Ottawa’s place for horses: Wesley Clover Parks
For thousands of years, horses have made our lives easier. But in the past hundred years they’ve gone from being utilitarian to something more akin to friends. Their deep eyes seem to resonate an incredible emotional intelligence and calmness.
Even after spending only a few minutes with a horse, it’s easy to understand how so many people form lifelong bonds with these majestic animals.
On a warm afternoon in late August, Ottawa Life Magazine set out to capture this bond. Shooting in the gorgeous Wesley Clover Parks with experienced photographer Paul Couvrette behind the camera, we looked at how riding has shaped the lives of three local women.
The photo shoot was a unique experience for just about everyone involved.
“It’s my first time taking portraits of horses, and I’ve been doing this for about 40 years,” says Couvrette, who runs the oldest standing photography studio in Ottawa.
“There’s not much I haven’t taken a crack at,” he says.
Of course, each horse requires a different approach. Like their owners, the horses have their own distinct personalities and fascinating histories.
Wesley Clover Parks is a new and versatile outdoor hub where visitors can go to camp, learn, or ride.The park is open to campers, and most sites have access to amenities. There you can also watch or take part in equestrian training and events. You can learn to ride at the Ian Millar School of Horsemanship or watch high-level hunter, jumper or dressage competitions.
Find out more about this expanding outdoor asset, just 15 minutes away from the downtown core, at wesleycloverparks.com.
It all started at pony camp when she was a child. Since then, Pamela Coulston has found ways to be around horses. She has worked as barn help, including at a Grand Prix stable in Germany.
It was not until she moved to Rwanda to work in international development for UNICEF that Coulston first bought her own horse. “I think it was one of 17 horses in the whole country,” she laughs. Coulston has owned four horses since moving back to Canada, and here you can see her standing with Maude, a dark bay Hanoverian she’s been with for four-and-a-half years.
In the photo she and Maude are dressed for jumping, a demanding sport that tests the horse’s agility and speed.
After working in international development and as a freelance journalist for years, Coulston left both to follow her dream of designing jewellery and opened her first boutique 2008. Today she owns Disegno Jewellery in the ByWard Market, and designed most of the brilliant jewellery in this photo shoot.
You can find more of her work at disegnojewellery.ca.
Lea Wouters can remember just about any time she met a horse growing up, and from the moment she first saw one when she was in kindergarten, she was hooked.
“I don’t know where I got the addiction from,” Wouters says, “but I just love horses.” She convinced her father to sign her up for horseback riding when she was eight. After that, she delivered newspapers and helped an elderly man during school lunch breaks to earn and save money.
“I bought my first horse when I was 13,” she says, and you can tell from her voice that the well-earned feeling of pride hasn’t quite worn off.
Wouters bought her third horse when she was 17, and finally bought her first farm when she was 21. Today she owns Serenity Hanoverians, where she and her family breed, raise and sell Hanoverian horses, a German breed known for its athleticism.
The horse she took to Wesley Clover is Strawinskij. Together, they competed in dressage for years before the 22-year-old Hanoverian gelding had to retire because of his age. In this photo, Wouters is dressed in dressage clothes, although in most competitions today, the rider would wear a helmet instead of the more traditional top hat.
In dressage, the horse and rider need to have a strong connection. In competitions, they work together to perform a series of precise and elegant movements to show off their strength and discipline.
“The best way to explain it is like ballet on horseback,” Wouters says. “You’re pretty much one with the horse.”
You can find out more about Lea Wouters’ work with Hanoverians at serenityhanoverians.ca.
Although all three featured equestrian enthusiasts have been working with horses for more than a decade, only one can say that the decade has been most of their life. Guin Carter started riding horses at the age of four.
“My grandmother brought all of the grandchildren into this day camp, and I guess I just stuck with it,” she says. Now 14, Carter is just starting her second year of high school, and now rides horses in international tournaments. During busy seasons, she has to train at least three times per week for the competitions, but Carter still finds horseback riding relaxing. “I’ve been doing it so long, it’s really calming,” she says.
Carter competes in hunter tournaments, where horses clear jumps while trying to look as graceful as possible. She’s currently in Canadian hunter’s gold division, which has brought her to tournaments as far south as Florida.
Carter plans to continue competing in hunter championships, but her career goal is to become a photographer.
With Carter is a ‘fiery’ polo pony from Jeremy Monette, a member of the Ottawa Polo Club.
Hair and makeup by Melanie Albert, owner and master stylist of MelaStyles in Orleans. She specializes in formal updos and has honed her skills all over North America, including a training period in New York City where she worked with celebrity hairstylist Nick Arrojo. Albert is experienced in styling for weddings and fitness competitions.