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.
Did you ever have tack break or malfunction during a class? How did you handle it?
Tack can always break but I have never had it happen to me on course. As the rider, you should always be checking your tack to see if there are ever pieces that look old or not 100 percent, and never rely on your groom to point it out. Old, stretched tack should be replaced immediately. Separate from old tack, you must also check to make sure your bridle or reins are put together properly. Cheek pieces and reins sometimes aren’t connected to the bit properly and can come undone. I see that happen often enough. If you’re using a Pelham with a converter, make sure the converter is connected properly and always check to see if there are any flaws. More attention to these details should significantly reduce the risk of equipment malfunction.
When searching for a young horse to train, what do you look for in a jumper prospect? What do you look for in a hunter prospect?
The qualities I look for are the same whether I’m looking for hunters or jumpers. There are many different things to consider when looking for young horses to develop. You first need to ask yourself what your goals are. If your goal is to sell the horse for profit, then you must first consider the price of the horse and then the time frame in which you think you can sell it. Do the numbers add up? Those are the first questions I ask myself when looking at a horse I like. I like to work with horses that are good types. They also need to naturally ride well. I like a horse with good balance because it’s difficult to teach a horse balance. A horse with good balance is also a horse that most people can ride. I like horses with good technique. They also need to be brave.
When you were first starting, what did you find to be the most challenging part of show jumping?
I think when you start out, you actually have no clue what’s really difficult or not. With more experience, you realize what the real challenges are. For me, there are two really challenging parts to show jumping: 1) horsepower, and 2) having your horses under complete control. It doesn’t matter what level you ride at, finding the right competitive horse for your style of riding and the level you want to compete at is a daunting task. Rideability is key for having consistent success in the jumpers. Most faults come from our horses not listening, either going forward or slowing down, putting us at a distance not suitable to clear the jump. It’s ever-evolving flat work that trains our horses to listen to our commands so we can successfully answer all questions on the course.
Do you ever feel pressure to do well at horse shows now, since you’ve consistently done well throughout your career?
I’m a competitive person, so I always want to do well at shows. I think it’s important to remember that winning isn’t always everything. There are some classes you need to use as training rounds to set your horse up to win the big class. I don’t feel I put any extra pressure on myself to do well at shows. I train hard at home because my main goal is to be competitive at shows.
Of all the horses you’ve competed with, which was your favorite, and why?
One of my favorite horses was a chestnut and white horse that probably was a Paint, but his markings weren’t like a typical paint. His name was Macanudo Very Well St. George. We called him George in the barn. I think I was 16 years old the season I rode him. He had jumped big grand prix all over the world with Peter Wylde. I was fortunate enough to ride him because he was older, at the end of his career, and it was time for him to step down to do High Juniors and Young Rider work. Not only was he cool looking, but he also had a great character. He always tried his hardest. He was fast, scopey, simple to ride and, most of all, he had all the experience in the world. If I wasn’t quite sure what to do sometimes, he always knew what to do. There is nothing better than having a horse with more experience than you.
What is the best way to find a comfortable saddle, both for your horse and for yourself?
There are many good saddles on the market that offer different benefits. I ride in Equipe saddles because I think they’re the best, most comfortable saddles on the market. Equipe saddles are Italian and there are many different styles to suit different riders’ appetites for comfort: deep seats, flat seats, forwards flaps, etc. The back of each horse is shaped differently, and there are different styles of trees that suit different types of backs. Saddle fitters can create a saddle that is also custom to the horse and rider to ensure a perfect fit. Every different saddle maker has a different type of appeal that attracts buyers. Try a saddle that you like the look of and see how it first feels to ride in, then try to find the right fit for your horse. Not all saddles are the same, and some are also known for better quality than others.