Allison Kroff: Drawing Road Maps for Success

Photo of Kroff and T-Quick Hurricane Z by Andrew Ryback Photography

BY Emily Randolph/RandolphPR 

A few times a year, you’ll find Allison Kroff sitting down in the barn with her clients, pen and paper in hand. Together, she and her students create and review a thoughtfully designed goal sheet.  

On it, each client writes out their short-term, six-month, one-year, and lifetime riding goals, as well as going into detail about how they will accomplish those goals. The deliberate crafting of such a roadmap is something that Kroff herself has used to great success throughout her career. She continues to rely on the practice as she looks toward the future of her riding career and her Scottsdale, AZ-based hunter/jumper training operation.

The Start of the Journey

Kroff credits her father with teaching her to go after her goals and to map out the steps to achieve them, but Kroff’s love of horses started even sooner.

“Me and my best friend just decided we wanted to ride one day, and we chose English,” says Kroff, who began riding at age seven. “My parents thought it was a phase, but it was not a phase. I fell in love immediately.” 

Fortunately for Kroff, 40, while her parents were also new to horses, they were quickly hooked as well and did all that they could to support her. 

“I would not be anywhere if it weren’t for them,” says Kroff. “My dad is so organized with: ‘These are the steps to take.’ All through my young rider career, it was the same thing. We had a yearly calendar, and we just knew exactly where we were going the whole year and with school and everything.” 

Kroff’s mother worked at a bank, and her father built custom homes, so while there was no background in horses, her dad jumped at the chance to venture to Europe on horse-buying trips.

“My dad researched a lot, and by the time I was 10 or 11, he said, ‘Okay, the ones that are winning are warmbloods coming from Europe,’” she says. 

That was all that David Kroff needed to realize before he was on a flight overseas and making friends abroad that could help connect him to quality horses for his daughter. “He just would go over and watch them and come back with them,” says Allison, who, by the time she was a young teenager, had a quality string of horses to compete in the Junior Jumpers. 

It was with those horses, and at only 15 years old, that Kroff won her first Grand Prix. The following year, she qualified for what is now called the North American Youth Championship, and she would go on to compete there six times—including winning team silver for Zone 8 in 2005. 

After graduating from high school, Kroff briefly moved to Germany where she spent three months riding, showing, and growing her equestrian knowledge. 

Photo by Karinda Photography

Stepping Up

In 2007, with increased knowledge and experience under her belt, Kroff achieved what she continues to look back on as one of her career highlights: Attending the FEI World Cup Finals as the U.S. team alternate and getting to compete in the event’s Grand Prix aboard her own Nomograaf. 

“It was incredible,” she says. “I had never been to any show of that stature, and I was just sitting in the stalls in the warmup arena trying to listen and learn from everyone who was there. It was a different league than I’d ever seen.” 

Still, she quickly proved that she belonged. In the fall of that same year, Kroff and Nomograaf earned the win in the $50,000 Las Vegas National Grand Prix CSI-W, marking her first World Cup qualifier victory. 

In 2013, with her growing resume, Kroff opened Kroff Stables, which she now runs alongside her husband, James Girolamo. The business specializes in helping riders of all levels achieve their show ring goals while Kroff simultaneously pursues hers. 

All told, she has amassed more than 60 Grand Prix wins and countless other victories, including at the 2023 Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in Katy, TX, where a Pin Oak Welcome Stake win and multiple second-place Grand Prix finishes helped earn her the distinction of being one of the show’s 2024 “Faces of Pin Oak.” The honor of representing the US Equestrian Heritage Competition is bestowed annually to those, like Kroff, who have previously earned top results at the event. 

Overcoming Mental Obstacles

This year at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, Kroff’s goals looked slightly different than they did a year ago. 

In the fall of 2023, she broke her wrist, which rendered her in need of surgery and saw her out of the saddle for 12 weeks. For Kroff, it was, fortunately, the very first time that she had broken a bone while riding; however, it was also the first time she ever felt her riding confidence so significantly shaken. 

“It’s interesting just how your mind perceives things,” she says. Now, following the injury, “it’s a little bit more of a mind game than I ever would’ve believed. I’d never struggled with that before getting hurt. It was sitting out for three months and then getting back on and thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t see the distance where I think I should, and I’m not feeling the same way I did before.’ It gives me a totally different perspective.” 

“I didn’t quite understand the depth of [the mental side] and what the true fear is when you are going to the jump, and you don’t quite know where you are. That was really hard for me at the beginning. When I first jump schooled back, I kept circling, and everyone said, ‘You just have to jump the jump.’ I was like, ‘I don’t think I can.’ It actually is a freezing moment, and I had never experienced that before, so it was quite different and uncomfortable for me,” she says. “Now, I feel that I’m able to better help riders in that situation. It really just falls back on basics. It’s nothing more than rhythm and track and trusting your abilities.” 

Photo by Karinda Photography

Looking Ahead

As for Kroff’s clients, each pathway and goal are individualized and given careful attention.

“I try to keep my numbers smaller so that we can be more goal-oriented for my clients,” she says. Kroff’s students are aiming for everything from the USEF Pony Finals to the NAYC and the Grand Prix ring. 

“I want to make sure we’re going to the appropriate horse shows for those goals being met. It’s really important for me that nobody gets left behind. It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m going to jump the Grand Prix.’ We all want to do that, but what steps can you take to get there? It’s also a huge commitment for families, so I like to make sure that they understand, ‘If your child really wants to achieve these goals, these are the steps that we have to all take together.’” 

While achieving goals—and helping her clients achieve theirs—is one of Kroff’s favorite parts of the job, the journey to the goals is even greater. 

“I love all aspects of it. I love the horses. I love being outside. I love traveling. I like meeting new people where we go,” says Kroff. “I’m very fortunate to get to do this every day.”

To learn more about Allison Kroff and Kroff Stables, visit www.kroffstablesaz.com

This article was originally finished in the May/June 2024 issue of The Plaid Horse Magazine. Read the full issue here: https://issuu.com/theplaidhorsemag/docs/tph0624