Equiline Rider Sam Walker is the 2018 ASPCA Maclay National Champion!
Photo by Lenore Phillips/Phelps Media Group
In just his second year competing at the prestigious junior equitation finals, Sam Walker has made history. The Toronto, Ontario native became just the fourth Canadian to win the ASPCA Maclay National Championship at the National Horse Show in Lexington, KY. Then, just a week later, he followed it up with a second victory in the CET Medal National Final at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. He did it with two different horses, topping the Maclay with his partner of two years, Missy Clark’s Waldo, before riding Nicole Loochtan’s Willem, a last-minute ride following the sale of another mount, in Toronto.
Walker rides for his parents Scott and Dee Walker’s Forest Hill Farm as well as Clark and John Brennan’s North Run operation, where he is a working student. After six straight weeks of campaigning on an indoor circuit that also saw him ride to championships in the junior hunters and ride to top ribbons in the junior and U25 divisions in the jumper ring, he is ready for a well-deserved rest before gearing up for the winter season in Wellington, FL. The 16-year-old sat down with Equiline to reflect on his medal-winning double.
Equiline: Has it sunk in yet that you’re the ASPCA Maclay National Champion? How are you feeling?
Sam Walker: It has a little bit now. It means a lot to me. I’m really, really excited for the future riding for Missy [Clark] and John [Brennan], and I’m really grateful that I’ve gotten the opportunity to ride such amazing horses.
EA: Take us through the first and second rounds. What stood out most to you?
SW: In the first round, you had to carry a nice, forward pace all the way around. I think the judges [Walter T. Kees and Chance Arakelian] really liked that forward pace, and [Waldo] just handled all the different pressures so perfectly. He’s amazing.
In the second round, again, [you needed] a forward pace off the bat. We were asked to hand gallop the first jump, and again, Waldo was amazing, and he handled all the different tests correctly, like the counter canter, the doubles, trotting the oxer, etc. He was just perfect.
EA: How has your relationship come along with Waldo?
SW: I can’t say enough amazing things about my horse. He’s a very naturally careful horse, and he only wants to do the right thing. He’s been a little bit of a project the past few years with Missy and John, and he’s really been brought along, and the last two years have really been a lot of fun with him.
He stays with Missy and John, and I travel [to their farm in Vermont] to ride him and other jumpers. This is my second full season riding him, and I hope to do next season with him as well.
EA: Did you expect the success to come so quickly, in just your second year at the Finals?
SW: I didn’t, no. I just kind of took everything step by step and thought to myself that if something came up and I had the opportunity to [be a contender to] place in the top in one of these finals, then I’d see what happens when I got there. I really didn’t expect to get there this year, and it was really just an honor.
EA: What did it mean to then win the CET Medal National Final a week later?
SW: It was a fun class. I used a different horse, Willem, and I am grateful to Castlewood Farm [in Wellington, FL] for helping us get him up to Toronto. I’ve ridden Willem a couple times; I had him two years ago to do the Canadian medals on. He was amazing; he went up here and marched around and did his job, and we got great results! I was really happy.
EA: What were you wearing in the ring?
SW: In both finals, I was decked out in Equiline, of course! I wore the Rack competition jacket, the David show shirt, and the Willow breeches, and I also had on the Logan belt and, of course, the socks!
EA: What’s next for you?
SW: I’m looking forward to a week of being kind of off, and then I’m off to Florida for the winter!
I cannot thank Equiline enough for their amazing sponsorship. There’s no brand I’d rather wear. It’s by far my favorite, and I’m looking forward to a continued partnership!
Sam Walker wins the CET Medal National Final at Toronto's Royal Winter Fair
Photo by Jump Media