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.
My son, 13, has been riding since the age of 5. He just moved from Children’s Hunter into the Jumpers this year. Any advice on how to stay motivated as a boy when surrounded by a lot of girls?
— Kristin Paulson, mom of Anders Paulson and Party Boy (his French Thoroughbred)
In North America, show jumping is a sport in which the junior ranks are mostly female but professionals are mostly male. As a young boy, the sport needed to remain fun for me to stay interested in it for the long haul, so I can speak from my own experience that I rode when I wanted to ride and was never pushed. I played other sports as well, which I think is also very important so kids don’t get burned out on riding. I think boys should transition off ponies and into jumpers as early as possible with a trainer that can make it fun but also provide the right skills to be successful. Success will keep any boy interested. Young boys should pick a male role model in the sport to look up to because this will help their motivation for the sport.
Most of your students are young amateur riders. How have they inspired you as a professional and as a trainer?
As a professional rider and trainer, I have students that range from 11 to older adults. A student’s ability to work hard and get results in the show ring is extremely rewarding. Training both horse and rider can be like a chess match. The right moves must be made at the right times so the skills can be developed and absorbed properly to make a competitive team at shows. My students that work hard give me more motivation to dig even deeper in myself for better productivity both at home and at shows. Success shouldn’t be measured just by one’s results but by where they are versus where they started, and the journey that got them there. That difference between the two is what gives me inspiration.
Do you have an upcoming young horse who shows a lot of promise?
I have a new 8-year-old named Carlson 93. He’s a brown Hanoverian gelding by Contendro. I purchased the horse together with a group of clients just recently. My plan is to develop him slowly this summer and set him up to jump a couple Grand Prix in Wellington 2017. He has a great character, good balance, plenty of scope and seems to be quite careful. My hopes are high and it’s a long road. Hopefully it works out the way I planned.
After completing a long circuit like the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), how do you sustain your momentum competing?
WEF is an extremely long circuit, and the majority of the people count the minutes until the circuit is over and they can leave to go home. It’s only a part of our year-long season. Sometimes, myself included, we put too much emphasis on just our winter season, which can make it seem really long. This part of our year should be like spring training for other professional sports such as baseball and football. Manage your horses well and don’t over-show them so coming out of WEF, you’re still excited to go on to the next series of shows and jump into the summer months. Horses will also be in a better physical shape coming out WEF. Over-showing can take a real physical toll on the horses. If your good horses are hurt or not in the best physical shape to give it their all, then it’s also hard to keep your momentum without the horse power you need.
What are the biggest mistakes people make in their assumptions about horses?
One should never assume anything when it comes to horses. If I’m not sure about anything, I test it and train it if need be. If I don’t know my horse jumps well on grass, I’ll go somewhere to practice on grass. If I don’t know if my horse jumps open water or liverpools, I’ll also go practice to see and feel my horse’s reactions to all those different unknown elements. I think the biggest assumption that people make is the true ability of the horses, and they’re disappointed when those horses don’t reach their goals. Buyers and owners should always try to be realistic, and yes, we all have to be positive when looking at a horse’s potential career, but I’ve heard and seen so many people assuming their young horse is a Grand Prix horse or it can jump 1.60m but it never has. I always feel horses need to prove their ability as they develop. Then if they can reach that level, once they complete a few good rounds in some Grand Prix or even jump 1.60m, then you can call them what they are. Assuming young horses are Grand Prix horses leads to major disappointment most of the time.