Sam Walker, 15, from Nobleton, ON, became the 2017 JC Medal National Champion on Nov. 7, 2017 at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto, ON.
Riding Miracle (Catoki x Landlord), a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Marion Cunningham, Sam went head-to-head with 25 athletes from four Regions across Canada (Atlantic, Ontario, Prairie and British Columbia), who were invited to compete for the national title after qualifying through their Regional Final.
“Equitation is a big focus this year; it’s a really important part in my riding right now and I look to continue that in Canada and in the States,” explained Sam, who is coached by his parents, Scott and Dee Walker, who own and operate Forest Hill Training Centre Inc. in Caledon, ON, as well as Missy Clarke and John Brennan while he is competing south of the border. “The JC Medal means a lot to me. It’s a medal final that I not only look forward to riding in, but also maybe placing in the final, and today I exceeded my goal by coming out on top.”
Sam kicked things off with a stellar performance in the initial jumping round, which featured 12 jumping efforts, including a three-part bending line that caused challenges for riders throughout the class. Despite being the first entry into the ring, without the benefit of seeing how the course played out, Sam nailed the tricky striding and laid down a smooth round highlighted by efficient turns and roll-backs.
His impressive jumping round secured Sam a spot as part of the top eight invited back to a flat phase. The group were asked to perform a variety of commands from the judge at the walk, trot and canter, including a reverse of direction at the sitting trot. Sam’s well-rounded equitation skills were on display during the flat phase, allowing him to move forward yet again, this time to a final jumping test for the top four riders.
After the announcer relayed the test instructions, Sam had just a few minutes to memorize the shortened course, which included cantering an oxer straight from the line-up, navigating a bending line, and hand-galloping the final jump. Sam rose to the challenge as one of the only competitors to take every inside turn.
“I had the benefit of watching three others go, so I was able to make a solid plan for my test,” explained Sam, who also gave credit to his horse, Miracle, with whom he also qualified to compete in the Canadian Hunter Derby National Championship at this year’s Royal Horse Show. “I’ve been riding this horse for a couple of years now, and he is a very, very special horse to me. He’s always honest and I always know when he is ready when he comes out of his stall, and today he felt really ready and it was great.”
As both Sam’s parents and coaches, Dee and Scott were proud to celebrate his success.
“We are just so very proud of Sam and all of his accomplishments,” said Dee, explaining that Sam attends school online to allow him to work around his training and competition schedule, and is currently at the Grade 10 level. “He has worked very hard to get here and he is no slouch and does the work behind the scenes; he doesn’t just get on and ride. He is expected to help out with everything from looking after his horses to helping out around the barn.”
Scott added, “I think it’s a great reward for him to win this class – a well-earned reward. When dedication, attention to detail, and work ethic are there, then the success will come.”
Following Sam on the leaderboard in second place was Miranda Burruano, who currently resides in Orchard Park, NY aboard Quixote. Taking third place was Megan Champoux of Aldergrove, BC and Easystreet, owned by Thunderbird Show Stables. Also advancing to the final test and taking fourth place overall was Christine Carlsen from North York, ON riding Valhalla Equestrian’s Mise Le Meas.
As the 2017 Champion, Sam was awarded the Leslie P. Usherwood Memorial Trophy, as well as a plate donated by the Usherwood family. Plus Sam, received a jacket from the Equestrian Canada (EC) Jumping Committee, which also donated a cooler to the top four and sash to the top eight.
JC Medal National Final
Placing / Rider / Hometown / Horse / Owner
1st / Sam Walker / Nobleton, ON / Miracle / Marion Cunningham
2nd / Miranda Burruano / Orchard Park, NY / Quixote / Miranda Burruano
3rd / Megan Champoux / Aldergrove, BC / Easystreet / Thunderbird Show Stables||
4th / Christine Carlsen / North York, ON / Mise Le Meas / Valhalla Equestrian
5th / Erin Ugolini / Caledon, ON / Bombay / Erin Ugolini
6th / Mackenzey Nadeau / Carleton Place, ON / Ferraro K / Brookstreet Stables Corporation
7th / Carly Corbett / Oakville, ON / Whistle Jacket / Mark Hayes
8th / Ashley Arnoldt / Langley, BC / Black Tie Affair / Jennifer Arnoldt
For full results from the 2017 JC Medal National Final, visit www.royalfair.org.