For many years, Plantation Field International (Pennsylvania) in September was a staple on Allision Springer’s calendar. But in 2021, when longtime friend and client Natalie Epstein’s daughter’s wedding conflicted with the date, Springer instead turned her trailer south to Aiken to compete in Stable View Oktoberfest (South Carolina). It proved to be a fruitful weekend with Crystal Crescent Moon finishing second in the three-star, while his full sibling No May Moon was second in the two-star.
So when Epstein’s other daughter planned her wedding for the weekend of Plantation this year, Springer found herself adjusting her schedule again. She already was eyeing the new USEF/USEA Developing Horse National Championships for 6-year-olds with Monbeg Zebedee at Stable View, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, so it made sense to bring her three- and four-star mounts down for their fall prep runs as well.
The longer trailer ride once again proved constructive. Not only did “Zebedee,” a 6-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Dignified Van’t Zorgvliet—Bolacreane Dolly, Cult Hero) owned by The Zebedee Group, top the young horse two-star, but Nancy Winter’s homebred No May Moon, a 9-year-old Connemara cross (Catherston Dazzler—Ebony Moon, Mystic Replica) won the three-star on her dressage score of 29.8.
“I thought this was a true championship-caliber competition, and it certainly, I think, was a very good set up for your fall championships or [for] any of the horses doing the long-format,” she said. “I did the two-, three- and four-star levels, and all the courses were properly brushed up, which we don’t often get to see as much until we’re at Fair Hill [Maryland] or our long-[format] competitions. I’m really appreciative of all that.”
We caught up with Springer to discuss her recent winners and her goals for the future.
How did you feel your horses went this weekend?
I was pleased with my horses. Obviously, I made a couple of mistakes on my four-star horses cross-country that almost overshadows the great success—two FEI wins—but I guess that’s just the nature of being a competitor and riding. I’m super thrilled with those two wins for sure.
Those top three 6-year-olds would’ve been the top three in the open division, so that’s something good to note, because it was a very big, competitive open division. We had the same judges, the same everything. That was the quality of the 6-year-olds competing in that class. I do feel like it was a true championship class, and we were all neck and neck right ’til the end. That feels like a huge honor to have won.
What do you think of these young horse championship classes? Do you feel it’s benefiting the horses and the sport?
I think it’s great to showcase that. The horses in that 6-year-old class seemed to be prepared and ready to do that this fall. When they are 4, 5, and 6, they mature at different rates and are still growing, and you have to make your best decision as a horseman if it’s right for your horse, if they’re ready to do that.
No May Moon, who won the three-star, is one of my most competitive and amazing horses. She’s so fierce and fabulous. She was bred for me, so I rode her and competed her as a 4-year-old. I did [one] young event class [and I didn’t try] to take her to any of those championships because she was just kind of a bit fractious and immature, and it wasn’t the right decision for her. It really comes down to a horsemanship decision [as to] what they’re ready for.
I love that they’ve done the 6- and 7-year-old class and are doing that, because we do need to promote our young horses in this country, and hopefully breeding, because we can breed horses here. We can produce horses here.
There’s not one path and one time frame, and you have to listen to them. You have to know when you have to make it easier and when they need a break or when they need a little push. This weekend was great because I think everything led up to this win for Monbeg Zebedee. He’s a super horse, but he’s definitely been learning at the level, and this weekend was the first time I was like, “You know what, we’re going to have a crack at it, buddy; we’re actually going out of the startbox and going to get on pace.”
It was fun because he actually got a little strong in a good way. His ears were pricked, and he was really happy, and he was looking for the jumps. There was big atmosphere, and there was terrain, and you had to turn, and they had some real proper forward distances, and he was ready for it.
Can you tell me about No May Moon and your partnership with her?
Nancy Winter, who is the owner and breeder, she was owner of the year last year, voted on by the [Eventing Riders Association] of North America group, at the [USEA] convention. Nancy Winter’s been a dear family friend. I’ve known her since childhood. She was shortlisted for 1984 Olympics on one of her Connemaras. I’ve always had her homebreds and started them eventing, foxhunting, whatnot.
Crystal Crescent Moon and No May Moon, [who are] full brother and sister, were kind of the first attempt to make more of a sport horse Connemara cross. Their mother Ebony Moon was by Mystic Replica, so a good Thoroughbred blood mare, and then we bred her to Catherston Dazzler, who is now deceased, but he was an English Warmblood who’s produced a number of top event horses. They’re known to be incredibly athletic, good jumpers, maybe a little on the hot side, but I think it was a really nice blend.
We turned out two great horses, but she was a bit more fractious and just very little to begin with. So every step of the way I’ve just kind of gone slowly with her and waited for her to tell me when she was ready for the next [thing]. The only time I really feel like it was a huge ask for her was her first preliminary, [which] was at Great Meadow International [Virginia]. It was during COVID. She’d been jumping the prelim height and schooling that. I called Nancy and said, “In the past Great Meadow’s done the cross-country after the show jumping for the national class, so I’ll just see what it looks like, and if she just does a combined test, she just does a combined test.”
We didn’t have a lot of choice of competitions, and it’s a local competition to me, and I thought it would be really good for that mare to get the atmosphere. Well, the cross-country did run before the show jumping. She had a good dressage test, and I walked the course, and it was a big effort. I knew she could do every individual jump. She jumped around clean, but I just remember the last water being enormous.
That little mare has guts, but whenever you have a careful horse you really have to make sure you keep their confidence and keep believing every step of the way. So the next day show jumping she came into the warm-up, and she was a little open-eyed and careful to begin with, but she jumped a beautiful clear round and actually won the class, which was amazing. I just took her modified for a bit after that. I was like, “You did a great job honey, now we’re going to make it easy for a little bit.”
To feel her this weekend, obviously there were a number of proper forward distances out there, Mark [Phillips] and Mogie [Bearden-Muller] set courses that really set you out on a proper [pace]. The direct line, you had to be committed and balanced. She just ate it up, She’s gained a lot of experience and confidence.
It’s funny because I never thought I’d take her preliminary; I never thought I’d take her intermediate. She’s kind of little [Springer estimates the mare is 15.2 hands], but as she’s developed, and she has such a love for it. It’s neat to be thinking about the next thing, because it’s becoming easier for her.
What’s Zebedee like?
I bought him off a video from Kitty King in England, and Kitty bought him off a video out of the Monart sale as a 3-year-old. She and her husband bought him as a sales project, so she hadn’t competed him, but she obviously started him and had him jumping and doing cross-country. She schlepped him around little places, so he obviously had a pretty tremendous start.
Good friends of mine, Joanie Morris and her late husband Richard Picken, had bought a horse from Kitty for another student and said it was just a tremendous experience, and Kitty had sent them this video on a young horse she had for sale and gave it to me. In the video he looked really cute jumping. … Kitty and I just messaged back and forth, and I’d ask for videos, and she’d go and do it and send it to me. It was such an interesting trial because we did most of it by video. I’m like, “Well he had really great breeding, but do you think he’s going to be a top horse?” She was like, “I have no idea. I always kind of save him, if I’m rushed in the day, don’t have a lot of time, I get on Zebedee because I know I’ll have a good ride, and I’m not going to have to work through anything too hard”—which there’s a lot to be said for that.
I had my friend Rebecca Howard, a Canadian who is based over there, just go sit on him, I’m like, “Rebecca, just tell me if there’s any cold, hard stops. It sounds like he would be a good horse for me, but it also sounds like if he doesn’t turn out to be quite that when he gets to the ring, he might be a very saleable horse.” She’s like, “You know he’s just a really sweet fellow. He’s young; he’s green, but he just tries everything you ask.”
He’s a very kind little animal, and he tries hard. I feel like in the last month he’s really started to grow into his body a little more. He’s just been a really fun horse to ride and train. As I look at horses for myself, and certainly with him, you need an athlete, but it’s really nice to have a good mind. Anyone can do his hack and his trot sets and fitness. He’s just a solid, solid individual with a wonderful personality.
What other goals do you have for yourself?
There’s been a bit of a lull after Arthur. I have a batch of horses that I really love riding, and it takes such a long time to get them to the upper level. I’m excited to kind of be back in it. I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t think a little harder at the beginning of the year about signing No May Moon up for consideration for the Pan Ams [Chile] because I definitely think she could’ve done a couple of advanceds this year, and she’s so competitive.
You still have dreams of it all. I’d love to compete at Aachen [Germany]. I’d love to take Zebedee to Le Lion [(France) for the young horse championships] maybe next year if that all would work out. I think he’s a super, super top horse. It’s neat to have this next batch of horses that are ready to do something great.