Nicole Walker Steals the Show in Senior Canadian Show Jumping Team Debut

Nicole Walker knocked it out of the park in her senior Canadian Show Jumping Team debut on March 2, 2019, leading Team Canada to third place in the CSIO 4* $150,000 FEI Nations Cup.
L to R: Nicole Walker, Amy Millar, Mark Laskin, Mario Deslauriers, Beth Underhill
Photo Credit: Starting Gate Communications

Although the nations cup represented the first time Walker donned the prestigious red jacket that identifies senior team members, she is no stranger to high-stakes competition. She represented the maple leaf at WEF as a young rider in the 2017 $25,000 Hollow Creek Under 25 (U25) Team Event Grand Prix and the 2018 $25,000 Hermès U25 Team Event.

Most recently, she captured the title of 2018 Canadian Show Jumping Champion aboard Falco van Spieveld (Toulon x Lys De Darmen), her14-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding known simply as “Falco”. So, when it came time to decide who would be Walker’s mount for her first nations cup, there was no question it would be her trusted bay.

Nicole Walker Steals the Show in Senior Canadian Show Jumping Team Debut

Walker made her senior team debut aboard Falco van Spieveld, her trusted partner that helped her earn the 2018 Canadian Show Jumping Champion title at the Royal Horse Show.
Photo Credit: Cealy Tetley

To stay in fighting shape, Walker and Falco fastidiously stuck to their training schedule.

“I love the discipline of show jumping because it’s fast-paced in the ring, but still requires such a high level of attention to detail and care,” commented Walker. “I continued to train as usual in advance of the nations cup. On a weekly basis, we do a lot of pole work to ensure the horses are adjustable and to keep my eye in tune, and a lot of hacking to keep the horses fit. Falco only did a limited number of shows to keep him fresh and happy.”

Walker was able to maintain an impressive sense of calm leading up to the show that most certainly contributed to her success on the big day.

“I am usually pretty good at keeping my nerves under control,” said Walker. “I find it calming to keep on my usual routine. I know my horse, team and I are capable, so I just keep reinforcing the positives in my mind.”

And there certainly were plenty of positives to consider, as Walker’s nations cup team was comprised of three Canadian Olympians: Mario Deslauriers of New York, NY; Amy Millar of Perth, ON; and Beth Underhill of Schomberg, ON.

“It gave me a lot of confidence to be on the team with three seasoned veterans,” said Walker. “All three teammates and [Chef d’Équipe] Mark Laskin are cool customers. They are very supportive and gave great guidance for my first time in a senior nations cup.”

Confident in her abilities, and with a strong team behind her, Walker stepped out under the bright lights of the International Arena, riding in the second position for Team Canada.

“There is a great buzz on nations cup night,” said Walker. “As equestrians, we are used to competing as individuals. In a team format, the atmosphere and pressure grows. It was awesome to see so many Canadians in the stands.”

Walker and Falco expertly tore around the challenging course, and produced one of only four double-clear performances in the two-round competition that featured 36 of the world’s top riders representing nine teams. The pair’s inspired performance helped push Canada into third place for a spot on the podium.

Nicole Walker Steals the Show in Senior Canadian Show Jumping Team Debut

Walker and Falco achieved one of only four double-clear performances during the two-round nations cup competition.
Photo Credit: Starting Gate Communications

“It was fantastic for the team to have a podium finish,” said Walker. “I am so happy with Falco’s double-clear performance in my first senior nations cup. I think we both had a lot of fun under the lights! He is such a fantastic horse and didn’t put a foot wrong. In the past, I trained with Beth, so it was special to follow in her footsteps with a clear round. [Canadian Olympian] Ian Millar did hilariously joke that it would be a good time to retire on a double-clear high note!”

Having conquered her first nations cup, Walker’s next goal is to represent Canada in major games. She commented, “In order to do so, consistency at the highest level is key, so I will continue to strive for that. Falco is a seasoned horse whom I save for bigger competitions. I also have two younger horses that I hope to produce to his level.”

Walker concluded, “A lot of hard work from the whole team at Adena Springs North and Karlswood has come together. It truly does take a village and I’m thankful for the opportunity. It is an honour to represent Canada doing what I love most. Joining some of the best riders in the country and having fans cheer gave me a lot of pride.”

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