Brian Walker, a dual Canadian and American citizen, has trained, worked and ridden alongside the best in the world over the last 25 years. As a junior, Brian won the Maclay Medal Equitation Championship in 2001. Brian has made a name for himself by developing quality horses into successful competitors in both the hunter and jumper arenas, earning accolades for himself and his clients. Do you have a question you want Brian to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve noticed that my horse is rushing between fences in the course and it’s reflecting poorly on our score. I know this is something that I have to work on because I’m leaning too far forward when I’m too many strides away, but I can’t feel that I’m doing this or why it would affect my horse’s jump. Do you have any suggestions on how I can fix this?
Horses can rush the course as well as riders, and it can also be a combination of both. Rider position can contribute to poor balance of your horse. When a rider is either too far forward or behind the motion, both can make the horse go forward and then they feel like they’re running away from the rider. When you lean forward, you also could be hooking the horse with your lower leg, making them go forward from your leg. As your body goes forward, your legs go back. When a horse is on its front end, it doesn’t have enough time at takeoff to give you a “good” jump. You should practice jumping at home, paying more attention to both body and leg control. You can ride without stirrups to help build your strength. You can ride with your stirrups tied to the girth to develop correct muscle memory. If you try this, please make sure that you use string that can break in an emergency.
My son’s horse tends to land on the right lead after every jump. How can we work on straightening out his jump?
When a horse lands on one lead, it can be a result of many factors: soundness, not being straight, or simply that they’re more dominant with the one lead. If the horse jumps and always lands right, that means its balance is to the left side at takeoff and/or landing from the jump. If the horse isn’t staying straight and it doesn’t stem from a soundness-related issue, then there are some exercises you can do at home to help the issue.
The first thing to try is to do more work on the left lead, as the horse initially is demonstrating that it’s weak on the left lead.
Second, you can try putting poles on the left to keep the horse straight on both the front and behind the jump. Start simple over one fence. Then you can implement this to a simple course.
Another good technique is to make the left side of the jump higher to encourage the horse to go to the right corner, which will get the horse to land left. If the horse has a good lead change and performs well, don’t get too caught up in making the horse land left.
I just bought a young horse. She has a good head on her shoulders, thankfully. When I take her over to the show to do the warm-up, she gets a little nervous when horses come at her. Do you have a suggestion for how I can help her work through her nerves?
Young horses are sensitive to things because they lack experience. Exposing them to more things will, through the natural evolution of show experiences, help with issues like this. When I have a horse that’s funny with oncoming traffic, I try to expose them to more traffic but not to the point where it’s overload. Horses could be scared due to being run into by another horse.
First, make sure the horse is a little extra quiet so you decrease sensitivity to other horses; that way they retain more of their training in traffic. Also, don’t put yourself in a situation to fail; you always should feel like you’re making steps forward. If your horse is really scared, you can use blinders like they use on the racetrack. They tend to make a big difference with traffic. In the end, you must take your time and be patient as your horse needs more exposure to more horses. It will get better!
I compete in the Medal and Maclay regularly. I’m trying to get points towards indoors and I keep ending up in fifth place right out of the points. It’s extremely frustrating. I know you had a lot of success in the equitation. What would you suggest I do to up my game and get into the top ribbons?
It’s sometimes a tedious task to get points required to qualify for indoors. Being out of points can be frustrating but you have to keep your head up and keep trying. Being fifth isn’t all bad — better than being last. You must take everything in perspective, analyze your round with your trainer on video and see what you can do to make it that much better in order to win. If you leave no question unanswered on course, then you’ll be in the top when you need to be. Sometimes you’ll find it’s your riding that needs work and other times you’ll find your horse needs better training. Often it’s a combination of both.
What was your favorite horse show to compete at as a junior and why?
There were a lot of shows I liked as a junior but I’d say Devon was the most significant. I loved Devon because I always won there, and it’s one of those shows where everyone is watching. It’s the first important show after the winter season and it’s a great time to showcase your talent. It’s also an opportunity to show off the newly honed skills you’ve been working on all winter. The show also has a lot of history and one ring (few classes in second ring) which gives the riders time to watch other riders show. Not to mention the tea sandwiches are a must!