I learned so, so much. For two years I went for the entire winter. There was a chunk in my career where I didn’t have Advanced horses so that was a good time to do that. You can stay down there when you’re doing Intermediate but not Advanced. You can’t get the conditioning and it’s too far to travel to competitions. Aiken has so many more choices for competitions and so many more of them and the footing is great. So Aiken is the place to be in February and March.

photo by Josh Walker

Wellington is a totally different world. One of my best friends has a farm there so I can be a little out of the circus. It’s wonderful to spend time with her and it becomes a little more affordable. It’s done so much for my riding.

Q. Tell me about your horses

A. Arthur is competing right now and will go to Rolex [Kentucky 3-Day] this spring and trying to get on the WEG [World Equestrian Games] team this year. I’ve had him since he was five and he’s sort of a momma’s boy. He’s sweet and kind and a little spooky and tricky to ride, but honest. Some are spooky and nappy and naughty but he’s genuine and a superb athlete. He’s eleven this year and he’s a very sound horse and we just keep him happy with his ulcers and stuff like that. I have Burger-Destination Known-my gray horse. He’s a totally ham. He puts a smile on your face every day. Burger is more of the frat boy of the bunch. He’s hopefully doing some rehab work and then a trot program then flatting next month. He won’t make it to [Rolex] Kentucky, which is disappointing. We’ll go to Bromont and we’d love to go to Germany for the four stars but I own him so if I do that I’ll have to syndicate him. You know it’s not cheap to go into that sort of thing! He’s very ready to do a four star. We just sold Tiamo this week to a little girl who will adore him in Memphis, TN. We bought him to be a big horse for me or Katie who owns him but there was a question if he would really be a 4 star horse and if he’ll have the scope. He’s like my son I cry so hard when I sell a horse. Anything I sell is something I’ve had for a while and supposed to, maybe, be for me. But if they’re not going to be an upper-level horse I do what’s best for them. I just get so attached to them.

photo by Emily Daily

Allison Springer on Arthur

Q. You’ve won the Best Turnout award at Rolex. Any tips for the rest of us?

A. I don’t know. You’re going to have to ask Arthur about it! We call it 'The Most Handsomest Horse Award'. He’s this gorgeous liver chestnut but he has a harder time in Florida than in Aiken and gets that skin irritation in the winter. He’ll have hair growing in different colors through January and February. Last year he looked like someone threw bleach on him. But there’s something about Rolex: come time for the jog he’s just blooming dapples. He always dapples in Kentucky, I think he enjoys being there. I don’t know what he does, but come Sunday, we’re like--he looks good! We were surprised he got it the second year last year. They give you your cooler right after showjumping for the awards ceremony and we were like-- we won it again?

As far as turnout my style at the jog is more of a classic. I wear outfits that compliment my horse. I think a lot of people go to the jog and just get attention drawn to them. Some people look down right trashy. I think a classic, clean look that compliments your horse. We are athletes as riders but our horses are what we’re showcasing especially in the jog. It’s important to have that classic look. It is a ground jury who picks that award which is a real honor to win.

Want to go to a training session? You can! Call Sara Ike at the USEF at 908-326-1164 or email her at sara.ike@usef.org. Check back in for more from Allison Springer including creating balance and happiness in your life and why no whining is allowed! See ya soon.


  1. Great interview! I was a working student at Team Windchase, where Arthur's sire, Brandenburg's Windstar, stands, and I know how some of those horses can be! Phenomenal jumpers, but too smart and kooky for their own good, haha! The few times I've gotten to watch Allison go have been really cool - she's a fantastic rider and her horses are lovely.

  2. Every horse should have such a complimenting accessory. Great interview, Cortney!


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