Click for slideshow

Life has been really exciting lately for Lisa Walter. But let’s not get ahead of our story.

It all started out when she was growing up in San Diego. Lisa’s family had some kindly friends who would invite her over to teach her to play the guitar and ride their horse. She was enjoying a happy California childhood until tragedy struck. When she was just 12 years-old, her father suddenly died.

Hoping to put some pleasure back in her daughter’s life, her mother continued to take Lisa to ride until school duties finally took over all her time. Then it was not until she became a woman and married, that her thoughts turned to horses again.

Lisa tells me, “I started longing to have my own horse. So about 10 years ago, after a search, I found a nice Paint horse that I thought about buying. As is my habit, I consulted God about my choice and waited for his answer. The answer came back that this was indeed the horse for me. He was very quiet-minded and very social with both people and other horses. Dooley’s only problem was that he had a fear of crossing water, due to an incident when he was a baby. I really loved this horse but couldn’t seem to get him over this fear.

“Another problem arose when my husband and I started a little church here called the Valley Harvest Church, which meets in Los Olivos at the Grange Hall. I led the worship on Sundays, which conflicted with my showing my horse on Sundays. I tried different solutions such as taking my horse to church and then going to the Western horse shows, but then I would miss a lot of the show. “So once again, I started seriously praying about it. I told God that he had put horses in my heart, but that I also know what my responsibilities are, and I said that I needed him to speak to me. One day as I was looking through the scriptures, I came to a passage in Isaiah 58 which gave me the answer. It said, ‘If you turn your foot away from the Sabbath, (by) doing your pleasure on my holy day, but (instead) call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable and shall honor him; not doing your own way nor finding your own pleasure nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord and I shall cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ Lisa continues, “I knew that I would not be showing on Sundays any more. But I also knew that when He closes a door, He has a plan in mind and I would wait for the answer. This was in 2008. Then, it came to me that I didn’t have to do just Western showing, there were other types of riding I could enjoy.” She also accepted the chairmanship of the Saturday Western shows at the SYV Equestrian Center.

“When God makes a promise, it is always kept. I have kept mine since He spoke to me through the scriptures of Isaiah. I have not shown on Sunday since 2008. But I kept remembering the part about riding on the high hills of the earth.”

Soon Lisa discovered the fun of competing in America’s Competitive Trail Horse Assn’s (ACTHA) events. They have become wildly popular all over America in just a few years. “I rode Dooley in an ACTHA Competition in 2009 and placed third. I was lucky that he didn’t have to go through water. But I realized that in the future I would have to find another horse. So I started searching and Shirley Scales and Dennis Domingos knew of a horse that they thought I might really like. He was a beautiful sorrel and I tried him out on trails and through the river, and he was wonderful. One night, I woke up in the middle of the night and again felt that God was speaking to me. He gave me the name of the horse, Sabbath, and to me that was the confirmation that this was the horse for me!”

Lisa participated in 17 ACTHA rides in the 2010-2011 season, finishing in 4th place over about 1,500 horses, in the Western region, which includes nine western states plus Alaska and Hawaii. These trials are 6-7 miles long and not timed events. The obstacles are spaced about a mile apart and contestants are judged at each one.

They range from poles to trot over, a tarp to walk over, something to drag, the rider must put on and take off a raincoat while mounted, and there might be a loud noise obstacle, etc. The horse and rider are judged separately.

Then the word spread like wildfire, ACTHA was holding auditions for the filming of a television series called “America’s Favorite Trail Horse.” It was exciting news for the tens of thousands of trail riders in America! Since the Valley is such a prominent horse location, some of the tryouts were held at Flag Is Up Farm and about 30 Valley riders competed to be in this series. Nationwide more than 1,100 horse and rider teams tried out, and from those only 100 were chosen.

“My tryout at Flag Is Up was really interesting,” says Lisa. “We did our patterns very well, but our free-style was not perfect. Then I got rather tongue-tied in the interview but somehow, I knew that God was with me, giving me his favor. And when we were chosen in the final 100, I was exhilarated. I said to myself, ‘He promised to send me to the high hills of the earth, and this competition is in the high hill country of Texas.”

When the euphoria wore off, reality set in, Lisa was faced with hauling her horse all the way to Texas, much farther than she had ever trailered a horse before. Her husband, Rob Walter, works several jobs, one hosting a radio show, and he also has a law and financial services business. But he accompanied her to Texas and then flew home, and the next day her friend Shirley Scales flew in to be with her and on the ride home.

“It was really an interesting experience, she tells me,” and viewers will be asked to vote for their favorite. It will start airing on Sept. 13, in prime time at 7 p.m., on Tuesdays on HR TV, the horse racing channel. There will be 13 one-hour programs. This channel is available on Dish and can be ordered on DirecTV. So I’m hoping people will tune in and vote for me. I don’t know which of the different nights, I will be on. If you win on your show, you get prize money. The final prize is $25,000.”

We’ll all need to get behind our Valley rider with our call or text votes. Mark your calendars and check your channels to take part in the excitement!