The countryside in the National Capital Region is home to a thriving community of horse owners and riders. In the last few years, it has been enhanced by the redevelopment of Ottawa’s top equestrian facility at Wesley Clover Parks that once again attracts international show jumpers, dressage riders and serves the local horse-showing circuit.
Being close to this venue was a bonus feature for a family who recently moved into a beautifully restored, private 40-acre horse farm in Dunrobin. Jane Asselin grew up with horses and together with her husband Jeremy Roberts and their four kids, has enjoyed living on three different horse farms over the years. Now they are putting the finishing touches to the fourth “Chalk Farm” homestead where they live with their two youngest, Jacob (17) and Jasmine (19) who is a competitive equestrian.
Restored to its original stabling status, the barn has five new horse stalls with a full apartment above to house both horses and riders in high-level comfort. Newly created paddocks against the scenic backdrop of the Gatineau Hills provide pasture with a view for Casino, Jasmine’s Oldenburg show jumper, and Jane’s handsome horse, Pavan. It all makes a pretty picture from the large windows of the chateauesque-styled stone home, with its own impressive patio and pool area.
HORSE & COUNTRY LIFESTYLE
After living a horse-riding lifestyle in Quebec and Ontario, the family’s latest move from north of Toronto was initiated by a job opportunity with Mitel Networks, where Jeremy (who grew up in Ottawa) is now senior vice president, Finance. “Luckily, Jeremy’s career moves have all been to locations where there is a significant horse-showing venue,” explains Jane.
“The improvements and investment made to the showground infrastructure at Wesley Clover Parks had a major impact on our horse farm decision. We now live only 15 minutes away from a world-class show-jumping venue that puts Ottawa back on the equestrian map – which is very stimulating for the equestrian community and local businesses as well.”
This is an important factor for Jasmine, who is a focused show-jumping athlete and plans to compete on Casino at Ottawa’s International Horse Show in July. She has had a mentor in her uncle Jonathan Asselin, a well-known Canadian rider/trainer and two-time show-jumping Olympian, who has been a positive influence by selecting challenging horses and helping fuel her passion for the sport.
“My older brother Jonathan was a natural talent and went on to be one of Canada’s best in show jumping,” says Jane, adding that she also loved horses and riding from an early age. Sadly, her childhood riding lessons came to end with the death of her mother, followed by the sale of her pony and the thousand-acre family farm in Saint-Lazare (which is now the Montreal Polo Club).
Fast forward from age 12 to her late 20s, and Jane jumped back in the saddle when her own kids started to ride and she became their “horse-show mom” at local competitions. “With Jeremy’s whole-hearted encouragement, we began to spend much of our free time looking at horse properties and were thrilled to buy our first farm in Saint-Lazare in 2003. We’ve been addicted to the lifestyle ever since!”
A PICTURESQUE PONDEROSA
Jane considers it a privilege to have a life filled with horses, and believes that they are living a dream come true on a property that she calls a bit of equestrian heaven. “I was such a cowgirl growing up and loved watching Ponderosa and Big Valley on TV,” she says, admitting that she also liked to pretend to be Linda Evans who always wore great riding outfits on the ranch.
Set in the Ottawa Valley landscape, this picturesque Ponderosa oozes with natural charm, enchanted trails, a pond and rows of cedar groves. And, of course, Jane always looks good on her well-trained horse. “Pavan is a former dressage champion and a perfect pleasure horse for me. I love riding him on the wooded trails around the property.”
All horse farms require major work and Chalk Farm is no exception. Yet, Jane takes care of all the property maintenance, horses and home by herself – with some family help. “It’s my job and it pays me back with its bountiful beauty,” she says, adding that Jeremy’s favourite outdoor job is clearing trees to open up views of the paddocks and horses from the house.
A short commute to work in Ottawa’s west end is another benefit for Jeremy and contributes to their combined enjoyment of country living at its best. “We look at each other every day and say ‘wow!’ – just cannot believe we live here,” exclaims Jane who could not be happier with the Ottawa equestrian lifestyle.