Allison Springer The Carolinas Equestrian Eventing veteran Allison Springer adores horsey hub as a place to fine-tune and frolic

Allison Springer gets around. She and her rising star event horses just spent a month at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida for intense dressage and jumping training, and they’ll soon head north to Virginia as their basecamp for the competition year. The international event rider and sport leader loves them all, but says there’s something special about Aiken, SC, where she spends the late winter and early spring at Fox Frolic Farm.

Allison was an alternate for the 2012 US Olympic team and has been a contender ever since, all on horses she’s brought along herself. She’s also been a big-time sport leader, helping found the Eventing Riders Association of North America that has greatly improved the eventing experience for all stakeholders.

Despite her high-profile past and hot future prospects with a string of up-and-coming international horses, Allison is just plain Allison at Fox Frolic. “There’s a wonderful soft side to Allison that people don’t get to see all the time,” says Fernanda Kellogg, who owns the farm with her husband, Kirk Henkel. “She’s like a member of the family and it’s a treat for us to have her here,” adds the accomplished amateur eventer.

Thursday barn lunches are a long-standing Fox Frolic tradition. Along with cooking for up to 25 lucky invitees, Fernanda enjoys seeing Allison’s interactions with clients, working students, staff and the many friends she’s made in Aiken over the years. “I see that camaraderie and how encouraging she is with everybody,” the stable owner observes. “It’s funny stories and time just to have fun. She’s a benign leader.” The nature of her dealings with all reflects the reality that “It’s not just about Allison,” Fernanda notes. “It’s about the team. The joy she has seeing a client or working student come back with a ribbon is as important as her coming back with a ribbon.”

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After the year’s first major competition with the Pine Top International Horse Trials in nearby Thomson, Georgia, Allison’s Aiken focus is the Carolina International in late March. Handsome ‘Business Ben’ leads her current string, with ‘Sapphire Blue B’ hoping to join him in a first international outing there. Competition schedules are always subject to her horses’ training needs, but whatever they are prepping for, Aiken is a great place to do it.

“I love coming back to Aiken,” Allison shares. “The town is so amazing and there’s so many great places to ride out and go cross-country schooling, or hiking and walking with your dog.” An Illinois native, Allison first came to Aiken in 2000, to exercise race horses for the late and much-missed horseman and sport advocate R. Bruce Duchossois, at his H ‘n D location. She had done the same for R. Bruce’s father, Richard Duchossois, at his Hill ‘N Dale Farm in Illinois. “I fell in love with Aiken then,” she recalls. As a hub of eventing activity and training, it’s an ideal place to prepare horses at all levels for the year ahead.

Allison Springer The Carolinas Equestrian 03 Allison is a huge fan of the Aiken Horse Park, the realized vision of R. Bruce Duchossois and, especially since his untimely passing in 2014, the Park’s main expanse, Bruce’s Field.

Hitchcock Woods is another favorite spot and she loves the jumping and dressage schooling shows at the Stable View venue, a winter training center for the U.S. high performance eventing team.

Waiting tables at 10 Downing Street is part of Allison’s Aiken origin story. That restaurant is long gone, as are her days needing to supplement her riding income with waitressing. These days, the restaurants she frequents include Tako Sushi and Grumpy’s Sports Pub. The Mexican-influenced sushi rolls at the former are a favorite go-to, and the beer, burgers and relaxed atmosphere at the latter are a perfect stop after a rigorous day of riding or showing.

Horses on a Stricter Routine

While she’ll dine indulgently on occasion, Allison’s horses thrive on a carefully calibrated diet and care routine. “Event horses are like orchids,” she asserts. “Everything has to be just right.” That requires proactive horse keeping practices that are trademarks of her program. One example arose 10 years ago when her top horse at the time, ‘Destination Known,’ developed allergies and breathing difficulties. To address the problem, she discovered Haygain Hay Steamers, then recently developed in England to remove breathable irritants found in even top-quality hay. Another horse, her well-known international partner, ‘Arthur,’ thrived on steamed hay for different reasons. “I had always struggled to maintain his weight and appetite,” she recounts. ‘Arthur’ agreed with studies confirming steamed hay’s increased palatability and became a horse that “dived right into his hay.”

Allison was thrilled with the results for those top mounts and quickly recognized the benefits of steamed hay for every horse in her program, even those without apparent respiratory or appetite issues. They all get it at home, on the road and at competitions. For respiratory and all other areas of horse health, it’s all about that ounce of prevention. “Some might see steaming hay as an extra step, but to me it’s totally worth making it part of the horses’ routine.”

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Nutrition is also “incredibly important.” Buckeye Equine Nutrition, available at Aiken County Farm Supply, and Smartpak and Nupafeed supplements are additional diet staples for Allison Springer Eventing steeds. Seeing Allison’s horse care approach on a daily basis, Fernanda describes it as uniquely well-rounded. “Sure, they’re competition horses so they have a scheduled program, but it includes hacks through the countryside and lots of turn-out and relaxation time. They have to compete and do their best, but they also have moments where they can just be plain horses.” For that, Allison concludes, there’s no place like Aiken.

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