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.
The last two months have been extremely busy for me, and I haven’t been riding my horse as much as I should. Do you have any advice for getting a horse back into competition shape quickly? We’re scheduled to show in a month.
Dealing with horses requires time for both preparing horses and riders for competitions. I don’t think there’s any quick way to prepare yourself or your horse to get back into the ring after a long break. If you have only one month to get going again and be ready for a big event, then you have mismanaged your time. You can certainly get yourself and horse fit enough to compete in a competition to some degree in only one month, but you’ll lack the timing and skillset you only have when you’ve been competing consistently. There are many things that happen when you’re in the ring that you just can’t create when training only at home. So with that said, prepare the best you can at home without overdoing it and taking everything out of your horse. Use the first competition as part of your training to get your horse conditioned, because you will certainly need a few rounds in the ring before you can try to be competitive.
My horse is very fidgety when we work on braiding her prior to shows. Do you have any advice on how to calm her?
Braiding is not something horses enjoy. They learn to tolerate it, and some jumpers really go better without braids. Horses can get anxious when you braid them because they don’t like it, and also because they can associate braiding with showing. They’re smarter than we give them credit for. Hopefully, over time they’ll get used to the braids and become less anxious. If they really get antsy because they relate it to showing, then you should braid them when you also ride them at home and not only at the show.
You and Cellastiano are such a great pair! My horse and I just don’t have that sort of relationship. How can I bond with my horse in a non-training way?
I bought Cellestiano as a 4-year-old and I immediately had a good rapport with him when I tried him. Moving forward with the horse for me was actually quite easy. However, this isn’t the case with every horse I’ve ever bought. With some horses, it just doesn’t click quite as well as it naturally does with others. Obviously, getting to know all your horse’s moves when you ride them is important, but knowing your horse’s character around the barn will really further your bond with your horse. Hand walking, watching them in the paddock, feeding them treats and tacking them up are all things that can help you get to know your horse better. The best thing to do to really bond with your horse is brushing them. There is so much you can learn from your horse when you brush him. I feel every rider should brush their horse sometimes, even if they have grooms and only show up to ride their horse. You’d be amazed what your horse can tell you.
I’d like to learn more and get better. Would auditing a clinic be better than participating? I’m wondering if watching others would be more helpful than being a participant, since my horse is great and I’m the one that needs work.
This sport is ever evolving. There are things we all still learn no matter what level we’re at. You don’t need to be participating to learn: Watching and listening to others is a great way to pick up tips and ideas for your own riding. Listening to clinics is a great start. Listening and watching other trainers give lessons, watching riders ride around in warm-up before class and watching riders compete are all very helpful ways to learn. I’m always watching and listening everywhere I go, trying to pick up something new to try in my training or riding.