“You have a responsibility for staying fit for your animal,” emphasized Allison Springer. Much like many other eventing professionals, Springer rides multiple horses at multiple levels ranging from Connemara ponies, off-the-track Thoroughbreds, Belgian Warmbloods, and more. Notorious for throwing down dominating dressage tests and coming off a third-place finish in the Millbrook Horse Trials Adequan USEA Gold Cup Advanced division, Springer gave several pointers on rider fitness. To view the first article in this series, please click here.
Sore muscles, achy joints, back pain, and ibuprofen - eventing can take a toll on the human body. Like any other top-level athlete in a challenging sport, eventing professionals take their personal fitness seriously. For Springer, it’s not just about being fit in the saddle for personal success, it’s about the partner underneath. “You owe it to your horse to be fit.”
“I too often see people at the end of their cross-country making silly mistakes. Mentally you make mistakes when you’re fatigued and that happens at every level. We have a responsibility for staying sharp for our horses and to make their job easy.”
Springer stayed sharp for Lord Willing to finish third in the 2018 Millbrook Horse Trials Advanced division. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
“Fitness is important for everyone because it makes your riding better. Everyone is dealing with the same stuff in that you want your horse to respond to you well.”
Springer identified two practices for riders of all levels to focus on. “Two things that I think are important for riding, [first] cardio and [second] your strength and flexibility. For the strength and flexibility, I do a lot of yoga, I use yogadownload.com. For cardio, I used to do spinning and a treadmill routine but after I broke my back the only thing I could do was walk. So, then I got into hiking. I also enjoy playing tennis.”
As a resilient eventer, the injury she suffered on the dark day of May 14 in 2016 at Jersey Fresh International was not going to sideline Springer. After making a full recovery in 2017 Springer marched down the centerline over 64 times at 22 different horse trials and averaged four horses per show. Her recovery was made possible through her determination, “I would say I do cardio three times a week and yoga at least three times a week. I try to do something six days a week.”
Springer jumping clean with Lord Willing at the 2018 Great Meadow International CICO3*. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
Referring to the first day of Great Meadow International CICO3*, Springer explained, “Everything I did today, the dressage and show jumping, I can feel myself breathing hard and my heart rate up. So, the cardio [aspect] is important and I don’t think very many people realize that by just watching. They think, ‘Oh the horse is doing all the work,’ but it’s pretty tiring.” Although it might be tiring, Springer found herself on top of a stacked leaderboard with Lord Willing (Lord Z x Lengende IX), a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding, after dressage and show jumping.
"For my dressage work, this morning I knew my right hip was tight and that I was going to have a hard time accessing my right leg and right seat bone. But, yoga changes me.”
“Yoga for me is huge. For eventers, we get so much strength, but it’s not a balanced strength. This can lead to a lot of lower back pain just because that’s how our muscles have developed. I notice such a difference if I don’t make the time to work out.”
Springer and Lord Willing on their way to winning the dressage on a 27.8 in the CIC3* at the 2018 Jersey Fresh International. USEA/Jessica Duffy.
Shoulders, hips, and back are the three targeted areas Springer works on. “I always trying to focus on my hips. I do a lot of pigeon [pose], which is painful - it will literally make you cry. [Also] your back strength is hugely important. I get my best back strength from yoga exercises because I don’t think abs alone does it. [Lastly] as riders, we get so hunched forward in our shoulders which happens to your posture over time, but you need to be able to open up your collarbone and get strength down your back .”
“With all of us, it’s finding the time to do stuff that can be hard, so you have to make yourself stay on it.”
"Staying on it" is how Springer has found success at the highest levels of eventing, how she’s fully recovered from a serious injury, and how her horses continue to stay happy.
With the help from hiking, a fully recovered Springer went onto win the very first Modified level with Fairvoya S at The Fork Horse Trials in 2017. USEA Photo.
If you have a unique fitness routine, the USEA wants to hear from you! Email [email protected] with your fitness stories, advice, and/or practices.
"No matter how old you are, be open to all disciplines, learn how to ride a dressage horse, a gaited horse, a show jumper. Go fox hunting and point-to-pointing and horse showing. You’ll learn from all of them and when you do decide which discipline you want to do, you’ll be better at it anyway.”
The University of Findlay’s Three-Day Eventing Team was established in 2013, the same year USEA voted and approved the USEA intercollegiate program. The UF team has over 30 members encompassing a variety of majors at the university. The team has access to two indoor arenas, a large outdoor arena, and 70 acres of on-site cross-country fences.
Bellamy, an Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding of unknown breeding, came to Tamra Smith’s farm in Southern California with his mane half-way down his neck and filled with burrs. Bellamy had been sitting in a field for a little over a year after unseating several riders in a row and Smith, known for being good with tricky horses, agreed to take him on.