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.
What’s the best course of action to take for a junior rider successfully finishing up their junior years that will put them on the right track for being a successful professional later on?
Being a successful junior has nothing to do with being a successful professional. Once you complete the status of a junior, you fall right back down to the bottom of the ladder regardless of how good your junior success was. Professionals, for the most part, all ride well and have more experience. In this sport, experience means a lot. The only way for a junior to develop further is with the passage of time. On their way up the ladder to becoming a successful professional, youngsters first need to be willing and able to accept the fact they will need to work very hard to reach their dreams. These days that work ethic is atypical, partly because of the “full service” system we use: hand the horse to the groom and walk away.
Young riders need to learn how to take care of their horses and be good horsemen and horsewomen. They also need to place themselves with people they can learn from and respect. That’s different for everyone depending on what discipline they want to become an expert at.
A strong mentor is essential in the development of a young professional. You also need to be open-minded and absorb as much as you can. Sometimes watching someone do things that you don’t agree with is also good to take in, to learn the bad and the good. I see a lot of young professionals with attitudes and a sense of entitlement that get in their way of becoming successful when they have the actual physical talent to get them there. Being a top professional is both mental and physical.
Do you notice any difference in behavior from your horses since they had to adapt to their new environment in Europe? Was it difficult for them to adjust?
For the most part, all of our horses are bred and imported from Europe. Bringing horses to Europe doesn’t make them take longer to adapt. I actually think they do better depending on what environment in the United States they live in. For instance, coming from South Florida, horses find it easy to adapt because Florida is not a friendly horse environment. Between the humidity, lack of space, the stress of overcrowded shows and no real grass to graze on, it can be hard on a horse. Europe has a horse-friendly climate year round (winter isn’t friendly for people but horses like cold weather), horse shows are usually not over crowded, and there is real grass compared to South Florida.
There can be a lot of pressure when you go in the ring. When you’re a junior, the pressure can come from your trainer and parents. When you’re a professional, it can come from clients and sponsors. What’s the best way to deal with this pressure and not let it affect your ride?
Pressure comes from every angle including the pressure you put on yourself separate from the pressure from outside factors. I think there are many ways to help deal with pressure:
- Have a long-term goal, which you should work toward. It will help give guidance when things are tough.
- Sports psychology can also be helpful to stay focused on the right things.
- When you are riding, you need to tell yourself what you should do and what you will do, and not think about what not to do.
- Get a lot of rest before competing. This helps with mental strength.
You recently redid your website. Why did you decide to do that? What was the inspiration behind your new logo design?
I decided to redo my website because I wanted to start with a fresh, new brand that represents me as a rider, help promote people who support me, and also display my horses, whom I both compete on and sell. The old site was geared towards the promotion of my clients and business, which revolved around them. I wanted a logo with my initials but I also wanted it to be clean and modern.