Show Jumping

Karen Sparks Has Her Priorities Straight

©Ben Radvanyi Photography

Managing the demands of family, work and a busy horse show schedule is challenging at the best of times.

Juggling all those things while hosting—and competing in—the biggest international show jumping event in Ontario this year, well, that takes a special brand of human.

Canada’s Karen Sparks, mother of three and executive director of Wesley Clover Parks in Ottawa, Ontario is doing precisely that. And succeeding.

“It’s always a juggling act, for sure, but you keep your priorities,” said Sparks.

“My kids are my first priority, my business is my second priority, and then riding is my recreational third priority. The good news is, when you’re just out here to have fun, when there are no expectations on you, I find I ride so much better. As long as I’m out there having fun, it’s just all that more special when you do get a win!”

Which is precisely what she did.

The 37-year-old rider captured the CSI3* Welcome Speed, presented by Deloitte, at the Ottawa International CSI3* on Thursday aboard Teddy du Bosquetiau.

“I can’t think of a better place to win!” said Sparks. “Our vision is coming to fruition with this show, and to win in front of my kids and my friends; it couldn’t be any better.”

Two horse-and-rider combinations managed clear rounds over the track set by Ireland’s Alan Wade, the same designer tapped to architect the courses for the upcoming 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, NC.

Seventeenth to go in the order, Sparks and the 15-year-old bay Belgian Sport Horse gelding set the time to beat at 77.76 seconds. Teddy du Bosquetiau is a horse previously campaigned by 2015 Pan American Games finalist Emily Kinch (BAR) and ten-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar.

“He’s speedy, and he’s got a lot of blood,” said Sparks. “When I’m on him, he has so much fire. We call him a little dragon. I love that he wants to do it for me; I love him tugging me to the jumps. I think he tries extra hard for me, and that gives me confidence as a rider.”

Fellow Millar Brooke Farm teammate, Kelly Soleau-Millar (USA), was the only other clear of the day. Riding Cacharel, an 11-year-old grey Dutch Warmblood mare, she stopped the clock in 78.97 seconds to take second. Third place went to 2016 Rio Olympic team silver medalist Lucy Davis (USA) and Caracho 14, who finished with a single time fault for exceeding the 79 second time allowed.

Watch Thursday’s $35,000 CSI3* Capital Classic, presented by RBC, at 4 p.m., and Saturday’s 132,000 CSI3* Grand Prix beginning at 2:30 p.m., on Horse Network Live and Facebook Live.