The eventing community is mourning the loss of longtime instructor and volunteer Ellen Walker, who died earlier this week at Utah Valley Regional Hospital following a pasture accident at her home in Spring City, Utah. In a fitting final act from one who gave so much to so many, Ellen’s wishes were fulfilled to be an organ donor and save other lives. She was 61 years old.
Ellen was a talented instructor who could have taught at many levels, but she was extremely devoted to bringing in beginners and giving them a safe and solid foundation in jumping, dressage and eventing.
She was the instructor for the Sanpete County 4-H English Program from the mid-1980s until the day she died, and also the instructor for the Skyline chapter of the United States Pony Club in the 1990s. She was an all-volunteer instructor who continued to recruit curious riders in the heart of “cowboy country” year after year to help them find their way safely and effectively in the sport.
She was a tremendous Area IX volunteer, organizing fundraisers for The Event at Skyline, coordinating volunteers, hosting training camps and clinics, and supporting riders at shows near and far, both recognized and unrecognized. She was honored by the Event at Skyline with a Lifetime Service Award just this past May.
In her personal riding career, Ellen was an exceptional trainer and competitor in dressage. She took multiple horses from their first ride under tack to competing at Prix St. Georges, and she always trained them with supreme skill and kindness. She loathed tricks and shortcuts in training. Last year for her 61st birthday, she switched gears and competed in the inaugural Event at Skyline, where she took fourth place in Intro on her pony, Pippi.
She was also a tremendous advocate, trainer and breeder of Hungarian Warmbloods and was a board member of the Hungarian Warmblood Association of America. She loved them for their history, their movement, their spirit and their friendliness, and she rescued more than one from dire circumstances.
Ellen accomplished all of this while being a full-time high school teacher. She also devoured books and loved gardening, cooking, and riding the mountain and desert trails with her many friends.
Most of all, Ellen was just the glowing, beating heart of the Utah eventing and dressage community. Her life’s work was taking people under her wing and never turning away anyone who was willing to learn.
Some of her students have gone on to make full-time careers in the equestrian industry, others ride and compete in the English disciplines as a hobby, and one former student will be going Intermediate at Rebecca Farms this weekend. Through her dedication to teaching she touched thousands of lives across generations.
Ellen is survived by her husband of 39 years, Don Walker; her two sons, Matthew and Phillip; and many other loved ones. Our thoughts are with all those who knew and loved Ellen in this unspeakably hard time.