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.
I am finishing up my junior career. In 2018 I plan on declaring myself a professional. Obviously, I don’t have any sponsors yet. Come January how would you suggest I go about getting sponsors? What is the best tactic to engage potential sponsors?
Turning professional is not an easy task, especially coming from a successful junior career where you are more or less on top of the ladder. When you become a professional, you fall right down to the bottom. You will be competing against riders who have a lot more experience than you. Hard work and a lot of time is required to work your way up through the ranks. Sponsors will not come knocking at the door, and it is difficult to justify why a new professional should get sponsors before other established professionals. The key to getting a potential sponsor’s attention is results. Whether it’s a new owner or company looking to endorse, they both like to be associated with a rider that gives results. If you are in the top results consistently, that will bring added exposure for the sponsors looking to get noticed. Soliciting other professionals, owners and clients is a no-go. You should work hard and earn owners and clients, as you would not appreciate other professionals soliciting your clients and owners.
Lately, I have been coming so close to placing first in my class, but every time the same rider beats me. Now, every time I go to a show and that rider is there I get inside my own head and tell myself I am going to lose, and then I do poorly. Has this ever happened to you before? What did you do to change your mindset and win?
Winning doesn’t come easy and second place isn’t bad. If you are riding well and someone else is riding better and always beats you then the bar is set. You have to train harder to try to become better than the person who beats you. It’s also a horse game: if your horse can only do a limited amount then you should gladly take second place. Accept your horse’s limitations and don’t try to make them something they’re not. As for your mindset, you must always think about doing your best. Maybe your best isn’t worthy to win, but it beats coming in last. Performance is about focusing on your effort and not about results or beating another rider. When you put too much pressure on yourself it usually backfires. The results will end up less than adequate.
My horse is terrified of the water jump. I have no idea how to fix this issue. My trainer and I keep coming up short. What would you suggest?
Training for the water jump can be a tricky thing to do. There are some horses that won’t jump it. It’s also difficult to train a water jump with a rider that’s green at jumping water. For the most part, riders are green at jumping water as we don’t jump it often in America. When a rider isn’t sure about the water then the horse will also not be sure. The rider has to have more will than the horse to jump the water. For starters you should start by jumping a small pool every day. Then take a bigger pool and start jumping that every day. Move it around the ring so it doesn’t sit in one spot, change the pole colors, put different boxes in front of the water to change the look. Then you can start making the water bigger with a pole over the top. Jumping the water should be practiced as part of the daily routine. This will not only make the horse more used to it but it will also train the rider to jump the water better. Some horses just aren’t meant to jump water, so pick shows where they don’t have water.
What is the best way to learn horsemanship these days? Are there clinics I should go to? Books I should read?
Horsemanship is dying out from our full-service catering that we professionals in the industry offer. The old generation of trainers comes from the school of hard knocks which taught them a lot about horsemanship. Younger professionals didn’t learn from the same school and therefore lack horsemanship skills. It’s hard to teach horsemanship when you don’t possess the skills yourself. As a whole, the Europeans are better horsemen because they are more hands-on from the beginning. Small children still need to be involved with tacking up their ponies, which is the foundation for good horsemanship. There is no better training than hands-on action with the horses. It would also be good to get involved with some of the trainers that have been established for decades — even just watching how they go about things is helpful. Any top rider or trainer that gives a clinic will put on display some of their horsemanship skills, which can be very helpful. I do think some of George Morris’ reading material can give young minds a perspective on horsemanship. Horsemanship is difficult to pick up and learn overnight. It requires time around horses and exposure to different people and how they do things. Horsemanship is understanding how horses think and how riders affect their performance in and out of the show ring.