Olympic Alternate Honed Equestrian Skills in the Cook County Forest Preserves
It’s official—the Forest Preserve District of Cook County offers an equestrian landscape rich enough to transform a thumb-sucking novice into a world-class athlete. Just ask Allison Springer, who a few weeks ago was an alternate on the USA equestrian team at the 2012 London Olympics, shortly after coming in second in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the United States’ top annual competition. When she was five, Barrington Hills native Springer struck a deal with her parents, William and Carolyn: after many other techniques for stopping her thumb-sucking had failed, she finally gave up the habit for a new pony named Marshmallow. At the time the family knew nothing about horses or riding. They had moved to Barrington Hills when Allison was two, and she immediately fell in love with the neighbors’ horses, which she fed carrots through a fence. Springer’s fascination with horses grew, so her parents encouraged her. Another neighbor introduced young Allison to the Fox River Valley Pony Club, where she took lessons. Soon she and friends were riding all over nearby Spring Creek Forest Preserve, honing the skills that would make her an internationally top-ranked champion and master trainer. Back then she was just having fun. Before she knew it, she was riding in the forest preserves at least four days a week and regularly involved with the Fox River Valley Hunt and the Spring Creek Bassets as well as the Fox River Valley Pony Club. Springer and her family say they feel blessed to have grown up so close to Spring Creek. The private trails maintained by the Riding Club of Barrington Hills connect to the preserve trails, which allowed her to ride from home, even as a small child, and enjoy miles of safe and beautiful trails across a rolling landscape, returning home with stories of deer, coyotes, flowers and friends.