Debra Garside Photographer and Horsewoman

About Debra Garside

Debra Garside 2018

Debra Garside has been photographing the wild horses of Sable Island since 2009. After nine expeditions to the island – covering all four seasons, Debra offers a unique perspective of these iconic equines, for horses have always been the focus of her life. It is precisely this connection with horses that draws her to other remote regions of the world to photograph wild horses and horse cultures. These journeys have included several trips to the Mongolian wilderness. Here’s how it started:

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 equaled 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 took many horses and riders to the top level of the show jumping sport and imported horses from 17 countries around the world. Debra’s equestrian background included many aspects of horsemanship including horse-racing, dressage, team-roping and liberty training. She currently owns three adopted Alberta Wild Horses in various stages of liberty training.

Debra’s transition to photography took place 10 years ago and since then her photographic adventures and continued interest in educating have earned her a fellowship with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. She has won numerous awards for her representations of beautiful remote locations, in particular the polar bears of Canada.  These images have graced the halls of Royal Museums around the world as well as the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.  But sometimes, close to home is where 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 nine expeditions there, garnering international acclaim.

Debra’s images are regularly featured in wildlife and horse publications including Canadian Geographic, Canadian Nature Photographer, Photolife, Horse Canada, USEF, The Gait Post and more.

… in the ‘Wild Horses of Sable Island’ collection the photographer matches the subject with a profound sympathy, which has yielded pictures of unusual power.

There have been many 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….

Nikon D850 camera body

Nikon D4 camera body
Nikon D500 camera body
Nikon D90 IR converted camera body
Nikkor 80-400mm
Nikkor 70 – 200mm 2.8f zoom lens
Nikkor 24 – 70mm 2.8f zoom lens
Sigma 10 – 20 wide angle lens
Nikkor 1.7x teleconverter

Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod

Gitzo Fluid Gimbal head
Really Right Stuff BD4 Ballhead
Lee ND Filter System & Circular Polarizer
SB 900 Flash

Education and Training

Debra’s first career was as one of Canada’s most accredited equestrian coaches and former professional rider of hunters and jumpers. She has been educated through Canadian Sport School institutions in Calgary and Ottawa, and is a certified equestrian judge and course designer. After changing careers in 2008 Debra pursued her photographic studies online and through these inspirations is self-taught. Debra has studied creative writing at Camosun College and Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC (2013-2014) and regularly contributes articles to equestrian and photography magazines.

In the Community

As a professional athlete Debra volunteered on 9 different sports committees both provincially and nationally. As a photographer and writer Debra fosters awareness and conservation through her lecture and guest speaker program at The Garside Gallery and Studio. This program includes fundraising events held each fall/winter and feature Debra’s lectures on wild places and remote cultures. This program has also included guest speakers Brian Keating, Kevin Van Tighem and Dr. Jocelyn Poissant with proceeds going towards the Namib Wild Horse Foundation, Wild Horses of Alberta Society and the Tashingha Wildlife Initiative (Zimbabwe) to name a few.

Debra is co-founder of the non-profit organization Longview Art and Culture Connection which was created to promote and encourage art and culture in rural south west Alberta.  Debra speaks regularly across Canada and the United States about wild horse management and conservation, in particular her favourite subject – the wild horses of Sable Island Nova Scotia. Debra’s speaking engagements vary in scope from presentations and lectures at 4H clubs to guest speaking at international equestrian events.

Debra regularly conducts nature/photography workshops to Mongolia, Sable Island, the Wild Horses of Alberta and other remote locations.

Awards and Noted Work

2020 Cover of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Desk Diary published by the Natural History Museum (UK)

2017 Natural History Museum (UK) Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibit Finalist “Warm Embrace” (polar bear)

2017 Oasis Magazine (Italy) Winner Mammal Category “Cubby Hole” (Exhibit Turin Italy) polar bear

2017 1st Place Calgary Stampede Photography Contest Rodeo Category “Lookin’ for Eight”

2017 2nd Place Calgary Stampede Photography Contest Canada 150 Category “Sacred Buffalo”

2016 Nature’s Best Photography Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Highly Honoured in Polar

Passion Category “Peer Amid” (Exhibit at Washington DC) polar bear

2016 Lens Culture Nikonians Photography Awards (Japan) “Lookin’ for Eight” Top 25 overall Finalist.

2016 International Spider Black & White Awards Honorable Mention Sports “Lookin for Eight”

2015 International Spider Black & White Awards Honorable Mention “Tabular Ice”

2015 International Spider Black & White Awards Honorable Mention “Spirit in the Sky”

2014   BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Finalist for “Symmetry”

2014    “The Wild Horses of Sable Island – a Horsewoman’s Journey” Coffee Table Book

2014    Oasis Magazine Photo Contest: Special Mention for “Sable Island Story Board”

2013    Highly Honoured by Windland Rice Awards Nature’s Best Photography “Symmetry”

2013    Judge’s Merit Award, Equine Ideal Photo Contest “Protector”

2013    1st Place Equine Ideal Photo Contest Professional Black & White Category “Protector”

2013    18 Honourable Mentions (for 5 image entries) in the International Photography Awards

2010  Canada’s Emerging Photographers List, Photolife Magazine for “Journey’s End”

2008  1st place International Photo Award, Canada Parks and Wilderness, for “Iceflow”

2008 2nd Place Photo Award, Canadian Parks, for “Medicine Lake”

2008 Grand Prize, Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation Award, for “Bear Spa”

Exhibitions and Contracts


Dec 2009 – Present     Representation by Stock Agent:  Design Pics, Edmonton, AB

Solo Shows:

December 2015 to present: Permanent Exhibit Garside Gallery, Longview AB

November 2012 to present: Permanent Exhibit Nova Scotia Natural History Museum

November 2012  Dales Gallery, Victoria, BC: “Sable Island – 3rd Expedition”

July-August 2012  Anderson Ranch, Calgary, Alberta: “Sable Island – 3rd Expedition”

July-August 2011  FRED Gallery, Halifax, NS:  “Wild Horses of Sable Island”

October 2010   Dales Gallery Victoria, BC: “Wild Horses of Sable Island”

August 2010   Okotoks Art Gallery, Okotoks, AB: “Wild Horses of Sable Island”

August 2009   Okotoks Art Gallery, Okotoks, AB: “Polarity”

Group Shows:

July 2015   Calgary Stampede Western Showcase Art Show

July 2014    Calgary Stampede Western Showcase Art Show

April 2013 Cochrane Ranche House, Cochrane AB: “Spring is in the Air Art Show”

April 2012  Cochrane Ranche House, Cochrane AB: “Spring is in the Air Art Show”

June 2010  Vales Cultivation of Art, Black Diamond, AB: “Group Show”


February 2017 The Gaitpost Magazine: Cover “Love Mongolia Style” and feature article “Riding with Eagles – A Mongolian Way of Life”

March 2017 The Gaitpost Magazine article Part B “Riding With Eagles – A Mongolian Way of Life”

March 2016 The London Times UK, feature photo for wild horse article “Symmetry”

September 2015 Book Cover for Novel “Kismet and Karma” by Elizabeth Burton “Kismet”

Spring 2014   Oasis Magazine (Italy) feature Article “A Day on Sable Island”

March 2014    Horse Canada: Cover Shot : “Survivors”

October 2013  Sidelines Magazine Special Art Issue:  Cover shot:  “Rockstar” and feature story “The Wild Horses of Sable Island”

August 2013    United States Equestrian Federation – Equestrian Magazine “Feature Photographer – Debra Garside – Sable Island Photographer” interactive article

June 2013        Saddle & Stirrups (UK), article & photos “The Wild Horses of Sable Island”

May 2013        Horses All Magazine, Cover Shot “Symmetry”

May 2013        Horses All Magazine, Feature Article “Meet the Amazing Debra Garside”

April 2013       Thunderbird Showpark Premium, 4 page layout “Feature Artist:  Debra Garside”

March 2013     The Gaitpost Magazine, Cover Shot: “Quiet Time” (and feature article) Currently Canada Parks & Wilderness website home page photo: “September Evening”

Feb. 2013 Voyages (Sailing Magazine), 2 page layout shot:  “Prelude”

Jan. 2011 Sidelines Magazine Annual Barn Book, Cover Shot: “Free Spirit”

June 2011 Born on Sable Island (children’s ebook), Cover Shot: “Whisper”

Apr. 2010 The Gaitpost Magazine, Cover shot: “Diamond in the Rough”

Oct. 2010 Self-Published Book: The Wild Horses of Sable Island – A Horseman’s Journey

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