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.
At home, my horse and I are able to perfectly clear rounds with a good time. However, when we try to go faster, a few rails always end up being knocked down or clipped. Do you have any advice for increasing our speed and accuracy?
Timing is a very important skill we always need to work on with riding; it doesn’t matter if we’re going slow or fast. When you go faster, the timing needs to be that much more accurate in order to not have a negative effect on the horse. Riding speed classes or jump-offs simply requires practice to be able to do them better. However, not every horse can go fast, so you must have a realistic plan for your horse. If you have an unrealistic plan, you probably won’t be happy with your results.
With slower-going horses, you need to try to make short turns to make up time, and find a few places where you can leave strides out. Hot or faster horses need somewhere you can slow down for a moment to keep them from getting too flat. You only need to win by a margin, so a rider should be smart when they ride quicker and not just run around as fast as they can, because poles will also fall down.
My horse has been able to clear 3’6’’ jumps effortlessly, but now that we’ve moved to 4’ jumps, his back legs keep knocking the rails on the fence. How can I prepare my horse for the higher jumps, since it seems he isn’t recognizing the height difference?
Jumping higher jumps clear requires a rider who has confidence at that level and a horse with ability for that level. If a horse keeps knocking the jumps down at a higher level, then it’s one of two things: either the rider is getting in the way, or the horse simply can’t jump that big.
A horse that knocks jumps down could result from the rider using too much hand or riding with too much, making the horse shoot at the jump. If the horse is careful in front, then with too much leg pressure, the distance gets too close, making the horse hit the jump behind while it gets out of the way with its front legs. If the riding is good and jumps keep falling, then maybe you should jump your horse at a lower level. Always put your horses in classes they are competitive in.
Recently, I saw pictures of you jumping on a derby bank. How do you prepare yourself and your horse for such a jump?
The Hamburg Derby is probably the most prestigious derby in the world, with very big jumps, all different natural fences and a huge crowd for the final day. You must jump two qualifying rounds and be top 30 to jump in the final. There isn’t really much to prepare you for all the elements, but we practice some of it before. I jumped eventing jumps and practiced on a smaller bank.
In Hamburg, they call the bank “The Wall.” When you get to the top, it really is almost a 20-foot vertical drop. There isn’t anything to mentally prepare you when you are staring down it on your horse. You need a brave horse, but you also need to be a brave rider.
How do you know when you’re ready to take on sponsors?
Sponsors come when you prove yourself to some level. There are many levels of sponsorships; some are horse owners, which are the most important, and some are companies that provide products for something in return.
I don’t feel like there’s really a moment when you’re ready or not, as the sponsors probably will determine based on results if you’re ready. My only advice is to not bite off more than you can chew. It’s better to have a few sponsors that you can always keep happy rather than getting to a point where you may have too many sponsors and you can’t keep them happy because of time constraints, and you end up with none.
Focus on your riding and training to produce consistent results and sponsors will follow.