Allison Springer’s life has looked a little different since Arthur’s retirement last year, but with new promising talent coming up the ranks, fans are enjoying watching her once again at the top levels. We caught up with her for a chat about horses, competition nerves and much more!
EN: How is Arthur enjoying retirement?
Allison: “He is happy! Still ruling the roost over there. I think the best part of life right now is he gets to go out with a pack with other horses, so that’s fun for him. He’s teaching all my girls, and when I have time I’ll do a little on him. He’s just been great.”
EN: You also have some exciting horses coming through the pipeline. How does it feel to be back at the Advanced level?
Allison: “They’re all young and pretty exciting. I haven’t been here in ages on an inexperienced horse. As tricky and spooky as Arthur could be cross country, he’s pretty amazing jumping big stuff right out of stride. This course never felt easy, but it’s certainly a course where you could see the horses that are going to Kentucky handled it so well. You miss that. I’m having to rethink about what’s the best Advanced level track and schedule to produce these horses. It’s new and different! But they’re all really great jumpers and I’m excited for the future.”
EN: What was your first horse trial?
Allison: “My very first horse trial was an unrecognized event. It was the Fox River Valley Pony Club mini event, and I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. There’s an adorable picture of me cross country on Marshmallow, my very first pony, and I was in my hunt coat. I remember someone asking my mom if I wanted to borrow their Caliente with the colored helmet and all that and we were like, ‘why would you do that?’ So I was the only one out there in a hunt coat in my show clothes. But that was super fun.
“I’m sure my first recognized horse trial then would’ve been the Fox River Valley Pony Club Horse Trials which is still a tremendous event today. That would’ve been on Bay Sugar, and I’m pretty certain I fell off into the big Fox River Valley P.C. panel that they always had as the last show jump there.”
EN: What is the most memorable moment of your riding career?
Allison: “There have been so many. I remember very clearly the first time I had Arthur at Rolex. He went double clear on cross country and that was just such a great feeling to see the finish flags. Winning Red Hills on Arthur was a big win because I worked so hard on show jumping, and that show jumping was so hard and he did jump clean. This was a big win here [at Carolina] too. Just the joy of being able to ride and train these amazing horses always feels like a gift.”
EN: If you weren’t in horses, what career would you have?
Allison: “My major was Government and Legal Studies. I’m always pretty fascinated with leadership in this country. I’m not sure if I would’ve gone the politics route, but I’ve always been interested in that. I’m a good teacher, so I think education would’ve been a part of it too somehow.”
EN: What’s the best riding advice you’ve gotten?
Allison: “I remember one year at Kentucky walking the course the final time on Friday night. You want to do really well, so you spend the whole night worrying and thinking about it. I remember Phillip saying, ‘go have dinner with your support team and don’t think about it tonight. Have a good meal. Have a good night’s rest. Then, come in the morning and have your walk.’
“That was such a good thing because the mental part of this is huge, and we waste so much energy on worrying about it. You can control those nerves way better than you think. That seems like such a simple thing, but it actually is so helpful.”
EN: So you get nervous before a big competition? Do you have any other strategies for managing nerves?
Allison: “I think everybody does. There can be certain fences where you think, ‘I’m not excited to jump that’ or ‘my horse doesn’t particularly like coffins’ or trakehners or whatever. You always have control to make yourself focus on the things you need to. So spend your time thinking on what you can control. Say, ‘This is where I want to jump. This is the line I want to be on. This is the canter I need to have. These are all the ingredients.’ Instead of just thinking ‘Oh God!’ Because if you’re worried about just getting to the other side of the fence, you aren’t setting yourself up for success. I think learning to control your mind is important. When you feel the other thoughts coming in, you can choose to think about it differently. I think people don’t realize that enough.”
EN: “What advice do you have for someone who has dreams of being a professional?”
Allison: “If you want to be a professional rider, you have to understand what success is for you. I love, love listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast. He always interviews people who have had success in any realm, and a lot of these people have their own sort of advisory board, people you go to. Who is that? Is it your trainer? Who is that best support staff in a well-rounded group that you can get guidance from? I think that’s important. You have to be good as an individual, but you also need a good group that you trust and can ask about all different sorts of things.”
“I’m huge on education. I think if you want to compete at the highest level of the sport there’s a lot of relationships you have to understand how to develop and maintain. I think that education, critical thinking skills, are really important.”
EN: Who was your riding idol growing up?
Allison: “The first time I saw my sport was the 1984 Olympics on TV. That whole Olympic team is what set me on this path. I remember when Karen Stives and Mark Todd had their congratulatory hug when she came out of the show jumping — he ended up winning. I was just so enthralled with everyone on that team.
“When I first started riding with Karen O’Connor and got to watch her ride a little bit more she was a real guiding light for me in many ways, too.”
EN: What Nupafeed products do you use and why are they part of your program?
Allison: “I use the Nupafeed magnesium supplement with a number of horses. I think it’s so great with a number of horses that get tense. I think that is a tremendous supplement for naturally working through tension.
“In the past with other horses I’ve used the L-Carnitine Equine Energy Supplement. For Copycat Chloe that was incredibly powerful for the staying power on cross country.”