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.
Do you have any tips for a young rider having a hard time memorizing a course design?
People who have a tendency to go off course work themselves into a panic about it, which ultimately makes things worse. Rather than worry, the rider must tell themselves what they will do and where they must go. In my experience, as a professional rider, I’ve found that positive affirmations can go a long way. I’d also suggest that they walk the course more than once. The rider should watch several other horses go around the course before it’s their turn. A young rider can learn a lot from watching others; however, practicing is the most effective way to memorize a course.
Sometimes mistakes happen and a rider knocks a rail during the middle of their course. What advice do you give to your riders to help build their confidence to finish the course?
Knocking down one or two rails is not the end of the world nor does it mean that the rider had a bad round; rails are only a small portion of a course. I see a lot of riders dwell on an early mistake. The loss of concentration often leads to knocking down other jumps later in the course. I’d suggest that the rider try to stay focused and make the best of what’s left of the course.
At what age should a rider consider if they want to pursue riding professionally?
I don’t think there’s an exact age when someone should start to think about pursuing a professional riding career. For kids who want to be professional riders or trainers, I feel that they should go to college first, and then decide. There’s no need to rush into professional riding because this business is not going anywhere. Furthermore, a good education will allow them to make smarter career choices no matter what those choices may be. Those who choose not to become professional riders or trainers have no need to worry. There are a lot of different professions they can pursue that would allow them to stay within in the industry.
Looking back at your 16-year-old self, what advice would you give yourself?
Looking back, I’d have told my 16-year-old self to get my head in the game. My main problem was that I lacked the mental focus that I now know is necessary for this sport. Even though I was still performing quite well, my results were inconsistent and I know I could have done better.
How do you balance your time as a trainer and as a professional rider?
Balancing my time between training and riding is tough. However, in order to make it work, there must always be a compromise. You shouldn’t overextend yourself by taking on too many clients to train if you still want to have time to ride and show yourself. There are only so many hours in a day. If you want to ride well, you must allow yourself enough time to train your own horses, not just your clients’.