Marion Walker has a sneaking suspicion why the West Coast Reining Horse Association selected her for not one, but two of the organization’s prestigious awards.
“I think it’s because I’m so old and still doing it,” the 82-year-old reiner joked during a recent larger-than-life phone conversation, which she participated in while aboard her faithful gelding Custom Coffee.
Everybody who knows Walker knows well enough that, despite her good-natured self-deprecation, age took a backseat to merit in WCRHA officials awarding her the association’s Horseman of the Year and the Kathryn Cagle Inspire Me awards during the year-end banquet in Rancho Murieta, California.
The Kathyrn Cagle Inspire Me Award, dedicated to the memory of a longtime WCRHA member, is presented to a duly nominated member who reflects those characteristics Cagle so exemplified in leading a life spent motivating, encouraging and inspiring others to be their best.
“She was the most kind, most friendly person,” Walker said of Cagle. “Everybody who knew her, she was their friend; she helped everybody. She’s the greatest person I’ve ever know.”
That is one reason why, between the two, the Cagle Award was more meaningful, said Walker, a married mother of two with four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“Marion inspires people by just coming. Her infectious positive attitude is contagious,” said Maya Stessin of Ollie Galligan Performance Horses, who instructs Walker and nominated her for the awards. “She has no idea the number of people she touches.”
Walker’s story is an exceptional one.
Between them, she and 19-year-old “Coffee” have 101 years of experience between them. To both, age is merely a number.
Walker is also a big-game hunter — she bagged a 900-pound elk last year in Arizona with her .300 Winchester Short Mag — and she also volunteers patrolling a state park in the Golden State.
She started riding on her family’s ranch in Napa County when she was about 5. She recalls vividly following her father around the property on horseback looking for cows who might have slipped in a slough.
She never lost the fever.
Twenty-five years ago she decided she actually wanted to do horse riding lessons and “learn how to ride correctly.”
The age thing is “just in your mind. If you say you can do it, you can do it. You have to have the will to do it. Even if I ache or something, which I don’t very much, I just keep on riding.”
She purchased Coffee (Custom Crome x Coffees Darling x Sir Coffee Cody) seven years ago.
“If I didn’t have this old horse, I don’t know if I could do it,” Walker said. “He doesn’t try to cheat. Even though he’s 19, he loves to do it. He loves to come to shows. As long as my guy keeps wanting to go, I’m going to go. I’m going to try at least.”
Said Stessin in an email: “Marion and Coffee have the relationship that we are all striving for. They take care of each other. There are places in the pattern where Coffee takes care of Marion and places where Marion has to keep her intentions clear for Coffee. They show that age is but a number! Inspiration to all of us!”