There are few people in our sport who play as many roles as Karen Sparks. As an active competitor as well as a competition organizer and owner of high-performance horses, Karen is greatly involved in the sport she loves. Impressively, she still finds time to give back as a tireless volunteer with Equestrian Canada by sitting on numerous committees. Oh, and did we mention that she’s also a mother of four? Karen and her husband, Andy, have four children ranging in age from nine to six months – Summer, George, Brecon, and the newest addition, Franklin.

What role do you currently play in equestrian sport?

I have a lot of roles in the industry. I primarily consider myself a competition organizer and am the Executive Director at Wesley Clover Parks in Ottawa, Ontario. I’m also a rider, having started young, and currently try to find as much time as I can to compete. I’ve also played the role of horse owner for high performance athletes.

How long have you been involved with Equestrian Canada, and in what capacity?

I currently sit as Chair of the EC Jumping Committee. I’ve been on it for three years and am approaching two years as Chair. I’m also currently a representative from the Jumping Committee as a Category A member.

Prior to that, I served three years on the EC Board of Directors as a member at large. I sat on the EC Nominations Committee for six years, acting as Chair for two. I have also sat on and chaired the EC Awards Committee for many years and have recently stepped down.

What age did you start riding and what was the name of your pony or horse?

I started riding at the age of six at summer camps here in Ottawa. I loved it so much that I started weekly lessons and pony club at Fiddler’s Green, a great Ottawa-area barn run by Becky Nuth. I started competing at age 11 at local Trillium shows. I begged my parents for years and finally we were lucky enough to find the best first pony ever, a bay large named American Dream. “William,” as we called him, took me to the Trillium Championships and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair which, as you can imagine, was a really big deal for me. I have so many amazing memories and feel very grateful for that time. From there, I moved to Millar Brooke Farm to continue my athletic journey. I have learned so much from all four Millars. I am lucky that I learned from Lynn before her passing, as well as Ian, Amy, and Jonathon, all of whom I continue to learn from to this day!

Do you currently ride?

Yes, I still ride! Between juggling work and being a mother of four, I do my best to find time to compete. I currently have two mounts, Lugano and Athena. Athena is a new horse that I got this past fall to support Lugano as he gets older. My coach, Amy Millar, found her in Ireland. She’ll be eight this year; it’s been a while since I had a young horse and I’m really looking forward to it.

Karen Sparks and trainer Ian Millar talk show strategy. (Jump Media photo)


What is your favourite competition memory?

The first time that I trotted into the International Ring at Spruce Meadows on Quervo Gold. That would have been 2010. During that show, Eric Lamaze asked me what I was going to do in a particular line. I answered him calmly but on the inside I was like, “Did Eric Lamaze really just ask me a riding question?!”

My other favourite memory is being present at the 2008 Olympic Games to see Canada win the team silver medal and Eric win the gold medal.

Favourite horse show venue to compete at or visit?

When you put so much time and effort into a project, I would be remiss if I didn’t answer our own Wesley Clover Parks in Ottawa, Canada.

Which competition is still on your bucket list?

Aachen, Germany.

Dream vacation?

There are so many places in the world that I would like to take my family so that’s a hard question to answer but I’m particularly interested in checking out Lanai. I’ve been to Hawaii many times but never to the island of Lanai.

Cats or Dogs?

Dogs. We have a one and a half-year-old blue merle French Bulldog named Bijoux. She’s both the bane of my existence and the apple of my eye.

Karen Sparks celebrates a win with three of her children. From left to right: George, Summer, and Brecon. (Courtesy of Karen Sparks)

Last show you binge-watched?

We’ve just started watching season four of “Yellowstone” and we’re also watching The Beatles documentary, “Get Back,” which is awesome. We’re loving that. But there’s not that much time to watch television with a little baby to put to bed every night!

Favourite motto or saying?

I have two favourites: “Luck follows hard work” from my dad and “Proper preparation prevents poor performance” from Ian Millar.

What three things are always in your fridge?

With a family of six, we always have eggs – my kids are big egg eaters. Then cucumbers and white wine.

If you could ride any horse, which one would you pick?

I would take my own Quervo Gold but to have been able to ride him for longer. I only had him for two competition years. If I could have ridden him for his entire career, that would have been amazing.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

That my family and I enjoy so many other sports. We play beach volleyball, we hike, we climb, we kayak. People also probably don’t realize how many other businesses I’m involved in. I spend a lot of time in the horse industry, but I also spend time outside the horse world developing businesses in real estate, hospitality, and technology. And I love to read; I read every night before bed.