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The Next Generation: Sam Walker – “If you are not out there working, putting in those hours in the saddle – someone else will be”

Friday, 22 May 2020
The Next Generation

Photo © Mackenzie Clark Photo "I have learned that nothing is more important than riding for your country. That’s where my heart is,” Sam Walker says. Photo © Mackenzie Clark Photo.

 

Text © World of Showjumping 

 


 

A social media shout-out from Eric Lamaze is something very few 18-year-olds get to experience. “This kid with real horses will be someone that we can count on,” were the words of the Olympic Champion – in this case, the kid being Canada’s hugely talented Sam Walker. 

“That was very unexpected, but extremely cool,” Walker comments. “It’s such a big compliment coming from one tough guy!” 

Lamaze is not alone in predicting a great future for Walker. At the age of 16, Walker had already had his big breakthrough – winning the prestigious ASPCA Maclay National Championship at the National Horse Show with Waldo. That same year, Walker also won the CET National Medal Finals in Toronto with Willem. In 2019, Walker and Waldo followed up with victory in the 2019 George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championships in Wellington as well as in the WIHS and USEF Medal at Devon Horse Show. This year, six weeks ahead of his 18th birthday – Walker made his five-star Nations Cup debut for Team Canada. 

With a resume like this, it’s no surprise that riding runs in Walker’s veins. His parents Dee and Scott Walker are professional trainers, and according to their son they have “been in the industry for forever”. Together they run Forest Hill Farm in Caledon, Canada. “I started riding before I could walk,” Walker tells. “When I was four, I began showing on ponies and it went from there. My parents have been training me, but for the last five years I have also received help from Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run. Missy has helped me with my equitation training, and together with John she gave me the opportunity to ride Waldo. I’ve been lucky to have had several sets of eyes on me for the last years and it has really helped me develop as a horseman and rider. Along the way, I have also received pointers and tips from other professionals such as great Canadian riders like Eric Lamaze and Ian Millar.”

“I also love to watch riders such as Marcus Ehning and McLain Ward, to try to emulate them,” Walker continues about his education. “I think it’s important to watch as much as you can and pick up different things from different riders. Everyone has their own style, but you can for sure work what others are doing into something that’s your own. This is part of how I am trying to make myself a better rider every day.”

Photo © Mackenzie Clark Photo Despite being only 18, Sam Walker has already jumped his first five-star Nations Cup for Canada. Photo © Mackenzie Clark Photo.

After great success in the equitation ring, Walker is now looking forward to pursuing an international jumping career. “Most riders will tell you that equitation teaches you about line and track as well as finding good distances. For me, the greatest advantage of my equitation years has been learning to deal with pressure from a young age,” Walker tells. “In the finals, you only have yourself to rely on and that’s when you see who will excel or shy. To be able to handle pressure has definitely helped me in the jumper ring, especially this year when I made my senior Nations Cup debut – I just did not get all that nervous about it. While I have loved doing equitation, I am also very happy to be focusing on my jumping career. Jumping is so straight forward, if you have one down you get four faults – if you are the fastest, you win. I also love the feeling of riding for my country – even if I am not on a team, I am still out there representing Canada.”

After starting up his jumping career with Andino Z, Acardi du Houssoit and Winnipeg Jet, Walker is now progressing further with the 10-year-old mare Coralissa and the 11-year-old gelding Kel’Star du Vingt Ponts. “Two and a half years ago, MarBill Hill Farm bought Coralissa for me,” Walker tells. “She was seven at the time, and a very special horse. In the beginning, it was hard to do anything with her really. Luckily, my mother is an incredible flat rider and she has put a lot of work into her too – now she finally starts being like a normal horse. Coralissa has the heart of a lion and always fights for me. She is an extremely careful horse, and the faster you go the better she gets. I can count on her and that she will do it for me.”

“Last year, Coralissa really started to shine and showed what a great, great horse she is,” Walker continues. “During 2019, I took seven wins with her and she was also the one I first jumped bigger classes – 1.50m and 1.60m – with. It’s been an interesting process, growing together as we have. There is a huge difference in her confidence level now, compared to the beginning of our partnership.”

“With Kel’Star it is a very different story,” Walker says. “He had been perfectly made by Jerome Guery when Castlefield Sport Horses bought him for me. I’m not used to riding such ready-made horses, where you can just push a button. We’ve never had the means to buy something ready, we just took what came along and made it work – no matter what it was. So, to get a horse like Kel’Star has been quite something. From the first time I got on, I knew he was the one for me. Despite our short time together, there is already a special bond there. I think that’s also why our partnership has come so far in such a short time. He means a lot to me and already has a sentimental value – I can’t wait to get back in the ring with him.”

Photo © Mackenzie Clark Photo “Whoever you ask, it’s what every top rider will tell you: The key to success is hard work – always hard work," Sam Walker says. Photo © Mackenzie Clark Photo.

With his five-star Nations Cup debut in the books, Walker is now eager for more. “I look forward to more Nations Cup appearances for Canada and hope to get the chance to jump some five-star shows to gain more experience. I have learned that nothing is more important than riding for your country. That’s where my heart is,” Walker says. “However, first and foremost I want to better myself as a horseman and a rider. And I am extremely thankful to my whole team, my parents, North Run and my owners MarBill Hill Farm and Castlefield Sport Horses for giving me the opportunity to try to do so.”

“I know there are a lot of hungry, hungry young riders out there, so I have to work hard on myself every day,” he continues. “It’s a tough time to get up there, when you look at the U25 ranking list – it’s unbelievable how many good riders there are. To keep on moving upwards and max my work I will try to pick the best venues for my horses and not over-jump them. This is important to me, because I look at all of my horses as my friends. I do this because I love horses, not for any other reason.”

Hard work is not something Walker is shy of. “If you are not out there working, putting in those hours in the saddle – someone else will be,” he says. “Whoever you ask, it’s what every top rider will tell you: The key to success is hard work – always hard work. Talent will only take you that far, and that’s when your work ethics kick in. Since I was little, I was always told to ride as many horses as I possibly could and when not watch others ride. If someone needed help, I was the first to raise my hand and get in the saddle.”

The latter is confirmed by Sam’s trainer Missy Clark. “Sam is one of those kids who you know will make it in our sport,” she says. “It’s not only his talent that sets him apart, but also his work ethic combined with his interest in everything about horses. His passion goes beyond walking into the show ring. He’s very aware of the importance of learning about all aspects of horsemanship both on a horse and off.”

“We’ve worked with Sam and his family over the past five years, and continue to do so today,” Missy continues. “It’s been such a fun journey to watch Sam’s progression. From the beginning his natural ability and mental fortitude was apparent. I predict he will go on to be a big part of Canada’s future in the sport of show jumping.”

 

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

 

 

 


 

 

 

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