Despite already being an accomplished rider in the sport of show jumping, including a win at CSI 1* Dinard (FRA) this summer, Canadian native Sam Walker had never before competed at an indoor equitation final when he set foot in ring for the 2017 Dover Saddlery/USEF Medal Final in Harrisburg, PA.
The 15-year-old’s goal was to make the second round, but he exceeded even his own expectations when he piloted Missy Clark’s 10-year-old Warmblood gelding Waldo to third place honors in the prestigious championship. He was North Run’s top performer in the final.
Walker trains with both North Run and his parents, Scott and Dee, at their Forest Hill Training Centre in Ontario, making his endeavors a true family affair. He has been a part of the EQUILINE America family since March 2016 and has sparked a great enthusiasm for the brand in his home country. He reflects on his latest accomplishment in our newest blog feature.
EQUILINE America: How are you feeling after your great finish?
Sam Walker: I’m feeling great. It was such a thrill; it was awesome. For my very first final, it was a very good experience. My horse was fantastic, my trainers were amazing, as always, and I didn’t get too nervous.
EA: What was going through your mind in the final work-off?
SW: I went back for the test [sitting in] third, and I really just thought to myself that I was going to be in the top four no matter what, so I gave it my best shot, and it paid off.
EA: Describe the atmosphere. Did you feel any pressure?
SW: I thought that the medal final was a lot like the Royal Winter Fair [in Toronto]: a lot of early mornings and late nights. I think I felt a little bit of pressure going into the first round, because my goal was to make the second round, but I knew that my horse was prepared, and if I kept control of my nerves, I would come out with a good result.
The first round really worked out for me, and my horse was fantastic. In the second round, my horse was dialed in, and I had gotten myself under control: I could really just ride and focus on being the best that I could be. Getting called back in third was really almost relieving; I was a little bit in shock, because I wasn’t expecting it. I got in there and just went in and had as much fun as I could.
EA: Tell us about your mount, Waldo.
SW: Waldo is owned by Missy Clark and North Run. It was his first time doing the medal final, too. He’s not an old horse, and he’s really sweet back in the barn. He’s great to take care of. He’s just a fantastic horse all around. He and I get along very well.
EA: What is life like for you right now?
SW: Right now, a typical week for me involves a lot of riding, a lot of traveling, a lot of showing, and a lot of training. I’m really enjoying everything right now. It’s amazing to have such great coaches, parents, and horses. I really think that my riding in the last year and a half to two years has come a long way.
EA: What has it meant to you to be a part of Team EQUILINE America?
SW: First, EQUILINE by far makes the most amazing products out there right now for horses and for riders. I love every single thing that they make. I just wore the brand new shirt (Vick) and belt (Logan) from the [Fall/Winter 2017-2018 Collection] in the medal. I feel very, very proud to represent the brand when I’m showing, because there aren’t too many people who are able to say that. They were my very first international sponsor, and I’m so grateful they gave me a shot to be on the team.
EA: What is your favorite EQUILINE product?
SW: That’s a tough one! I love my EQUILINE X-Cool show jacket and the Marghe saddle. I love the fit and the feel of the saddle. It not only fits the riders very well, but it also fits the horses great. I can take my saddle and put it on any other horse, and it almost always fits perfectly. I really enjoy riding in it. It makes me feel comfortable and secure.
EA: What is something people may not know about you?
SW: I love to play golf. Whenever I can, I try to get in 18 holes.
EA: What is your next goal?
SW: I would love to get another ribbon at indoors. That would be a lot of fun. Another top 10 placing would be one of my shorter-term goals. I have New England Medal Finals, WIHS Equitation Finals, and [the ASPCA Maclay National Championship] coming up, and I’m going to try to do my best with the jumpers, hunters, and equitation horses at those shows. I will be riding one horse in New England and four horses probably at Washington and Kentucky.
Photos by Al Cook & Elaine Wessel/Phelps Sports