Sam Walker shares his first impressions of his relatively new partnership with Evita, the 11-year-old KWPN mare (Canturano x Farmer), purchased by MarBill Hill Farm from world number one, Steve Guerdat (SUI), in August of this year.
What was your first impression of Evita?
I was not able to try her in person, but I loved the videos and she had a phenomenal track record. I fell in love instantly! If I’m not able to try the horse in person, I look for a horse that looks like it wants to win every time. When I saw the first video of Evita I knew she was one that I really wanted the ride on. Her reputation and track record was for sure enough to go off of, but she really impressed me with how game she appeared just in the video alone.
Did Guerdat offer any words of wisdom as you entered into this new relationship sight-unseen?
Yes, he told me she is quite a hot mare! He explained that the less you do, the better she goes. I tried to focus on that in our first show together.
Is it hard to find the balance between keeping her fit and riding her enough to get to know her, and also doing ‘less’?
I definitely had to take the first couple of weeks to learn about the balance of doing less. The first bit was difficult because I thought I was doing something wrong when she would get a little fresh at the end of our ride. I quickly learned that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and that was just her. She is naturally a very lean and fit horse and it does not take much for her to put muscle on. Regular flat work, jumping, turnout and going on the horse walker is more than enough for her.
As you are getting to know her, what are some of her strengths and weaknesses that have stood out?
I think her biggest strength is how brave she is and how hard she tries ‒ there is nothing that scares her. I think maybe a weakness is how excited she gets in the corners, but I like it because I know she’s taking me to the jumps. I would say she is actually a pretty straight-forward horse. She can definitely be a little bit of a wild woman under saddle, but in the best way possible.
What is her personality like in the barn?
She is a really friendly horse in the barn. She always seems to have a pleasant attitude and is very interested in everything going on. I don’t quite know what her favourite snack is yet, but I do know she LOVES dinner time! She is kind of indifferent about other horses … she is a sweet horse but she really does not care about the others. She is so good to groom, clip, tack up and everything else she does on the daily. She definitely can have a little bit of an attitude when we do flat work but usually only on Tuesdays after she’s had a day off. I think if I just stay out of her way she will remain happy. Nicole Weatherall, my head FEI groom, takes care of her daily and I think they both get along very well.
What has it been like getting to know her under saddle and how have you adjusted to each other?
She has been pretty easy so far in terms of learning her ride. I get along with horses like her usually, being that she is careful, fast, strong and has a ton of heart. I always love a horse that tries hard, and that she does! My early rides have consisted of lots of flat work and getting to know her over some smaller fences. I have been trying to let her get to know me as I get to know her.
How was your first outing together in the show ring?
Currently I have only been to one show and ridden her in one class. We were 4th in the Open Welcome at Aiken, so our record is only double clear so far, ha!
Does it give you a boost of confidence on a horse like Evita, knowing that she has jumped some of the biggest tracks in the world?
It’s definitely a privilege to ride such a high-profile horse. She gives me lots of confidence because she is so strong and really takes me to the fences. I also get a boost of confidence when I’m on her because I know that she has won big classes at the biggest shows in the world. It really makes me feel like I can do anything on her. I think in the barn we treat her the same as all of my other horses because my other horses are also amazing and they all deserved to be treated equally … but I do think Nicole favours her sometimes!
Plans for the future?
I hope to show Evita consistently in FEI ranking classes at shows across North America and hopefully Europe as well in the years to come. She is extremely competitive in that division so I am excited to see what the future holds. I love Evita and I’m so excited to jump in some bigger classes and show at all my favourite shows with her. I would love to thank the new owners of Evita, MarBill Hill Farm, for their continued support. It means so much to be an upcoming Canadian rider with Canadian owners, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to ride such fantastic horses. I would also like to thank my parents, Scott and Dee Walker, Lexi Reed, Steve Guerdat, Thomas Fuchs and everyone else involved in helping me secure the ride on this incredible mare.