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 email@example.com.
My horse is stronger on his right ride. Do you have any favorite exercises to help him become more flexible, more bilateral and strengthen his left side?
Horses, like people, have one side or the other that they are more comfortable with. The key to better success in the ring is making sure the horses are equally competent on one lead as they are on the other. When a horse is stronger on the right lead, then you have to work the left lead more. You should start by riding on the flat more to the left than to the right. You can also lunge your horse with side reins only to the left to help strengthen the left side. Simple exercises over small fences on the left lead will also help. Make more small oxers instead of verticals — this will make a horse use more power. Keeping the jumps small to help condition the horse is smart, so you can repeat the exercise a few times, even when the horse gets tired, without taking any confidence away from the horse.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever given?
I like to think that any advice I give makes a difference and the rider finds what I say to be helpful. It’s difficult to pick out one piece of advice that stands out more than another, as every horse and rider are different and all have different weaknesses. I think the best advice is whatever makes a difference. One thing I always tell students, which I think is my “best” advice, is to have fun. Myself included, sometimes we forget that we need to have fun competing and training; otherwise, what’s the point of doing it?
What’s your favorite piece of training advice to share?
My favorite piece of advice to give riders is, “let the horse do the work.” Over the years, I’ve found myself preaching this time and time again, no matter what the discipline. There are so many riders who try to do too much and interfere with their horse. Riders have one job and horses have another. Everyone needs to stay in their lane to have the most success. Let horses do what they are good at.
After a busy show season, I want to give my horse a break, but still keep him in great shape for his own good. He likes the summer grass too much! What’s the best summer work schedule you’ve found for young competitive horses?
When it comes to young horses, the best time of year to show is the summer. Take advantage of the nice weather and a change to go to a few different venues. A young horse can gain valuable experience going to different places. I think 10 shows during the summer/fall months is enough. Then, after the fall season shows are over, I suggest giving young horses a break. Horses and riders don’t have as much motivation during winter months. I feel that young horses don’t need to go show at any winter tours. Competing in one place for three or four months over the same jumps will only teach them to become careless. Horses can go out in paddocks during winter months; cold doesn’t affect them, as they are from a colder European climate to begin with. I would also put them in the walker a few times a week, and maybe lunge them a few times a week, just to keep some muscle tone. Go a few months without riding, and then start training back in the spring. Once horses are 7 years old, I think they can stay in full-time work.