As an athlete, trainer, and coach, five-star rider Allison Springer is revered throughout the eventing world and beyond for her commitment to the sport and to her horses. Short-listed for the U.S. Eventing Team for the 2012 Olympics in London, Springer has been named to multiple USEF High Performance Training Lists and led the charge for the FEI rule change put into effect this year which mandates helmets be worn while mounted for all disciplines. Her training program consistently produces horses and riders who achieve success across all levels of the sport.
STRIDER caught up with Springer for an interview during the recent USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds, where she coached, competed horses in the Bates USEA Preliminary, USEA Intermediate, and $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final.
Between her training and competition calendar, Springer dedicates time to travel and teach clinics across North America. A USEA Instructors’ Certification Program Level IV certified instructor with an approach to teaching that places a heavy emphasis on clear, effective communication between rider and horse, Springer’s lessons in dressage, show jumping, and cross-country are popular for horses and riders working at any level.
“I so enjoy teaching, it’s one of my strengths. I have always prided myself in the clinics that I teach –the ones that I travel for and the ones I teach at home are important to me. Teaching people how to train is very interesting. The goal is always for people to go home with stuff to work on.”
“I teach a series of clinics in Hamilton, Mass. and it’s so fun to see repeat students, especially to get a sense of what they are building on and see it through.”
In December of 2020, Springer purchased and began a few updates on her own Deerfield Farm in Upperville, Va. which boasts a cross-country course with questions for combinations working anything from Beginner Novice through Advanced as well as quality footing in the sizable indoor and outdoor arenas. These updates have paved the way for Springer to host a popular at-home clinic series which provides regularly scheduled opportunities for riders local to Area II.
“I’m pinching myself that I bought this place and it’s mine and that I can share it . . . it has been so fun to meet new people in the area, and it’s really great to see them excited to come back.”
“We’ve added some parking and created more space for people to bring their horses. There is now TruTex fiber in the outdoor, we completely redid the indoor footing and got great, fun show jump fillers and ‘scary’ things from Jump4Joy – everything from dragons to butterflies. Our water jump is one of the best to school in the area, so it’s a great place to teach and to train cross-country.”
Springer has set up her facility to provide ideal conditions for horses and riders to gain confidence. As an instructor, Springer aims to instill in her students clear, effective communication skills to achieve success with their horses.
“You don’t get more confidence just by jumping a lucky, clear round. It’s not enjoyable when you’re just surviving it. What gives you confidence is knowing you can communicate clearly, and your horse responds.”
“Our job is to make the horse understand what we’re asking and make it as easy as possible for them to do their job.”
“Much of what I talk about, and how I start off most clinic lessons is the philosophy and theory of how horses learn . . . We have a huge responsibility to understand them in the best way we can. Everything to horses is some blend of comfort and understanding. They do crazy stuff because we ask them to, so we have a responsibility to help them understand and find joy in their work.”
Springer attributes her success on a wide variety of horses to consistency and clear communication based in a general understanding of how horses learn. Combined with an emphasis on equitation, the underlying philosophy that guides her teaching and training is quite simplistic, though it is not easy.
“So many people come to me and ask: ‘what more do I have to do to ride well?’ The answer is to do a heck of a lot less. Riders need to make things simple for the horse to understand, that foundation is the building block for success.”
“The cool thing about horses is that they are incredibly trainable –they’re not always easy, but they are trainable. They seek to understand what we want. When people learn to understand why something isn’t working, they can find a path to success.”
“The hard things are riders’ habits; our habits are very hard to break.”
Springer tells STRIDER that the way forward is an emphasis on correct equitation and proper flatwork, which then translates seamlessly into work over fences.
“To teach horses to respond to light, quiet aids is the goal . . . I’m going to ride every horse the same way, because the theory and training are the same. There’s a feel to it all but the way horses understand is really consistent.”
“Horses will understand your intention of lot of times, but they don’t always know the difference between intentional and unintentional communication. That comes down to correct equitation. When you have an accurate understanding, you can communicate very deliberately.”
For Springer, to learn more about horses and about the sport is an ongoing endeavor propelled by love and respect for the horse.
“I am always learning and I don’t have it all figured out. But I love the sport that I do and am fascinated by the best people in every discipline . . . I have always been the little girl who fell in love with horses.”
To learn more about Allison Springer Eventing, visit www.allisonspringereventing.com. Find and book upcoming clinic dates for the series at Deerfield Farm or Allison Springer’s clinics throughout North America via STRIDER at www.striderpro.com.
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Lisa Pragg is a busy woman, but between her normal day job and competing her own 19-year-old Thoroughbred Impeccable she still prioritizes time to volunteer - both at horse trials and as a volunteer firefighter. Pragg understands the importance that volunteers play in the eventing community and makes sure to give whatever time she can back as a fair gesture.
Attention USEA members! Registration for the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention is now open! The convention will be held in person on December 7-11, 2022 at the Hyatt Regency Savannah Hotel in Savannah, Georgia.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is proud to announce the selected Young Rider athletes for the Emerging Athletes 21 Program (EA21) national camp, now that the EA21 regional clinics have concluded. Twelve riders were accepted into each of the five regional EA21 clinics, taught by USEA Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) instructors, and now riders have been selected from the regional clinics to participate in the inaugural EA21 national camp this winter.
Ninety percent of training a horse is getting the horse to understand exactly what you want them to do. In general, horses are generous and willing creatures who want to please us; very seldom do they behave badly on purpose. Horses don’t come out and say, ‘Let’s make Mom’s (or Dad’s) life miserable today by going as poorly as possible - most prefer to do the right thing, as long as they know what that is.