British showing would not be complete without the face of top showman Robert Walker.
He is a true expert in the showing world and is hugely knowledgeable in all aspects of show horse production. From choosing the right youngster out of a field, to breaking, schooling and exemplary ring craft, Robert is a master.
He has enjoyed countless wins including all major showing titles. Here we find out more about Robert, his routine at home and the stories behind his success, courtesy of his sponsor TopSpec.
One of the first impressions that hits you when talking to Robert is his drive, enthusiasm and organisational skills, allowing him to always be one step ahead of the game.
While preparing a team of horses for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) 2015, he was already planning for next season and the youngsters he would be preparing and working on for the following year.
Robert and his wife, Sarah’s base at Sandy Brow Stables in Taporley, Cheshire houses 25 horses ranging from show hunters to riding horses, cobs and hacks.
Also filling the stables is Mrs P, belonging to their two-year-old daughter Izzy and son Sam’s team of Show and Show Hunter Ponies.
Robert is well known for his success with his show hunters and admits that they are his “first love.” Robert says: “When I was younger everyone’s aim was to ride in a hunter championship and that’s what I followed.”
His strategy is well thought out and Robert likes to target the major traditional shows, such as the Great Yorkshire and Royal Windsor which are good examples and were again successful for Robert in 2015.
The Great Yorkshire is undoubtedly Robert’s favourite show and he has said on many occasions how much it means to him when a win at the Harrogate event comes along.
Highly regarded in the world of showing for his immaculate presentation, attention to detail and the wonderful condition of his horses, Robert works closely with the team at TopSpec to develop individual feed regimes for each horse or pony.
His favourite products include TopSpec Comprehensive Feed Balancer and TopSpec CoolCondition Cubes which he feeds to most of the team.
Robert explains that when he is planning his events schedule, he starts at HOYS and works backwards rather than going forward from April.
Robert’s consistent good form at HOYS does not happen coincidently. Besides the top quality horses that he rides, Robert’s meticulous planning gives them the winning edge. He is careful not to over show them in the run up to HOYS, but instead keep them fresh and enthusiastic.
Robert explains: “I usually fit in a few day’s autumn hunting before HOYS and I will sometimes take a younger horse that is going to HOYS and needs freshening up.” Robert is no stranger to the hunting field, having mastered the Cheshire for seven years, before retiring in 2011.
It is clear that Robert is a real family man and it is his family that motivates him through his career and day to day life. He met his wife, Sarah on the showing circuit when they were teenagers and she is a huge support to him.
Their 11-year-old son, Sam is already keen to follow in his father’s footsteps and is certainly showing his talent in the saddle. He won at the 2015 Royal International Horse Show and also enjoys hunting every Saturday and during the week in the school holidays. Two-year-old Izzy is also smitten by ponies and is very at home on her charming grey pony, Mrs P.
Although Robert mentions the strain on the bank balance and the gruelling hours involved with horses, he is happy to support his children if that is what they would like to do. He concludes that his family are a great means of switching off from the job and reminding him how important it is to appreciate everything you have. “Izzy will make me laugh or Sam will ask an interesting question and it takes my mind of everything,” he smiles.
Five things you may not know about Robert Walker:
- Robert was selected for the Hull City Juniors football team but never got his big break
- Robert did some point-to-pointing in earlier years, but did not pursue it because his brother Simon was already in the sport and “got the better horses.”
- At HOYS 2010, Robert won the Show Hunter Championship on Pride & Joy just weeks after fighting back from illness.
- Robert and Sarah are due to leave their current base soon as the owners are building on the yard.
Robert believes that if management is done correctly, everything else will follow. He is meticulous about high standards when tacking up, turning out and mucking out.