“Every rider will probably say sitting on a horse is their religion. You have something big in life that you’re working through—you get on a horse and go ride. They are what has gotten me through everything in life.”

—Allison Springer

Now a veteran Kentucky competitor, Allison Springer sat down with Kentucky Three Day Event’s “Behind the Barn” series to chat about COVID, Kentucky, and the profound impact one seemingly simple decision she made in 2010 has had on the state of equestrian competition, all over the world.

When Springer was 16, she lost her brother Billy to a traumatic head injury. It wasn’t horse related (car accident) but she vividly remembers the heartbreak she and her family went through during that horrible time.

“Many years later [after Billy passed away] when I moved out to Virginia, everyone was wearing hunt caps. So I started wearing hunt caps because that’s what my idols were doing. And that year at Christmas my mom said, ‘I want to get you the nicest helmet out there. Comfortable, beautiful, whatever you want.’ And I remember thinking to myself ‘Yup. I need to be wearing a helmet.’ I couldn’t bear to possibly put mom through that pain again. For me, that was a real turning point.”

So in 2010 at Kentucky when someone casually asked her why she didn’t wear her helmet in competition (she, and pretty much everyone else went to the trouble of warming up in a helmet and then swapping it for a top hat to compete in the ring), her only answer was “nobody else is.” And she decided that would no longer cut it.

“I went to the ground jury [as I had to ask permission!]. And they said nobody had a problem with me wearing a helmet in the ring. I marched over to the Charles Owen booth and introduced myself to Roy Burek and asked if he could find me the perfect helmet. I had no idea what would come of that moment! Now it seems so odd seeing dressage riders in top hats. Now people feel good about wearing their helmet in competition.”

It’s taken until this year—2021—but the FEI has finally mandated that any rider participating in any form of dressage has to wear a helmet.

Springer is competing in the 2021 5*-L competition with Business Ben. They ride their dressage test Friday at 2:51pm. She, and every other competitor will be riding in helmets. It’s about time.

Behind the Barn” is a 12-part series of intimate video interviews with participants and officials involved with the 2021 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by MARS EquestrianTM. Watch Allison Springer’s full episode here:

The K3DE live stream is free in North America through USEF Network. (Beware of any of the spam posts asking for your credit card.)

Feature image: Allison Springer with Arthur at the Kentucky Three Day Event. ©Michelle C. Dunn Photography