The Year to Experience Alberta's Wild HorsesJanuary 31 2018
The wild stallion appeared at the edge of a forest, his thick bay coat glistening in the sunshine. Ears perked, eyes alert, he watched me as intently as I watched him. A spindly twig was tangled in his forelock. This either added to his wild appearance, or gave him a comical look. Before I could decide, I realized that I too had a twig stuck in my hair. This is what happens when you spend a lot of time in the bushes.
I felt a kindred connection with this horse.
Ninety minutes north of Calgary, the small town of Sundre (population 2729) is considered the gateway to Alberta’s Rocky Mountain foothills, home to the wild horses that have survived here for over two and a half centuries. A large mural stretched across the Sundre Museum proudly displays a pictorial history of the area’s wild horses, tough sturdy animals that roam the forests, bogs and grasslands in close-knit family bands.
Just after sunrise on a crisp January morning, I joined my expert guides Darrell Glover and Duane Starr (founders of the organization ‘Help Alberta Wildies’). Both retired, Darrell and Duane work tirelessly to increase the awareness and protection of these wild horses. On any given day, they fill the role of ‘guardian angels’. Darrell regularly flies his Cessna airplane over the rangeland to ensure that the family bands are healthy, safe, and documented. Duane is by his side, using his instincts and expertise as a wildlife photographer to capture wild horse images that are as much a form of art as they are a source of documentation.
On this day, we were a trio in a 4 by 4 truck, headed for the ‘back roads’ of the Alberta foothills. Within minutes, a cow moose appeared, stopping for a quick glance before lumbering on. As we continued our climb through majestic forests with sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains, a red fox popped out of the snow. A tasty rodent had eluded him this time, but he went right back to work, burying his nose into a snowdrift.
‘Horses’! Darrell spotted them first. A small family band of Alberta wild horses stood knee-deep in snow on the edge of a forest. Three mares and a stallion with a twig stuck in his forelock. We quietly got out of the truck, stepping through thick brush to get a better view, but keeping a respectful distance. The wild horses had thick winter coats that glistened in the sun, and manes the colour of midnight. I was struck by their beauty. The mares ignored our presence, digging to uncover the forage beneath the snow. But the stallion remained curious and watchful. Then with a toss of his mane, he gave his mares the signal, and the horses galloped through the deep snow and disappeared into the forest.
We continued on, and found more bands of wild horses at the forest edge, or in clearings or bogs, each sighting different from the rest but equally exhilarating. Last spring’s foals were now almost as tall as their mothers, prancing about and kick their heels into the fresh mountain air.
Our drive through the foothills was an easy loop. My mind kept repeating the same thought.
Most people have never seen a wild horse.
There is a belief among the First Nations people that a spiritual connection exists between mankind and wild horses. If wild horses come to you in your dreams, you are blessed with certain powers.
You don’t have to search far and wide to find the wild horses of Alberta. Stallions tend to keep their family bands in familiar territories. With the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, a wild horse sighting is pure gold for a nature lover.
At the end of our loop, the sun began to set on the foothills. Duane, Darrell and I headed for home (or in my case, my motel room) but not before the day delivered one final gift: a large band of wild horses on the edge of a bog, with two dueling stallions in a sparring match. Kicking up heels, kicking up snow, boys doing what boys do.
For your next wildlife experience, the wild horses of Alberta will leave you breathless.
In fact, if you contact ‘Help Alberta Wildies’, Duane or Darrell will be glad to tell you where they are. And maybe even escort you to them, since they were likely going out to see them that day anyway.
The Rocky Mountain foothills are home to red fox, lynx, cougar, wolves, bears, moose and elk.
The wild horses of Alberta have earned their place as one of the star attractions in this pristine wilderness.
For more information, contact Help Alberta Wildies.
Where the Wild Horses AreOctober 13 2017
There is nothing quite like the sight of a herd of American wild horses, manes flying, thundering hooves across a great expanse of sagebrush. The majestic stallion with mares and foals leaving a trail of dust to hover in the wind, just long enough for you to catch your breath. And count yourself lucky to have witnessed pure, unbridled freedom.
Most people have never seen wild horses. Camper vans travel through the American southwest every summer. Encouraging the kids to ‘keep their eyes peeled’ for wild mustangs usually results in nothing but a backseat shout-out for a herd of cattle. But the fact is, it’s EASY to see wild horses. You just have to know where to go.
The Nevada high desert is chilly before the sun comes up. But for the ‘Pony Girls’ (me and my horse-crazed photographer girlfriends… the name just stuck), we knew what to expect. An easy drive 40 miles north of Las Vegas, Cold Creek sits at 6,000 feet and boasts dynamic mountain views, a year round stream, …. and wild horses. Within minutes of arriving at Cold Creek, we spotted our first family band. They showed no fear of us, grazing contentedly, occasionally munching on spindly spikes from joshua trees. We were 45 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas, but a world away, surrounded by wild horses in the high desert.
With our home base at the historic Prospector Hotel in Ely Nevada, our next destination was Antelope Valley. The once-white rental SUV now covered in dust, we drove through the desert in search of wild horses and were fortunate to see a few herds that charged across the open spaces. In stark contrast to the Cold Creek wild horses, these animals kept their distance, testing our telephoto lenses. But giving us good reason to put the cameras down and simply enjoy the moment.
From Ely Nevada we drove to our lodging in Tooele Utah (a beautiful drive that normally takes 3 ½ hours, if you don’t have a flat tire. We had a flat tire. All part of the fun!)
If you desire an incredible wild horse experience but have limited time, stay in Tooele and head to Utah’s Cedar Mountain and Onaqui Mountain area. There is an excellent chance for wild horse sightings in the expanse of the Great Basin Desert. This area is an official ‘National Back Country Byway’. Driving the historic Pony Express Road takes you back to 1860, when over 400 mustangs carried riders thousands of miles to deliver the mail. Today, it’s an easy drive for any vehicle, and you will eventually be rewarded with sightings of skittish pronghorn antelope, jack rabbits, and best of all, wild horses.
Over the next two days we found three herds that were very accepting of our presence. We kept a respectable distance but had ample opportunities to observe true wild horse behaviour. Stallions showing off muscle to win the affection of mares. Foals at play. The hierarchy that exists at the watering hole.
It was a privilege to be among the wild horses and to witness the interactions between the family members. We watched as a giant stallion tenderly groomed his young foal while his mare pressed her body against his, safe and content.
Each year, hundreds of wild horses are rounded up and confined as a result of pressures from industry, ranching and development. By writing this story and sharing my images, it is my hope that you will consider a trip to the high desert in Nevada and Utah.
It is not difficult to find wild horses. And along the way, you will experience wide open spaces, breathtaking vistas, and true freedom.
Something the wild horses figured out a long time ago.
Spectacular Sable Island with Adventure CanadaJuly 17 2017
Sable Island. For those familiar with this magical place, Sable Island digs deep into our imagination and stays with us forever. Perhaps it stems from memories of childhood books, colourful drawings of the windswept land. It always seemed impossible to exist. But each year, a small number of fortunate dreamers set foot on Sable's sandy beach for an experience unlike any other. We traveled with Adventure Canada aboard the vessel 'Ocean Endeavour'~ the partnership between Adventure Canada and Parks Canada has been created out of respect for the fragile ecosystem of this sliver of sand located almost 200 miles from Nova Scotia. Low impact Zodiac boats took the adventurers to shore, where we were met by waving grey seals. For many, the lure of Sable Island was rooted in mystery. Shipwrecks. Ghosts. Fog... and more fog. Plants that exist nowhere else. The rare ipswich sparrow that nests only on Sable Island. But, in the end.... there is one star attraction, above all else. The wild horses. Sable Island wild horses. Seeing these true survivors with their family bands roam the raw, natural, untouched landscape is an experience you will never forget. My advice? Sign up to Adventure Canada's mailing list and join the next journey to Sable Island. The wild horses will make you feel alive!
Saving Przewalski's HorseJune 28 2017
As a kid, I was fascinated by the 17,000 year old cave paintings depicting horses that would eventually be known as 'Przewalski's horse.' During the late 1800's, foreign expeditions hired local Mongolians to capture 88 wild Przewalski's foals from the Gobi Desert to be sent to animal dealers in Europe. With the introduction of firearms for hunting, the Przewalski's horse eventually became extinct in the wild, with the last horse spotted in 1969. In 1975, a plan was hatched to re-establish the Przewalski's horse to it's homeland in Mongolia. Five reserves were created in the Netherlands and Germany, and a breeding program was established from the horses in captivity: descendants of the wild foals caught in the late 1800's. On June 5th 1992, World Environment Day, 15 Przewalski's horses were successfully transplanted to Hustai National Park in Mongolia. Since that date, additional horses have been re-introduced into the park every 2 years. Today there are more than 350 Przewalski's horses once again roaming the Mongolian steppes, with more than 30 breeding harems. In Mongolia the horses are known as 'takhi', which means 'spirit'. It was my lifetime dream to see these horses~ not in a zoo, but in the wild where they belonged.
A world of thanks to Nora Livingstone and Animal Experience International for providing the path to make it happen in the most meaningful way I could ever imagine. I signed on to the 'eco-volunteer' program in Mongolia’s Hustai National Park, and was joined by my mates Teaghan O'Grady and Trudy Robertson. For two full weeks, each morning at dawn we emerged from our yurt to the waiting van that would take us deep into the Mongolian steppes. Our guide was 21 year old 'Seke', born in Ulanbaataar Mongolia, an affable leader with a quick eye for spotting a harem of Przewalski's horses in the hills. The first time we saw the wild horses was a true gift: one of the park's largest harems was ascending the steppes after quenching their thirst from the river below. One dominant stallion ('reddish dun colour'), with 9 mares (lighter in colour) and 2 foals (white). Stocky, muscular horses on the smallish side, with leg stripes, a dorsal stripe, brushcut mane and no forelock. They were the cave paintings in real life. It was a moment I will never forget.
Together with eco-volunteers from France and Brussels, each small group was assigned a specific harem to follow for the next four hours. Harems could be as small as two horses (a stallion and mare) or as large as 20 animals, including one stallion, several mares and foals, and colts not quite old enough to be unceremoniously kicked out of the group by the dominant stallion. With the sun barely greeting the day, our trio jumped out of the van on the dusty road each morning, armed with a GPS, anemometer, clipboard. We followed our assigned harem of horses. If they were on the move, we were on the move. If they contentedly grazed quietly, we did too (we ate our sandwich and chocolate bar of the day). Every 10 minutes we recorded our satellite position, wind speed, temperature, and made notes about the horses' activity; data would be shared with biologists working to ensure the success of the re-introduction program.
We also took the time to breathe it all in, with a 360 degree view of nothing human, just miles and miles of stark grassy slopes, patches of birch trees, giant boulders and the occasional herd of red deer off in the distance. We weren't sure if the deer were a mile away or a hundred miles away. Each morning we established the mandatory 200 metre buffer between ourselves and the horses (thankful to the Nikon gods for creating what I affectionately called 'Lens-zilla', my 200-500mm telephoto lens)! And each morning our assigned harem reacted differently to our presence. If the stallion didn't give us a second glance, the mares and foals didn't either. These were the easy days. But there were also times when we watched our van disappear down the dusty road, then turned our attention to the job at hand and began the trek after our horses, only to see that the stallion had decided to run, run, run like the wind, with mares and foals close behind, within seconds our entire harem gone. Disappeared. Whenever this happened we would usually console ourselves with a chocolate bar.
I believe the world needs feelgood stories right now.
The collaboration between international scientists and caring citizens to bring these wild horses back to their homeland gives us hope for the future of other vulnerable species. This project was not so much about horses as it was about our own humanity.
On my final morning as an eco-volunteer, from my perch on a giant boulder atop the Mongolian steppes, I could see a harem navigating a rocky ledge below. A foal had decided this was a good spot to lie down and rest. The stallion halted the group then took his position as protector, standing watch like an emperor over his kingdom. As the sun continued to rise I could see a cloud of dust in the distance. More wild horses, galloping across the grasslands just as they had done for centuries.
At that moment all was right in the world.
Horses of the Camargue in FranceMay 26 2017
It was so much fun to co-host my first photography tour, 'Horses and Wine in France' with pro photographer and travel guide Vanessa Dewson of Focus on Photography Tours. A group of us travelled to southern France to photograph the iconic white horses of the Camargue region. Along the way, we also captured images of gorgeous birds including flamingos, egrets and storks. There were some day trips to wine regions as well.... but in the end, it was all about the horses!
A Dream Come True!February 23 2017
'A dream come true' is a cliche, but that's ok. After years of finding and photographing amazing horses around the world (and up the road!), I am so excited to have received my official accreditation for EQUINE PHOTOGRAPHY from the Professional Photographers of Canada! I am ready, willing and able for any horse photoshoot, just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, please check out my Professional Photographers of Canada profile page.
Desert TripOctober 14 2016
Grizzlies, Whales, Coastal Wolves and Spirit Bears in 'The Great Bear Rainforest'September 09 2016
The pristine, ecologically significant Great Bear Rainforest on Canada's northwest coast is home to some of our country's most revered species of wildlife including the grizzly bear, bald eagle, and the elusive coastal wolf- a seldom seen subspecies of wolf that survives on a marine diet of salmon and barnacles. But perhaps the most unique wildlife experience in the Great Bear Rainforest is a wonderfully rare sighting of a 'spirit bear', or 'kermode bear'. These bears are actually black bears with a rare gene that gives them their white colour. Spirit bears exist only in a small geographical region of the Great Bear Rainforest. My husband Rob and I were fortunate enough to be with a small group of like-minded people aboard the 'Ocean Light II' vessel, guided by the legendary photographer/ adventure guide Mike Beedell. Sailing through the Great Bear Rainforest and photographing the spectacular wildlife was truly one of the most incredible adventures of my life.
Equine Photoshoot in the Gatineau HillsAugust 22 2016
What a fantastic way to spend a beautiful summer day! A drive through the countryside to Quebec's scenic Gatineau Hills for a lovely horse photoshoot. Capturing the joy of horses and their people!
Orcas, Otters and SealsAugust 02 2016
Canada's west coast is renowned for it's breathtaking beauty and wildlife. In Telegraph Cove and Port Hardy, my husband Rob and I hopped onto whale watching boats as often as we could to experience orcas, humpbacks, dall's porpoise, seals and sea lions. After our time in Telegraph Cove we spent a lovely week in Victoria, where the wildlife wasn't hard to find. In Victoria's Oak Bay, we were welcomed by a family of otters. And the deer were so plentiful in the urban areas, they were like living lawn ornaments!
A Day in the Life of Telegraph Cove (Or, How We Survived a Storm on the Sea)August 01 2016
Yesterday in Telegraph Cove BC, Rob and I got into our double kayak and paddled out in search of orcas. It was sunny and 18 degrees... Rob had strategically planned for us to paddle in the same direction as high tide, then turn around when the tide returned. This all made perfect sense to me as we made our way effortlessly towards a channel where the orcas are known to feed on salmon.
We were a couple of hours from shore when we encountered something neither one of us had ever seen before: a confluence of tide and currents that created swells and whirlpools and an ensuing kayak rodeo which had me wondering if I would ever hug
my dog again. I paddled for my life, Rob staying calm because...well, one of us had to. Once we were out of the turbulence we headed for a remote rocky beach because I really really needed to go to the bathroom.
As both of us began to pee behind our chosen driftwood, we were treated to quite a sight: a male orca, two females and a calf. Approximately a kilometer away, in the middle of the channel, the exact spot that we had just vacated.
So excited to get a better look, I convinced Rob that my fear of Pacific Ocean whirlpools had miraculously disappeared, and off we went, because at that moment I had to believe that I could not only paddle as fast as an orca can swim, but even faster because there was much ground (or water) to make up. The spouts and black triangular fins in the distance didn't get any bigger.
But after the ocean helped to carry us further and further from my hot shower and my three bottles of wine, we realized it was time to turn around. I pulled out my telephoto to grab a few orca shots, then we changed directions. Rob's initial plan to paddle along with the tide was great in theory. But the winds
had another idea. We were now paddling into strong waves, and we were still quite a distance from our cabin, and most importantly, my wine.
Back in October I broke my collarbone after tripping over my dog Dude. Last month the X-ray showed that my collarbone was still fractured. The double-kayak-symmetry that Rob and I had with our paddles when the day began was a distant memory, it was just
all desperation now and I became jealous of anyone with a full collarbone. The guy in that fishing boat way off in the distance. Not only did he have a motor, he probably had a full collarbone.
Then the clouds appeared. Big, black, threatening clouds. And thunder claps. Rob commented on how strange it was to have a thunderstorm on a cool day on the west coast. I commented on the fact that 'at least it's not raining'.
As the sheets of rain began to fall, I was glad that the
sunscreen streaming from my face to the inside of my mouth was flavorless. I was also glad that the salmon that dove out of the water beside me didn't land on my boat. I tried to be glad for little things. It kept my mind off the fact that we were caught in a storm on the Pacific ocean.
I no longer had any feeling in my arms and it was adrenalin that kept my paddle in the water. Rob's back was in knots. But there was only one way back, and for the next three and a half hours, we kept paddling through the waves, the rain, the occasional
When we finally reached Telegraph Cove, Rob had to pry my paddle out of my grey hands. My fingers were stuck in a curled grip which eventually made it difficult to hold a glass of wine. But I perservered, and I drank that wine like a pro.
In total, we had kayaked for six and a half hours and covered over thirty-three kilometres, over half of which was during a Pacific Ocean storm. But at least I got a photo of the dorsal fin of an orca.
Today we are going whale watching. On a ship. With a motor.
Alberta Suffield MustangsJuly 18 2016
I recently had a wonderful opportunity to photograph Alberta mustangs!
How did wild Alberta mustangs come to live on a small town farm near Ottawa Ontario? This is the story.
Wild horses once roamed freely on a 200 acre parcel of prairie land within Canadian Forces Base Suffield in southeastern Alberta. Genetically isolated, the horses were athletic, intelligent, physically and mentally hardy~ all traits that stallions and mares passed on to their offspring to ensure survival. In 1994, it was decided that the horses were a threat to the grasslands within the base. The government ordered a roundup of over 1200 mustangs- and every herd of stallions, mares and foals was chased by snowmobile into a catch pen. In order to save these living testaments to Canadian heritage, a small group of people started the 'Suffield Mustangs Association of Canada'. Dedicated to the preservation of this endangered breed, Smiths Falls Ontario veterinarian Gaelin O'Grady and her husband Larry turned their 400 acre mixed pasture and forest over to a herd of wild Suffield Mustangs. Recently, I was honoured to photograph the herd. Muscular, curious, gentle, hardy, known for endurance and loyalty and bred to ensure that these traits remain for generations to come. If you want to know more about Marlborough Mustangs (as Gaelin calls her herd) contact Gaelin O'Grady through her website: http://marlboroughmustangs.ca/
RBC Ottawa BluesfestJuly 16 2016
I love spending time in nature photographing movement...animals, birds, trees in the wind. Which is probably why I love to photograph musicians~ they never stay still either! Once again RBC Ottawa Bluesfest proved that this once-humble event now deserves to be on the world map for music festivals.
An incredible time had by all !
(below: Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Coeur de Pirate
Peter Bjorn and John
Ottawa National and International Horse Shows at Wesley Clover ParksJuly 15 2016
In July, Ottawa's Wesley Clover Parks welcomed some of the top hunters and jumpers in the sport at the Ottawa National and Ottawa International Horse Shows. Such a thrill to see Canadian Olympian Ian Miller (and his son Jonathon) along with other world class athletes and their horses! At both horse shows I hosted a booth of Sable Island wild horse images from my June trip with Adventure Canada. I think I told the story about the wild horses to around 5,000 people who visited my booth! OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration. I told the story to 4,995 people.
Sable Island with Adventure CanadaJune 13 2016
In June, we travelled with Adventure Canada to magical Sable Island. It is an understatement to say that this adventure was 'bucket list'. There are no words to describe. But I did put some words together, with a guest blog published by Nature Canada. (below) p.s. Adventure Canada has one expedition to Sable Island planned for July 2017~ do yourself a favour and put yourself on the land of the true wild horses!
‘It is far better to experience a place just once than to hear about it a thousand times’ ~ Mongolian saying
Sable Island. ‘The graveyard of the sea’. So steeped in Canadian lore that when I was a kid, I didn’t think Sable Island actually existed.
On my eighth birthday, I unwrapped a book about Sable Island. Page after page offered grainy black and white photos of shipwrecks, sky high sand dunes and fierce ocean swells bundled with tales of human struggle. But, it was the Sable Island horses that really caught my attention. Manes flowing in the wind, stallions clashing with each other atop seaside cliffs, herds thundering through the surf. This was the stuff of fiction.
But of course, Sable Island exists. The stories of the shipwrecks, the sand dunes, the horses. All true.
Like so many Canadians, it became my lifelong dream to visit this magical and mystical slice of geography.
Three hundred kilometres east of Halifax in the Atlantic Ocean, Sable Island sits in the path of some of the most treacherous currents in the world. The island’s ‘smile’ shape belies its historical moniker, ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’, with over three hundred and fifty ships known to have perished off Sable’s sandy shores.
Home to just a handful of meteorologists, scientific researchers, and Parks Canada staff, Sable Island is an irresistible dream for a nature lover. Sand dunes shelter the island’s interior where grassy fields and freshwater ponds teem with life. Over three hundred and fifty species of birds have been recorded on the island. It also supports the world’s largest breeding colony of fifty thousand grey seals. But, if there was a Sable Island wildlife popularity contest, the iconic wild horses would win hands down.
The ever-shifting sands, fog, and unpredictable ocean swells have always made getting to Sable Island difficult, but that would change.
In December 2013, the Canadian government officially declared Sable Island as Canada’s forty-third National Park Reserve. Known for leading expeditions to the arctic, Canadian company ‘Adventure Canada’ was chosen to bring travellers to the land of horses and seals. This past June, my husband Rob and I joined enthusiastic adventurers and nature lovers aboard the ship Ocean Endeavour, and under sunny skies we sailed out of St John’s harbour, past a postcard iceberg, and out to sea for our final destination. As we sailed the Atlantic Ocean over the next thirty-six hours we were treated to enlightening presentations by scientists, writers, and photographers. Topics included climate, wildlife and survival on the island.
How did the horses get there? The romantic notion is that the horses swam to the island from ships wrecked on sandbars, but today’s Sable Island horses are most likely the descendants of horses that were seized during the Acadian expulsion from Nova Scotia in the 1700’s. Acadian horses were brought to the island to help build a lifesaving station and eventually they returned to a wild state.
When the government gave Sable Island the status of ‘National Park Reserve’, many Canadians worried that the island would be overrun with tourists. I too had visions of newly built accommodations, perhaps a restaurant or two, and crowds trying to get selfies with the wild horses.
Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth.
Parks Canada’s new mandate to welcome visitors to the island while at the same time protecting the delicate environment led to an effective symbiotic relationship with Adventure Canada.
With camera gear, bottled water and hiking boots packed, it was time to set foot on Canada’s iconic Sable Island.
From the Ocean Endeavour’s anchorage one mile from shore, we climbed into Zodiac boats and landed on the southern beach. Nearby, a large grey seal lay on its side and slowly waved a flipper at us, and we couldn’t help but smile at this lazy welcoming committee. My husband Rob and I joined a small hiking group lead by a Parks Canada guide with Adventure Canada resource photographer Mike Beedell in tow. We knew the rules: there would be limited time on the island, and we were to hike only on sand or established horse trails so as not to disturb the delicate foliage which also provided shelter for breeding birds. And, if we encountered wild horses, we needed to respect the minimum distance of sixty metres.
The wild horses appeared almost immediately. Two bachelor stallions descended from a grassy ridge to cross the beach and walk along the surf, paying us no attention whatsoever. It was a fleeting moment, the stallions turning back to the ridge, giving chase and disappearing over the hill. Freedom. Wild. Raw. Nature.
We hiked through a meadow of marram grass, a thick stemmed grass that is the primary source of food for wild horses. Ascending Bald Dune, at twenty-eight metres the highest point on the island, the view is breathtaking: a freshwater pond dotted with water lilies, a mix of bayberries and blueberries skirting horse trails, grassy ridges, a glimpse of the northern beach with hundreds of grey seals, and a family band of wild horses. Arctic terns and herring gulls flew overhead and the occasional sighting of the Ipswich sparrow was especially rewarding, as this diminutive breed of sparrow is known to breed only on Sable Island.
We kept our distance as we approached the wild horse family band. Grazing quietly were two mares, still shedding winter coats, a yearling colt and a tiny foal who entertained us with his game of ‘peekabo’ behind his mother’s nuzzle. A magnificent stallion with a long tangled mane kept a watchful eye over his family.
We photographed the horses, the tiny flowers, the birds, the seals, the sand dunes. We stood still. We took it all in, joyous, exhilarated, alive.
We were experiencing one of the most beautiful places in the world.
As we hiked back to the south beach and climbed into the waiting Zodiac, I couldn’t help but notice my footprints in the sand. And with one gust of wind, they disappeared.
Zero impact by mankind. Like we were never there.
Exactly as it should be.
In Canada, we host a model for nature to be envied around the world. Wild, natural. Sable Island.
It is truly fitting that the island is shaped like a ‘smile.
Sable Island. It exists. Follow your dreams and visit.
To find out more about how you can get to Sable Island, email email@example.com
Ottawa Horse DayJune 04 2016
The sun was shining and the crowds came out big time to enjoy another 'Ottawa Horse Day' at Wesley Clover Parks! It was a day to celebrate the joy of horses in all shapes and sizes~ and the many horse disciplines that keep people loving these beautiful animals forever. It was a pleasure to host this wonderful event once again!
Birds of SpringMay 14 2016
Such an incredible time of year! Spring brings with it the promise of rejuvenation in nature.... and wonderful birds!
The Outdoor and Adventure Travel Show!March 19 2016
So much fun at the Outdoor and Adventure Travel Show! Thousands of people stopped by this popular show at the EY Centre, because there is no better time to start planning for that spring or summer outdoors trip. I had a blast hosting a booth with some of my wild Sable Island horse images, and telling the stories from my 2014 Sable Island adventure. And I appreciated the opportunity to host a presentation about Sable Island. The number one question was: 'how do you get to Sable Island'? The answer: Adventure Canada.
I can't say enough about this incredible Canadian adventure company. With 2 trips planned to Sable Island in 2017, it is your chance to enjoy a lifelong dream with topnotch scientists, writers, artists, researchers, and all around fun people. More info on Adventure Canada's Sable Island 2017 trips here.
Deer in WinterFebruary 12 2016
Back from Costa Rica, to the land of ice and snow. But this beautiful white tailed deer reminded me that nature in winter is equally spectacular!
Costa Rica!January 30 2016
Costa Rica is heaven to photographers~ especially wildlife photographers! The Nosara area on the west coast of Costa Rica is known as the 'dry forest' region. With so many micro-climates, a road trip in Costa Rica can take you to mountaintops, rainforest, swamps, seaside, you name it. Here are a few of the images from our Nosara adventure!
It's Snowing! It's Snowing! It's Snowing!December 27 2015
Finally, some snow! My puppy Dude had no idea what to make of it. Until of course he started eating it!
Merry Christmas!December 25 2015
It's hard to believe that it's Christmas Day and there is no sign of snow! One kayaker took advantage of the weird and wacky weather ..... on this stretch of the Rideau River, usually there are ice fishermen on Christmas Day.
Happy Autumn!October 17 2015
I'm not crazy about the season that it leads into (winter), but I have to admit that autumn is such a beautiful time of the year. Especially when you are in the dog park, with a happy-go-lucky pup (Dude, 8 months) and a blanket of leaves to play in.
Supermoon!September 27 2015
Time to get out the tripod! Sept 27th marked a rare occurance, a total eclipse of a Super Full Moon. I got a shot of the Supermoon, and showed it to my astronomy-crazed husband Rob. He added the moon landmarks. I decided to take it one step further.
'There is More to Us Than We Can See'September 23 2015
Homeless, scared.... facing addiction or abuse. For the vulnerable people in our community, the Salvation Army is always there to lend a helping hand. I was honoured to be one of four photographers participating in a very special photo exhibit called, 'There Is More to Us than We Can See'. Each of us were tasked with capturing the faces of men, women and children who were now on a better path thanks to the Salvation Army. Throughout this journey, we learned so much about one simple word: "Hope". With much admiration to fellow photographers Nadine de Lange, Urszula Kozak and Brittany Gawley! And thanks for the heavy lifting, since I broke my collarbone falling over my dog Dude.
A Visit to the RCMP Horse Breeding FacilitySeptember 20 2015
It was a fabulous fall day, a perfect afternoon to visit the iconic horses at the RCMP breeding facility in Pakenham Ontario. My good friends Dorothea von Ow and Jerry Demetriadis pulled some strings for me (the farm is closed to the public) and for that I am eternally grateful! A small group of us enjoyed a tour of the barns and the paddocks where true Canadian stars are bred, the Hanoverian/Thoroughbred horses that thrill audiences from coast to coast in the RCMP Musical Ride- as well as other RCMP duties and public appearances. Thank you to trainer/manager John Phillips for an inside peek at some of the most magnificent horses I have ever seen!
Kindred Farm Horse RescueSeptember 02 2015
Tanya Boyd is a bundle of energy with an easy smile and a twinkle in her eye. She also saves unwanted horses from the slaughterhouse. The owner of Kindred Farm in North Gower Ontario, Tanya does everything she can to rescue the horses and ponies that are sent to auction and often purchased by meat buyers. These are once-loved family pets, racehorses, trail riding horses, even petting farm ponies....they all have a story, and they all deserve much more than this. I first visited Kindred Farm this past spring and met the whirlwhind that is Tanya Boyd. Together with an army of volunteers, Tanya addresses any medical issues the horses may have. Once the horses settle in at Kindred Farm, they are re-trained with care and compassion, and eventually they are re-homed to spend the rest of their lives with loving families.
(pictured below: Tanya Boyd with rescued horse Demi)
This summer, Tanya Boyd was a guest of honour at a luncheon hosted by Ladies Who Lunch. The women in attendance raised $680 for Kindred Farm.... and Tanya did a beautiful thing with that money. She went to the livestock auction and rescued 'Red' the thoroughbred racehorse and 'Lucy' the pony from the slaughterhouse. Red and Lucy fit right in at Kindred Farm! Ladies Who Lunch founder Catherine Landry (and our dogs Heidi and Dude) visited the farm to see how the newcomers were doing. At the time of this writing, Red was adopted by horse lover Ashley, and Lucy is going to stay at Kindred Farm as a sweet pony for children. For information about Kindred Farm, click here.
(below: Catherine Landry with 'Red', rescued from slaughter)
(below: rescued horse Red, rescued pony Lucy with Tanya, Catherine and Red's new owner Ashley)
Jordan McIntosh Photo ShootAugust 06 2015
Jordan McIntosh is one of my favourite subjects to shoot, because he has so much energy and he is a ton of fun to spend the day with! Jordan is a wildly talented singer/songwriter - he was recently nominated for the Canadian Country Music Association's 'Rising Star Award' - and at just 19 years old, he has a huge career ahead of him. And he's one of the nicest guys I've ever worked with!
Eddie and The Dude Dig A HoleJuly 31 2015
My husband Rob and I needed to fill our lives once again with the joy that is a DOG. No other dog could replace our beloved Ringo. But our new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy Dude certainly gave us the distraction that we so desperately needed. Our first trip with Dude was to visit our friends Mauri and Mike, who live on the Ottawa River with their kids Maya and Connor and a gorgeous doberman named Eddie. Well, Eddie and the Dude hit it off that day, and worked on a project together. They dug a hole. The best hole ever.
'Horses' at The Table Vegetarian RestaurantJuly 26 2015
The Table Restaurant is one of my favourite places in Ottawa for fresh, delicious vegetarian cuisine. Thank you to owner Cheryl Ayoub for inviting my 'Horses' photo exhibit/sale ot your fine establishment!
My Dog Was My Greatest TeacherJuly 10 2015
My dog Ringo lived every day with the same enthusiasm. He loved life, he was silly and fun and kind and filled with joy. He was my constant companion and my partner in adventure. He loved everything and everyone. At just 14 months old, on June 21st, my dog Ringo passed away from cancer. Two days later, my husband Rob and I got on a plane, landed in San Francisco and began a road trip through the American northwest. We were on the Pacific coastline, we were driving through majestic redwood trees....we were surrounded by breathtaking beauty.... but we saw none of it. We discovered that you can't outrun grief. We had no destination. As we put more and more miles against the heartache of losing our beloved dog, one day we found ourselves at Crater Lake Oregon.
I had read about Crater Lake in Cheryl Strayed's excellent book, 'Wild'. It is deep (second deepest lake in North America) and as blue as the sky.
But it wasn't the grandness of Crater Lake that took away some clouds for me that day. It was the chipmunks. The tiny little busy-bodies on the lakeside cliffs that went about their day, collecting flower pods, popping up from driftwood crevices, chasing each other from rockface to tree stump.
My dog Ringo appreciated each and every little thing that came his way. He lived in the moment. And each day of his short life, Ringo was teaching me to do the same.
Ottawa Horse DayJune 06 2015
It was a beautiful day at Wesley Clover Park as hundreds of people came out to celebrate horses! Ottawa Horse Day gives horse owners/trainers/riders a chance to show off their beautiful mounts, showcase demonstrations of the many equine disciplines, and increase the awareness about all the local clubs and riding rings that people may want to join! It's one of my favourite days of the year and I was happy to be back as the emcee! Looking forward to the next Ottawa Horse Day! For info on the year round equine program and events at Wesley Clover Parks, click here.
Nature Canada Bird FairMay 30 2015
Bird is the word! Had a blast emceeing Nature Canada's Bird Fair at Andrew Haydon Park. It was fantastic to see so many children fascinated by the bird displays. Not to mention the wonderful 'flamingo dance' from local school kids, and the unveiling of 'Ottawa's official bird' by Mayor Watson and Giacomo from CBC. And the winner is...... the chicadee!
Nature Canada's 'Women For Nature'May 25 2015
This week I was asked to be a member of Nature Canada's 'Women For Nature'. Such an honour, and I will do my best to promote the beauty of nature. It surrounds us. Each leaf on a tree, each rippling creek, the wildflowers in a field, the chatter from a songbird.... these are all gifts for us to enjoy. It's more important than ever for children to appreciate nature, to leave the computer, put on some rubber boots. Why? Because nature is FUN. Nature is COOL. And nature is right outside our doorstep! Which is why I chose this gull photo. I've heard people say that gulls are 'dull'. 'boring', and they are 'everywhere'. The next time you see a gull, take a few minutes to really watch what it does. They are masters at aerobatics, speed, even hovering in one spot. They are all attitude. They are snow white and gorgeous. And you will quickly see how entertaining that 'boring' gull really is. Far better than reality tv! We don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature. We just have to open our eyes, because it's right there waiting for us.
Manotick Art ShowApril 18 2015
So much fun at the Manotick Art Show! Met some great people and especially enjoyed chatting about the wild horses of Sable Island!
Thank You Galerie Old ChelseaApril 01 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed my time as an associate at beautiful Galerie Old Chelsea. It was such a pleasure to get to know the artists and meet so many art lovers! I highly recommend a visit to this gorgeous gallery tucked away in the Gatineau Hills.
Winter Goes to the DogsMarch 15 2015
It's one of my favourite ways to get through winter: experience it through your dog! Ringo can't get enough of it.
Return to 'Return to Freedom'February 06 2015
My husband and I planned a trip with friends to Palm Desert California. But hubby Rob had a fantastic surprise in store.... a quick off-route stop to one of my favourite places on earth, Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc California. Owner Neda de Mayo and her team of volunteers and supporters rescue family bands of American wild horses that have been removed from public lands due to pressures from cattle ranchers and oil drilling companies. Neda was a warm and inviting host and we so enjoyed our evening over a bottle of red wine. Waking up to a California sunrise, rolling hills dotted with wild horses, truly magical. I continue my promise to make a donation to Return to Freedom for any American wild horse image purchased from Cabin Road Art. For more information on how you can support Return to Freedom, click here.
(below: Return to Freedom's Neda de Mayo with one of the residents)
Big Sky Ranch Animal SanctuaryJanuary 23 2015
It was a wonderful visit to Big Sky Ranch in Kemptville! Owner Andy Parent, his family and volunteers care for abandoned and abused animals, all shapes and sizes! When Ladies Who Lunch member Chelsey Donohue needed a home for a wee piglet, Big Sky was the answer. My good friend (Ladies Who Lunch founder) Catherine Landry and I (plus Ringo the wonder dog) spent an afternoon with the animals.
Ottawa Humane Society Furball CommitteeJanuary 21 2015
Each year, The Ottawa Humane Society cares for over 10,000 injured, abused and abandoned animals. We are so lucky to have Mrs Laureen Harper as honorary chair for the Furball, one of the Ottawa Humane Society's biggest fundraisers. Always fun to get together with the Furball committee at the Prime Minister's official residence! This year I was thrilled to have one of my wild horse images auctionned off for the animals!
Laureen Harper is a huge supporter of the Humane Society. She has adopted and fostered many kittens, including Stanley (pictured here), who's name was chosen by the Canadian public (after the Stanley Cup). She also adopted a chinchilla named Charlie, getting some love (in photo above) from my good friend and fellow Furball committee member Wendy Daniels.
My wild horse image, 'Amante' was auctionned off, raising $770 for the animals.
Winter MagicJanuary 05 2015
It's tempting to hibernate by the fireplace when it's -20 degrees outside, but for the small effort it takes to bundle up in warm clothes, the payoff can be spectacular. Temperature and precipitation fluctuations are a dream come true when we are gifted with an ice-covered setting. Not great for walking, but beautiful to photograph!
Jenna Glatt Photo ShootDecember 24 2014
Singer/songwriter/musician Jenna Glatt has it all- the whole package. I first saw Jenna perform at the Ottawa International Jazz Festival in 2013 and she had the audience in the palm of her hand. Earning her Bachelor's Degree in Music at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Jenna's musical styles and influences include jazz, pop, r&b, and soul. On Christmas Eve morning, I had the chance to photograph Jenna at the Museum of Nature and the Museum of Natural History in Ottawa. She is such a joy, a beautiful girl with warmth and charm and a true musical talent. For more about Jenna, click here.
Thank You for the Honourable Mention!December 09 2014
The City of Ottawa held a 'Winter is For the Birds' photo contest, in conjunction with the 'Wildlife Speaker Series'. I was so excited to place 4th, getting an 'honourable mention' for my image titled 'Crows in a Snowstorm'. Bird nerds with cameras know how hard it can be to photograph crows. The second they spot you and your photography gear, they are in flight and gone in an instant. I was driving down Leitrim Road during a snowstorm (it had hit fast- just moments before, it was a sunny afternoon). I had my camera with me and spotted several crows in a field, completely oblivious to the weather, gobbling up frozen kernels of corn from the previous season's cornstalks. As soon as I pulled my car over to the shoulder, of course the crows took flight- but I was able to grab this shot. I think crows are hilarious because they act so tough, like the biker gangs of the bird world. But in reality they are one of the most chicken-like-scaredy-cat birds out there. A tiny chicadee won't even flinch if you get close, even perching on your hand to eat sunflower seeds. But a crow? Gone in an instant. Oh well, I guess I got lucky with these corn-snatching crows, because two seconds later they were a distant memory. p.s. big congratulations to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners Al Robinson, Daniel Parent, and Jim Cumming!
(pictured, me with Canadian Geographic photo editor, Jessica Finn)
Joy To Their World - In Aid of Community Vet OutreachNovember 24 2014
The less fortunate in our community may not have much- not even a place to call home- but the love they share with their companion animals is one of the purest that I have ever witnessed. Karla Briones, the owner of two Global Pet Food stores in Ottawa, wanted to help low-income and homeless people with a 'Christmas wish list' for their animals. She asked me if I would consider photographing those who wished to be part of the project, so she could place the photographs in a special 'Giving Tree' in each of her stores. What began as a few simple photo shoots quickly turned into much more than that! When we met with these people, heard their stories, watched the beautiful interaction they had with their animals, we realized just how special the human/animal bond can be for those who may have nothing else but each other. Karla quickly organized a photo exhibit/fundraiser called 'Joy to Their World' which took place at Holland's Cake and Shake on Nov 22nd, with all proceeds to Dr Michelle Lem's Community Vet Outreach, providing veterinary care to the animals of those in need. It was truly an amazing night of community and goodwill, with close to $4500 raised for Community Vet Outreach. Thank you to Canvas Pop for printing the images, Mike Holland for providing the venue, Councillor Jeff Leiper, Catherine Landry and 'Ladies Who Lunch', Collette Beardall, and all the donors of gifts and prizes...Karla Briones for her beautiful heart and to all the less fortunate in our community, who showed us that the love they have for their animals should never be judged, but instead celebrated.
Petit Bills Bistro - Awesome Food!!November 02 2014
I'm not a restaurant critic but if I was, I would give five stars to Petit Bills Bistro on Wellington Street in Ottawa. Recently my husband and I had a double date with some friends and enjoyed a wonderful evening at Petit Bills. The lobster tail and risotto was so good, I thought about it every day for days and days. Then I started to dream about it. Mmmmmm. Click here to see Petit Bills' full menu. And thanks to Randy Fitzpatrick for adorning your walls with some of my wild horses! Giddyup.
Ottawa Art Expo - Wild Horses of Sable IsandOctober 25 2014
Great to be back at Ottawa Art Expo! This time around, my booth was 100 percent wild horse images from Sable Island. It was such a pleasure to chat with visitors about these magnificent animals. Canadians should be proud of the fact that we are home to one of the only true wild horse populations in the world that is completely unmanaged by mankind!
Ringo and Radio!August 30 2014
Good things come when you least expect it! Like my Bernese mountain dog puppy Ringo, who seems to have just one purpose- to have fun. I like that modus operandi too. So I'm thrilled to be back on radio, Ottawa station Boom 997. Playing the best of the 70's, 80's, and 90's music, Boom's purpose is also to have fun. I will be just as devoted to photography and more inspired than ever! As long as I can keep Ringo free of mud, I can keep my camera free of mud.
Jordan McIntosh Photo ShootAugust 06 2014
Spent the day photographing an up and coming country music star from Carleton Place Ontario: Jordan McIntosh. His fans absolutely adore him and his star is on the rise! Thanks Jordan for allowing me to put you next to a whole lotta buildings, railroad tracks, grassy fields and whatever else I could think of. A very sweet kid and his future looks so bright, I shoulda worn shades. More about Jordan here.
Lily Pad Under the TreeAugust 02 2014
A gorgeous summer day, a peaceful kayak paddle along the shoreline of the Rideau River. Always fun to find a hidden beauty....
Galerie Old ChelseaJuly 13 2014
Located above the 5-star restaurant 'Les Fougeres' in the Gatineau Hills, Galerie Old Chelsea is a sun-filled, inviting home to the works of 12 local artists, including watercolour, oil, charcoal, photography, stained glass and hand-made jewellery. Thrilled to have my horses at this gorgeous gallery! More info here.
'The Wild Horses of Sable Island' Article and Photos by Sandy Sharkey (published in Equine Canada Magazine)July 05 2014
'Take the time to sit, take it in, and let your soul catch up with you'. The words of expedition leader Stefan Kindberg, addressing the passengers aboard the ship, Sea Adventurer. We were an hour away from getting into the Zodiac boats that would take us from our anchored ship to the land of the wild horses on Sable Island, and Stefan knew we were giddy with excitement. I had dreamt about visiting Sable Island since I was a kid, with illustrated stories about the wild horses tucked underneath my pillow in hopes that one day I would have the opportunity to see them.
Our time on Sable island would be fleeting, and I appreciated Stefan's words of wisdom. Especially since there was a good chance that I would implode from excitement once I finally saw the wild horses.
Three hundred kilometres east of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sable Island is a crescent-shaped island that is 42 kilometres long, and 1.4 kilometres wide. It is situated right in the path of some of the most treacherous currents in the world. Storm waves and winds carry sand onto the beaches, where it is whipped further inland and trapped by plants. Sable Island's narrow interior is sheltered between two ridges of sand dunes, which protect the foliage and freshwater ponds, the lifeblood for the few hardy species that survive on this crescent-shaped sliver of land.
Sable Island is home to one of the world's last wild horse populations.
How did the horses get there? According to legend, the horses were survivors of ships lost at sea. The island is known as the 'Graveyard of the Atlantic', and with over 350 known shipwrecks dating back to 1583, it was irresistible for writers of fiction to conjure up this connection. But the truth is much less romantic.
Today's Sable Island horses are descended from the horses that were confiscated from Acadians during their expulsion from the United States in the 18th century. Boston merchant Thomas Hancock brought sixty Acadian horses to the island in 1760, as work horses for a new life-saving station. The horses eventually returned to a wild state, thriving under the harsh conditions.
Sable Island horses were periodically rounded up and transported to the mainland, where they were auctioned off, frequently for dog food. By the late 1950's, the horses were nearly extinct.
In 1960, an extraordinary event took place that would forever change the course of history for the Sable Island horses. Children from coast to coast sent thousands of cards, letters and drawings to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker pleading that the horses be saved. A self-professed animal lover, Diefenbaker declared full protection for the wild horses of Sable Island. Children all over North America thanked the Prime Minister for allowing the horses to be 'as free as the wind'.
In 2008, the Sable Island horse was named the official horse of Nova Scotia. The Canadian government officially declared Sable Island as Canada's 43rd national park reserve on December 1, 2013.
In conjunction with Parks Canada, Canadian company Adventure Canada offered a June voyage to Sable Island, and I jumped at this chance of a lifetime. Scientists and researchers, writers and photographers, artists and dreamers, all sailed from St John's Newfoundland to our destination: anchorage one mile off Sable's southern shore. We were briefed about the importance of zero-impact visits to the island, and keeping a mandatory 20 metre distance from the horses (we were also warned that the horses would not necessarily be where we wanted them to be, and a horse-free visit was a possibility). It was finally time to strap on my life-jacket, grab a seat in the Zodiac, and step onto the sands of Sable Island.
Guided by Parks Canada staff, our small group hiked north between the sand dunes, following established horse trails so we wouldn't disturb fragile vegetation and nesting birds. Within minutes I had spotted a line of hoof prints in the sand leading up to the top of a ridge. But that ridge was off-limits and nowhere near our designated trail. Since I enjoy hiking and daydreaming at the same time, eventually I imagined myself sneaking away, following the sandy prints, finding the horses, enjoying the horses, photographing the horses, then re-joining the group and not one person being the least bit suspicious.
I didn't need to daydream any longer. Just behind a grassy dune, twenty-five metres away, a dark brown stallion and two chestnut mares grazed contentedly on rich marram grass, barely offering a glance in our direction. Wild horses of Sable Island. My eyes were wide and I could feel tears welling up, maybe because I had expected to cry at the very first dramatic, romantic sighting of a Sable Island horse, which I had assumed would be a rearing stallion on a ridge-top, mane flowing in the wind.
Still shedding her winter coat, one of the mares was as shaggy as a sheepdog... in stark contrast to her stallion, who had already shed his extra coat to impress as many mares as possible. The horses were smallish, between 13 and 14 hands, stocky, with thick bodies, small ears, tails low set and shaggy, and long manes that covered their eyes as they grazed. Our group watched them in silence.
We continued north and hiked past a freshwater pond, one of several on the island. When water is scarce, Sable Island horses have learned to dig deep into the sand to find a fresh source. The ponds rarely freeze in the winter but if they do, the horses will eat snow. We followed another line of sand dunes- the island is forever shifting and changing due to the sand that is sculpted by the winds. A band of ten horses appeared at the top of a ridge, under clear skies against a backdrop of deep blue sea, as close to a perfect scene as any one of us could ever imagine.
Sable Island bands wild horse bands usually consist of a dominant stallion, one or more mares with offspring, and one or more subordinate males. Males unsuccessful at earning the right to lead a family band will often form 'bachelor groups'.
Keeping our distance, we observed true wild horse behaviours, with the occasional scuffle between stallions, mares grooming each other and tiny foals showing only the slightest curiosity towards the hikers. Human presence on the island has been limited to a handful of research scientists, naturalists, artists and weather experts, and with Parks Canada's promise to keep the status quo with a 'hands off' approach to the horses, they show no fear whatsoever.
We followed the band as they descended the ridge and approached the sandy beach. With short pasterns that allow them to move easily in the sand, the horses walked directly to a huge piece of driftwood-turned-rubbing post, waiting patiently for their turn to enjoy a good face rub against the weathered wood. Without a single tree on this windswept island (except for one tiny pine that has somehow survived for years), the horses will seek anything to rub against. A radio receiver station once needed expensive repairs because it became irresistible to itchy horses.
In 1974, Halifax native Zoe Lucas worked as a cook for scientists studying seals on Sable Island. Eventually she began to research the flora, fauna and wildlife of Sable Island, becoming intensely involved in the study of Sable Island horses. A field camp on Sable Island has now become her home, and there is no one more knowledgeable about the Sable Island horse.
The morning after our arrival, Lucas greeted us on the southern shore as we arrived for another three hour hike. Lucas' research has shown that the Sable Island horses are genetically closest to Icelandic horses. There is a 50/50 balance between the sexes. Some horses have lived over twenty years but the average lifespan is twelve to fifteen years. The horses are bay, brown, or chestnut. There are no grays, roans, duns, palominos or spotted horses. In the late autumn, the horses do a curious thing. They bite the dead sections off the marram grass they feed upon, leaving a sheath that contains moist vegetation to sustain them throughout the winter.
Lucas has also learned that the wild horses of Sable Island like clove oil. To soothe an aching tooth, she had been given a bottle of clove oil, the contents of which emptied in her coat pocket. Wild horses from all over the island galloped towards Lucas that day, drawn to the source of the curious aroma.
A diminutive woman with an easy smile, Lucas is the biggest champion of the Sable Island horse, stressing the importance of continuing to study these unique animals for scientific understanding of horse health and behaviour. She eventually founded the Green Horse Society, as a form of public education about the horses and their island home.
Our final exploration of Sable Island was not on foot, but from Zodiacs at sea, 200 metres from the shoreline so that we would not disturb the grey seal colony lazing on the beach. The sun was low in the blue sky, the seas were calm, and we were about to witness true drama unfold.
We had spotted a band, nine mares and two foals, under the watchful eye of a dark bay stallion. From our vantage point, we could see another bay stallion a kilometre away, galloping furiously towards the band. The band stallion began to move his mares and foals away, pushing forward, and occasionally stopping to look back, as the challenger galloped closer and closer. One kilometre became five hundred metres, the challenging stallion charging along the sandbar, mane and tail flying in the wind, momentarily plunging into the sea to send a message by pawing aggressively at the water.
We held our breath as we witnessed the band stallion abandon his mares and foals to charge furiously towards the interloper. A chase ensued along the sandbar, with the band stallion furiously running his competition up the grassy ridge where his band watched from a distance. Finally, both stallions reared, teeth and hooves clashed ... and it was over.
The band stallion returned to the family that he had rightfully earned, with the challenger trotting away to continue life as a bachelor.
The population of horses on Sable Island is in a constant state of flux. As of June 2014, there are 560 horses sharing this slice of sand and dunes, the highest number that has ever been recorded. I asked Zoe Lucas if the future of the Sable Island wild horse was hopeful. She said that she did have hope, as long as the horses have a source of food and fresh water, and that we keep doing what we are doing.
Which, ironically, is doing nothing at all.
Raw Spectrum ShowcaseMay 30 2014
Thank you to all who made the Raw: Spectrum Art Showcase such a success! It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many talented visual artists and performers! I had a chance to debut some of my Costa Rica horse images. I think they were happy to be in such a cool venue, St Brigids Centre for the Arts near the Byward Market.
Natural Horsemanship in Costa RicaApril 07 2014
I enjoy going to Costa Rica because so much of the country has been kept in it's natural state. Jungles, rivers, wide expanses of beach with no sign of mankind...Costa Rica is a breath of fresh air for those who seek adventure in the wilderness. When I had the chance to combine my love of Costa Rica with my love of horses, I couldn't resist. Debbie Draves Legg and her husband Steve own a special piece of paradise called 'Leaves and Lizards' located in the shadow of Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano. Rustic jungle cabins open to spectacular views and birds of every colour. I was entertained by a family of sloths that would take forever to move from tree limb to tree limb outside my cabin. But the greatest joy were the horses at Leaves and Lizards. 'Costarricense de Paso' (Costa Rican horses) are high spirited, muscular, intelligent partners for those who come to ride. Most impressive? No mouth bits are used on the horses at Leaves and Lizards. Owner Debbie believes in natural horsemanship and the animals have been trained to follow other cues that are less invasive- the result being a wonderful riding experience for both horse and human. One day the horses were ridden to a nearby river, stripped of riding gear, and let loose to enjoy the cool flowing water. The horses acted like children, frolicking and splashing, a beautiful thing to watch. I highly recommend “Leaves and Lizards', tropical paradise AND gorgeous, healthy, happy horses. The best of both worlds!
Wild Horse Images at Galerie Old ChelseaMarch 28 2014
There was a lot of wine, and cheese, and cake. And wonderful friends, family, and people that I had never met. Thank you to all who visited my 'vernissage' and three week exhibit of wild horse images at the beautiful Galerie Old Chelsea in Quebec. I had the opportunity to talk about horses (one of my favourite subjects), and share stories about art, photography, photography as art, passion, leg cramps,(hiding behind a bush for an hour to get the shot you want), and I also explained why I buy Wayne Gretzky reisling, not to line Wayne Gretzky's pockets, but just because I really like it.
Thank you to Galerie Old Chelsea, and especially to Galerie co-owner, my friend Ross Rheaume, an extremely talented artist and wonderful host for the event.
The Gatineau Hills are just a short drive from Ottawa. Next time you are in the neighbourhood, be sure to stop by Galerie Old Chelsea to enjoy the eye candy from several talented local artists!
(left) my wild horse images exhibit at Galerie Old Chelsea
(right) some of the finest photographers I know stopped by! And they are great friends too! (left to right) Peter Waiser, Jean Labelle, me, John Rowlands, Harry Nowell
(left) Kristin Reimer, Louis Helbig and Mike Bedell
(right) my mentor and friend, Ross Rheaume
Happy New Year and Hope for Wild HorsesDecember 21 2013
2013 has been quite a year for me. In January, it began in the usual way. I woke up each day at 3:30am for my job as a morning show radio announcer, a job that I enjoyed immensely for over 20 years.
Then one day my job ended. I scooped up all the really important stuff I had in my drawers, like my Bruce Springsteen Christmas ornaments, Saturday Night Live DVD's and my Ottawa Senators bobble-head collection.
Then, for about five minutes, I wondered what to do next.
Maybe it was foreshadowing, or just plain coincidence, but a week 'before' I lost my job, someone sent me this video narrated by Alan Watts.
I watched it over and over again.
And that is how I found myself, six months later, standing on a mountain-top in central California, with a herd of wild horses thundering past.
I soon learned that the wild horse is in trouble. Through my photographs, and the ability to talk non-stop about something I really care about, over the past few months I have told the story about the plight of the wild horse at art shows, craft shows, parties, neighbours, friends on boats, complete strangers at the grocery store.
I wrote this blog just in case I missed someone.
'Look back at our struggle for freedom: trace our present day's strength to its source; and you'll find that man's pathway to glory, is strewn with the bones of the horse' – anonymous
In the late 1800's, there were an estimated 2 million wild horses roaming free across the western states
Tight-knit family bands of wild horses evolved to withstand anything that Mother Nature could deliver; from extreme heat to bone-chilling cold
From the backs of horses..... wars were fought and won, trails were paved, fields were plowed, and covered wagons were pulled across the plains, carrying families towards their dreams of a better life. And through it all, the horse became one of mankind's most trusted companions
The spirit of the free-roaming, hardy wild horse became the symbol of a wild and free nation.
'If we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers of the guilt' – Anna Sewell, author of 'Black Beauty'
As livestock production began to skyrocket and public lands became home to over 40 million grazing cattle, wild horse numbers began to plummet.
Eventually, wild horses were poisoned, hunted from airplanes and entire family bands were chased into holding pens, often run for miles to the point of exhaustion and death.
This abuse led U.S Congress to create the 'Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act' in 1971, a promise to protect wild horses from harrassment and capture.
Yet somehow, since 1971, 270,000 horses have been removed from public lands. Today, the cruel round-ups still exist. So what happened?
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees the land on which the wild horses live: public land owned by the citizens of the USA. But the land is also leased by cattle ranchers and the powerful oil industry.
Wild horses are viewed as competition by the livestock and oil industry giants. Wild horses do not generate revenue, nor do they have a voice in Washington.
With BLM round-ups continuing, today there are twice as many wild horses being stockpiled in 'holding facilities' than there are running free. Fewer than 35,000 wild horses remain on public land. 50,000 captured wild horses have been stripped of their freedom and now live in government holding facilities and government subsidized ranches all at great expense to the tax payer. Complete family bands torn apart. Once-proud stallions, who defended their herds against all danger, but are no match for man's helicopters... now separated from their families forever. Foals, exhausted and frail, pulled from their mothers.
More than half of all wild American mustangs in North America are found in Nevada.
The official silver quarter for the state of Nevada depicts a trio of wild mustangs running against a backdrop of mountains.
But even this honour was not enough to save the horses.
In 2010, in the name of 'land management', the BLM rounded up almost 2000 wild horses in Nevada's Calico Mountains. 145 horses were killed as a result of the round-up.
In fiscal year 2012 alone, 10,350 wild horses and burros were rounded up from all public lands, resulting in the deaths of 80 animals. They were either killed by the round-up process or euthanized because of acute injuries.
72 percent of Americans support the protection of wild horses. And yet the round-ups continue, forced by income-generating outside interests.
Once captured, the wild horses are branded with a 'freeze-mark'. Horses are given three chances for adoption. If they are over ten years old or deemed 'unadoptable', they are branded with a 'U', which means 'unwanted'. Older horses are sold for as little as $1.00.
The removal of wild horses from western public lands is inhumane, unsustainable and unscientific.
The BLM is being asked to STOP removing horses from the wild, and to start a more humane program using fertility control to manage natural herds.
What does the future hold for the wild horse?
'There is no force more powerful for creating change than the voice of the general public'. - (Velma Johnston, aka 'Wild Horse Annie', who was instrumental in bringing the protection of wild mustangs to Washington in the 50's)
There is hope.
Located in central California, 'Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary' was founded by Neda de Mayo in 1998. Return To Freedom was created as a model to explore non-invasive and minimally invasive wild horse management alternatives. Today, Return to Freedom is home to hundreds of wild horses, original family bands rescued from government roundups and holding facilities.
It is here that Neda de Mayo invites the public to 'nature's classroom' to observe natural herd behaviour, stallions raising their young and the matriarchs shaping the character of the foals from the minute they are born. Return to Freedom exists as a model proving that with the use of immunal contraception, wild herds can be managed in a natural, peaceful manner, on their rightful ranges. There is no stronger argument to end the cruel practice of helicopter-driven round-ups of the noble wild horses who gave so much to mankind for hundreds of years.
In 2004, Neda De Mayo founded 'The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and Coalition' to advocate for the protection of America's wild horses and burros.
Your help is needed.
Get involved. The wild horse is disappearing WITH the help of the American government.
Help Return To Freedom create the first of it's kind National Wild Horse Preserve
Please go to www.returntofreedom.org
Thank you to the 'Ya-Ya's http://www.facebook.com/theyayas for recording the Jagger/Richards song 'Wild Horses', and making it available on I-Tunes for just 99 cents- all proceeds to Return to Freedom!
Link here to purchase the song for just 99 cents:
And thank you to the Ya-Ya's, Rob Bennett, and photographic contributions by Lisa Dearing, Nadine deLange (and yours truly) for the production of this 'Wild Horses' video in support of Return to Freedom. Please share!
With your help, the nation's ultimate symbol of freedom will continue to run free for generations to come.
They are America's misfits, and all they need is a place to be' – Neda de Mayo
Merry Christmas, and all the best for 2014! 'Long May They Run'
Via Rail 'Destinations' MagazineNovember 15 2013
Thank you to 'Via Rail Destinations' Magazine for featuring some of my images in the Nov/Dec issue!
Signatures Show at Convention Centre, Ottawa Nov 13th - 17thNovember 05 2013
OTTAWA ART EXPO!October 26 2013
Mrs Laureen Harper joined me at my booth last night, at the Ottawa Art Expo! It runs all weekend at St Elias Centre, across from Mooneys Bay. Hope you can join us! Details here: http://ottawaartexpo.com/
Women's Show in KemptvilleSeptember 20 2013
The 'World of Women Show' is on in Kemptville today, and I am really looking forward to it! It starts at 2 pm and takes place at the North Grenville Community Centre. All the details are here:
There will be a cash bar, (I decided to start with that!), and all kinds of food, product demonstrations, great speakers, and tons of great stuff for women!
Hope you can join us, I will have a booth representing Cabin Road Art. As always, with any purchase of a wild horse image, I will be making a donation to 'Return to Freedom' Wild Horse Sanctuary.
I'm still laughing about the fact that the 'acronym' for Cabin Road Art by Sandy Sharkey, is...... CRABSS. So come out to the World of Women Show in Kemptville, and consider giving someone the gift of CRABSS! ha ha ha...
Wiggle Waggle Walkathon for the Humane Society!September 07 2013
The Wiggle Waggle Walkathon for the Ottawa Humane Society is on tomorrow at Queen Juliana Park! This is a huge fundraiser for the shelter, and it's a very special day- as the Ottawa Humane Society celebrates it's 125th anniversary! About 1,000 dogs come out each year (with their humans) and it's a ton of fun with games, prizes, Pet Pavilion and more! I will have a tent on site with lots of animal art! Hope to see you there!
Life is a Highway. If You're a CowAugust 30 2013
It has often been said that it is very lucky to have six cows walk on the highway through thick fog in front of you.
Ok, maybe no one ever said that. Except me. Once.
Wild Mustangs and the Westin HotelJuly 29 2013
I will be discussing my 'career change'... after 33 years in radio I have gone feet-first into the world of photography as art.
But most importantly, I will be speaking about my recent trip to the 'Return to Freedom' Wild Horse Sanctuary. Back in June, my friend Nadine and I travelled to California to join a group of like-minded horse and photography enthusiasts, lead by two of the best equine photographers anywhere, Kimerlee Curyl and Tony Stromberg. What began as a photographic adventure (who wouldn't want to photograph wild horses?) quickly became much more than that.
We climbed mountains and walked dusty trails, following the beauty and the majesty of the wild horses, just to be with them, to breathe the same air. Stallions with their mares and foals, often wary of us in the beginning, then relaxed and curious. Our group was smitten by their charisma. We observed the interactions between family members, long legged foals being playful, mares and stallions grooming each other. Yearlings that could run forever.
Today, the wild horse is under seige. Chased by helicopters and forced into holding pens, wild mustangs- the ultimate symbols of freedom, become anything but. Family herds are torn apart and their fate is uncertain. Why? With no scientific evidence to prove their claims that wild horses deplete cattle grazing lands, ranchers voices are loud, and effective. And so, the government-organized round-ups continue.
Return to Freedom was founded in 1998 by Neda de Mayo. This 300 acre ranch is home to several bands of displaced wild horses, family herds that have been re-united to run and roam in the rolling hills of Lompoc California.
Perhaps the 'Wild Horse Annie' of our generation, Neda is a fiery, strong-willed woman who works tirelessly to ensure that American mustangs will continue to run free for generations to come. She helped to form the American Wild Horse Preservation campaign, and thousands of people have signed on to support the cause. Here in Canada, the wild horses in the western provinces are not faring much better. Alberta horses are also being removed from public lands. A recent campaign is petitioning the Canadian government to give Alberta wild horses 'heritage status', thus protecting them in the future.
I am very much looking forward to speaking about 'Return to Freedom' tomorrow at the Westin Hotel.
It is also my promise, that with the purchase of any wild horse image, I will donate a portion of the proceeds back to 'Return To Freedom'.
The wild mustang, live free, run free, be free.
Rockin' Rowlands, Bob Masse and Friends Music Photograph ExhibitJuly 05 2013
RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest is on! It's such a thrill to photograph musicians. Because let's face it, in our everyday lives we rarely see people diving through the air, pumping their fists and belting out tunes with vein-popping ferocity. And then there's the classic guitar player 'face'.. so caught up in a moment where the artist and the instrument become one and it's a beautiful thing to see. I am thrilled to be participating in the 'Rockin' Rowlands, Bob Masse and Friends' Photo Exhibit at Bluesfest! Anchored by the amazing John Rowlands, who has photographed everyone from the Beatles to Rhianna, this exhibit will also feature rock art and concert posters by Bob Masse, along with images of Bluesfest from Peter Waiser and yours truly.
Exhibit runs now through July 14th inside the Canadian War Musuem at Bluesfest. Hope you can join us!
The Cow with the Bird on Her FaceJune 20 2013
The New Art Festival in the Glebe was a ton of fun! Thank you to all who came to my 'tent', it was great to share some of the stories behind my photos. I had 23 images at the show, all animals, and mostly horses. When I tried to decide which photos to bring to the show, I was going to leave the photo of the 'cow with a bird on her face' behind. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want this photo hanging over their fireplace. Well, I was wrong. I sold out of this photo. As I continue to learn, make mistakes, and learn again, thank you all for the valuable lessons this past weekend. MOO-chos gracias!
New Art and American MustangsJune 13 2013
Welcome to my first blog post for 'Cabin Road Art'. I hope you will check in every once in a while..... these pages are going to be a hodge-podge of just about everything, mainly because I have a very small attention span. As I write this, the contents of two giant suitcases are everywhere. On the floor, on the futon, and the dog is lying on my just-dumped pile of clothes. Last night I returned from a photography workshop at a wild horse sanctuary in California, and I'm sure you will agree that it is always a lot more fun to PACK for a trip than it is to UNPACK. My friend Nadine de Lange and I climbed hills, hiked through grassy fields, and walked for miles on dusty roads to capture the beauty that is the American mustang- rescued by 'Return to Freedom' Willd Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc California. www.returntofreedom.org
I will be writing more about 'Return to Freedom'- there is just so much to say about this incredible place, the horses, and the people behind it.
In the next few days, I will be getting ready for my first-ever art show, the 'New Art Festival', June 15th and 16th in the Glebe. www.newartfestival.ca
I will have several images in all sizes, all animals, and plenty of horse photos for sale.
Thank you to the amazing Ottawa artist Ross Rheaume for holding my hand throughout this new adventure. Check out Ross' work, www.rossrheaume.com. I will be next to Ross' tent at the New Art Festival, and he really hope he wears his white linen suit.
Now I have to get back to un-packing, and sorting through my 19,000 American mustang photos. Hmm...I think I'll start with the photos......