The daughter of avid nature lovers, Debra Garside grew up hiking, camping and fishing throughout Vancouver Island, BC. Her passion for horses and wildlife has always equalled the love she had for art, and Debra’s professional life has revolved around sport horses. After relocating to Calgary area in the 1980’s, Debra founded True North Stables. Acknowledged as one of the country’s most accredited equestrian coaches, Debra has also demonstrated her riding skills at the National Grand Prix level.
After a successful equestrian career of over 30 years, Debra rediscovered her creativity in the form of digital photography. Artist and photo journalist, Tim Schumm, described Debra’s unique ability to get close to her animal subjects in the wild: “…she seems to know intuitively just how they are feeling and what is going on for them. She has developed techniques of approach that keep animal subjects calm and detached, allowing for a more candid, uninhibited photo….”
Debra’s photographic adventures have taken her from Patagonia and Antarctica, to the northern tundra of the Arctic. She has won numerous awards for her representations of these areas, in particular the coastal brown bears of Alaska. However, it is closer to home that Debra finds her favourite subjects – wild horses. Debra spends much of her time following the wild horses of Alberta’s eastern slopes, and is one of the few photographers to be granted access to remote Sable Island, Nova Scotia, with the resulting images from three expeditions there, garnering international acclaim.
Zoe Lucas, long-time Sable Island resident and naturalist describes Garside’s work: “There have been thousands of Sable Island horse photos taken during the past five years. But yours, both those showing horses in their quiet moments, and those capturing the energy and wildness of the horses in motion, are unique, all expressing a kind of intimacy, and so much more interesting, compelling, and creative. Amazing….”
Lucas is not alone in recognizing Debra’s rare gift for photographing this equine wilderness. Robert Amos noted in 2010, for the Victoria Times Colonist, “… in the ‘Wild Horses of Sable Island’ collection the photographer matches the subject with a profound sympathy, which has yielded pictures of unusual power.”
Debra is the author of the newly released coffee table book “The Wild Horses of Sable Island – A Horsewoman’s Journey”. She currently resides near Turner Valley, Alberta with her two adopted mustang colts which will be the subjects for upcoming photography and book projects including the novel “The Mustang Diaries: Learning to Fly”.
Debra continues to teach riding clinics, conduct photography workshops and offer presentations about her adventures. She is an experienced guide for wildlife expeditions in Alaska, Alberta and Sable Island. Debra regularly exhibits her photography at galleries and equestrian tournaments throughout North America.