By: Natalie Tommy, with Sandy Sharkey
Deciding on artwork for our Wellings Communities is never easy, but we knew it had to capture the wild spirits and echo the lives of the people who would live with us.
Sandy Sharkey, an Ottawa photographer, captures these sentiments in almost every way.
Sandy is a visionary equine photographer based in the heart of Ottawa.
With a passion for capturing the majestic beauty and intimate connection between nature, humans, and horses, Sandy has carved a niche for herself as a trailblazer in the world of equine photography, with a specialty in wild horses.
Her photos don’t just freeze moments; they tell stories of the profound bond shared between the world and horses.
Her artistry goes beyond the conventional, delving into the rich tapestry of emotions, strength, and grace inherent in the equine world.
With a phone call and the big goal of bringing sentiments of freedom, friendship, strength, beauty, youthful exuberance, and playfulness to the walls of Wellings, we went to work.
The wild horses we selected symbolize various positive qualities, such as strength, freedom, and companionship.
The imagery of horses can evoke positive emotions and associations, contributing to a sense of well-being and contentment.
The collection I selected varies from bold, feisty stallions to what appears to be a community celebrating being free.
Each one is unique and special.
You are welcome to view the collection in person at the Wellings of Stittsville; in the meantime, enjoy a few of our favorites here.
Wild Horses in a Snowstorm
There are spectacular wild horses living in the Rocky Mountain foothills of Alberta. Many people don’t know that the wild horses thrive and survive in this mountain setting just two hours north of Calgary. I was on my own one day, photographing a gorgeous herd when a snowstorm appeared. Of course I had to get one last shot before I retreated down the mountain. Such an honour to spend time with these wild horses existing in the raw beauty that is mother nature.
Power and Glory
The iconic white horses of the Camargue region of southern France are revered for their power and strength. Considered to be one of the oldest breeds of horses in the world, these horses have lived wild in the marshes and wetlands of the Rhone delta for centuries. To capture this shot, I knew I had to trust the horses galloping towards me. I was knee-deep in mud but didn’t budge as I felt their power just a few feet from me. Was I splattered with mud and salt water? Yep! Would I do it all over again? Absolutely.
Wild Mustangs in the Dust
Wild mustangs have lived in many parts of the American southwest for centuries. From the mountains of Montana to the forests of northern Arizona and the Nevada desert, wild mustangs are true survivors and the ultimate symbol of freedom. But they are no match for the heavy hand of mankind. Thousands of mustangs are removed from public lands each year and placed in holding facilities with an uncertain future. But this photo represents what can happen when people show compassion. This is a once-captured wild herd that has been reunited with it’s family band, and is again running as free as the wind. Photographed at Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc California.
Darkness was descending in the marshes of the Camargue region of southern France. I had spent the day photographing the iconic white horses that have lived in this area for centuries. I was beginning to pack up my camera gear when I turned around and saw this breathtaking stallion watching me with curiosity. There is always something special about making a connection with an animal, even for just a fleeting moment.
The Wild Ones
Just like humans, wild horses form close knit bonds. They can often be seen snuggled up together, nudging and grooming each other. The wild horses of Apache-Sitgreaves National US Forest in northern Arizona live amongst the tall pines and to encounter them in their forest home is nothing less than magical. Standing quite a distance away, I remained still and savoured this sweet moment between three wild ones.
On the Dunes
Located 300 kilometres east of Halifax in the Atlantic Ocean, Sable Island National Park Preserve is home to approximately 500 wild horses. Artists, authors, filmmakers and adventurers alike have been drawn to these legendary horses since the 18th Century. The wild horses of Sable Island are adored, respected, and enjoy full protection from the Canadian government. They are true survivors, adept at handling challenging conditions. I photographed these two stallions climbing a grassy sand dune to quench their thirst at a nearby freshwater pond.
The Stand Off
I have traveled around the world to photograph wild horses and have observed distinct differences in the horse herds from one geographical region to the next. But one thing remains a constant: boys will be boys. In the hierarchy of wild horse family bands, stallions for the most part co-exist with each other….until one stallion decides that HE deserves to be the band leader. A wild stallion skirmish doesn’t usually last long, but it always ends with a clear winner. Photographed in the Onaqui Mountain range of Utah’s Great Basin Desert.
If you spend a lot of time around horses, you get a window into their world. It is your reward for patience. Once you have the horse’s trust, special moments unfold. I was photographing the iconic white horses of the Camargue region in southern France when this stallion approached a mare and gave her a ‘love bite’. She obviously liked it, because they became inseparable….and I was fortunate to capture a sweet moment between a newly bonded couple.
Reflections of Sable Island
There is nothing quite like Canada’s remote Sable Island. Located 300 kilometres from Halifax in the Atlantic Ocean, Sable Island is home to the largest breeding population of grey seals and several species of seabirds. But the real stars of Sable Island are the free-spirited wild horses that have survived here since the 1700’s. With the swells of the Atlantic Ocean crashing to the shore behind them, this beautiful trio approached a peaceful inlet and created a beautiful reflection. I was fortunate to capture this magical moment.
Is it any wonder that the wild horses of Sable Island are so adored- not only by Canadians from coast to coast, but by horse lovers around the world. With a very limited number of visitors each year, Sable Island remains a pristine natural environment that offers everything the horses need to survive: vegetation, freshwater ponds, and tall dunes for shelter. The wild horses are fully protected. As always, it is important to keep our distance from the wild horses and to respect the fact that they have virtually no interaction with humans. I photographed this intimate moment from a distance of 30 metres. A gorgeous pair of horses living wild and free on Canada’s remote Sable Island.
As a wild horse photographer, my goal is to capture a moment in time. Whether it’s the high drama between two wild stallions, the first steps taken by a newborn wobbly foal, or the intimate connections that exist in wild horse family bands…I strongly feel that photography has the power to educate, inform, and enlighten. When we learn about the sentient lives of animals and see that their world is no different from ours, we are encouraged to add our voices for their protection. In 2010, more than 1700 wild horses were rounded up, separated and removed from the only home they ever knew: the wilderness in Nevada’s Calico Mountains. But humanity shone a light and the surviving wild horses were rescued by ‘Return to Freedom’ Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc California. Safe from harm, these two wild horses were among those re-united. It was an honour to capture this moment.