Melanie Ann Walters
Born: May 28, 1976 (Vancouver)
Died: February 13, 2014 (Langley, British Columbia)
Melanie Walters, a top trainer at Hastings Race Park in Vancouver, died following a riding accident at her parents’ farm in Langley, B.C. She died in surgery after being crushed by a horse. She was 37.
Walters had 14 wins in 52 starts at Hastings in 2013, her first full season as a trainer. Walters was a top-10 trainer at the track.
Her main client was her father, Ken Walters, a dentist who was a prominent horse owner at Hastings for many years. He was also for a time the dentist for the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.
Walters was a successful equestrian rider before becoming a trainer and taking over her father’s stable.
In 1993, the 17-year-old rider won the American Horse Shows Association medal final at Harrisburg, Pa., riding New Generation, an 11-year-old thoroughbred. She was only the second Canadian to win the medal final. The first was her coach, Laura Balisky, an Olympian who won the same event in 1981.
In 1994, she won the Canadian Equestrian Team finals.
After having spent her youth in the show-horse world, her father convinced her to make the leap to the racing side.
“Dad never tells me how to train the horses,” she told Tom Wolski of the Province last year. “What he does and is very good at is every day he studies and watches the races. He picks out his own horses. So he leaves me alone to train. And I leave him alone to buy them.”
Walters was a welcomed presence at Hastings.
“Everyone in the backstretch is in shock,” trainer Dino Condilenios told the Daily Racing Form. “She would show up in the barns everyday wearing a big smile.”
She leaves two children — Laurel, 8, and Caden, 7. Her friend and former equestrian coach Laura Balisky has launched an online fundraising campaign at fundrazr.com to support the children.