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.
When you were younger, did you always know you wanted to ride professionally or was it something you discovered a little later in life?
I think a lot of little kids grow up dreaming about becoming a professional in a sport they love. I grew up playing a lot of different sports including hockey. It wasn’t until I started winning and becoming quite successful as a junior in horse shows that I realized becoming a professional could be a career.
In those last moments before entering the show ring, what thoughts go through your mind and how do you focus?
I entally go over the course at least once or twice. I try to tell myself out loud how I’m going to ride the horse. I want to make sure I go over everything — every line, every distance, and how I want my horse to jump. When I go into the ring, I don’t want to have to over-think the course; I like to stick to my plan as much as I can and react to any difficulties instead of worrying about them.
How can a rider avoid having a rail?
I always tell my students not to worry about the round itself but to go in and practice good riding. If you and your horse are prepared and properly trained, 90 percent of the time you’ll jump clear. If you’re worried about the result and focus too much on going clear, you’ll usually make a mistake. The most successful rounds are when the rider is extremely relaxed. Your homework should be done and you should just get on and go.
Do you have any tips for straightness of the horse?
With my students, we constantly practice with guiderails on the ground to make sure their horse stays straight. If your horse tends to go one direction in the schooling area, try to turn in the opposite direction your horse naturally wants to go. Make it a natural habit for yourself and your horse to turn the opposite direction. You often see riders after a jump turn the same direction in which the horse displays a drift. Training your horse to turn the opposite direction of its drift is one of the quickest fixes before going into the ring. Your horse will stay straighter at the end of the course if you’re continually thinking and feeling which way your horse is tending to drift.
What do you look for in a good course design?
I like to see equal amounts of the course off the left and right leads to keep it balanced. The first jump is also very important — you typically want to see an inviting first fence, especially for juniors and amateurs. This sets the tone for the rider and eases their nerves going through the rest of the course. I like a course that challenges me and raises questions, such as “How many strides can I take until the next jump?”