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.
Looking ahead to your competitions this summer in Germany, Poland, Austria and England, what excites you the most? What are some challenges you will have to overcome?
Showing all over Europe is exciting because of all the possible places the shows can take you. I like to travel and see different venues, so being able to go to different countries and show is like being on vacation. There are certain riders I compete against more often than others, but I also get to meet different riders. I’m exposed to different horses when I travel to various areas of Europe. Showing doesn’t get stale because you’re constantly competing with different people against different horses in different places. With the good there also comes some downsides and detours. Traveling can become very tiring. I balance showing along with the business side of things. Between the shows, I must make time to go look for horses that I can sell. There’s never a dull moment and very little down time for me.
I just started learning how to ride and am having a hard time not leaning in on turns and keeping my center of balance. Are there any exercises I can do in the gym that will help me strengthen my muscles, which will assist me in balancing my weight?
Like any sport, riding requires a lot of hours to hone the right skills. There are exercises that can assist you in improving balance but for a beginner rider, it’s only time in the saddle that will help. Your balance may be perfectly good walking down the street or standing on one leg, but learning to ride well is like learning how to walk well. Whether it’s learning to ski or skate, there are no exercises or quick fixes to make the process go quicker. It requires time and patience in order to improve. Learning to ride is difficult because it’s a combination of the rider learning his or her skill set but also how to manage the horse they’re sitting on. That’s what makes it fun.
I’m experiencing some lower back pain from riding. Is there any way you can recommend some measures for relieving some tension from my lower back when riding?
There are definitely aches and pains that come with riding horses. Time in the saddle and certain horses determine what type of aches and pains the rider develops. Lower back pain is a major complaint for many riders. Luckily, I’ve been blessed to have very little back pain over the years but I also try to keep myself in the very best physical shape possible. I think working on lower and upper back strength in the gym can help deter back pain. I also find it very helpful to sometimes adjust your stirrups to a different length, either longer or shorter, to change the angle of your leg. This can help take pressure off of your back. I also know some riders wear a lower back support brace while they’re riding. A combination of all these things should help.
I’m trying to decide if I want to ride in competitions after college or not. What motivated you to continue with show jumping?
I was always a so-called “barn rat” and wanted to be on a horse. There was never a moment I thought about not showing and competing, so it was a pretty simple decision for me to follow my heart. I feel if a rider is trying to make a choice about continuing to compete or not, then maybe that’s the answer right there. Competing and riding takes desire, finances and a lot of hard work, but most importantly, the will to show is just in our souls. Unfortunately, our sport requires a lot of money, so that’s something that you have to take into consideration: Can you afford it? But if finances are the only thing holding you back, with that desire and will to compete, there are ways to make it work. So don’t get discouraged, and follow your heart.
I have a hard time maintaining a smooth, consistent pace throughout my course when I’m competing in the hunters and equitation. What do you recommend I do to ensure it’s the same throughout?
In any discipline, whether it’s equitation, hunters, or jumpers, having a consistent pace is essential to having a good round. This is especially true in hunters and equitation, as an inconsistent pace will reflect in your score and affect your result. More practice can help the rider have a better feel for pace. Another aid in helping a rider understand consistent pace is having them count around the ring. It sounds rudimentary but it can really help. Count 1-2 or 1-2-3-4 on the ends of the rings or even as you canter to single jumps. It will help keep the canter consistent.