Our History

Willowbank has a long history of providing riding experience to the youth and adults of Prescott-Russell.


Willowbank started offering the human/horse experience back in 1972.

midnight-wins
Midnight winning Reserve Champion at Ottawa Area Dressage competition

Debating whether to have Angus cows or Dressage horses on their newly acquired century farm on the Ottawa River near Treadwell, George Wilson donated Midnight Star and Rusty to Willowbank.  The Angus would have to wait!

More horses arrived in the late 1970’s for training by Willowbank Stable Managers Valerie Everson of Williamstown with British Horse Society credentials;  Katerina Idberger, a Show Jumper trained in Sweden, and Jo Sweet, a Dressage champion from Montreal.

Our riders began collecting ribbons at recognized dressage and eventing shows, throughout the National Capital Region and Prescott-Russell.

Canadian Equestrian Federation certification of Willowbank owner Carol Miller followed in 1980.  Carol began winning Dressage ribbons on Midnight (Western, remember!), one of the most loved and smart little horses ever.  Flagship led the charge in Eventing.

Read an article from Willowbank’s early years.

In 1986 Carol spent the year in Vienna, expecting to be separated from horses in order to work at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, as a Leader of the Environmental Group.  Housing was provided in Vienna’s Third District, which turned out to be the home of the Wiener Reitinstitut (Vienna Riding Institute), a school for both riders and horses open to the public.  Carol rode daily at 6.30 am with Instructor Heinz Kreutzberger (a retired Rider of the Spanish Riding School) and occasionally Herr Kreutzberger’s Mentor, Oberbereiter Eichinger of the Spanish Riding School (who charged nothing!) before taking the bus to work at Schloss Laxenburg.

Many of the principles and practices of the Wiener Reitinstitut came home with Carol.

Riding as one with the horse creating the feeling that life is good has been at the heart of Willowbank programs.  In 1988, Carol began volunteering at Trot in Greely, under the tutelage of Lelia Sponsel, one of the principal founders of Therapeutic Riding in Canada.  In 1989 Sylvie Paquet, a Social Worker for Prescott Russell, stimulated development of an accredited Therapeutic Riding Center at Willowbank.therapy-riding

Read an article on the early days of therapeutic riding at Willowbank.

In 1994 Peter Cray arrives as facilities manager.

In 1995 Carol became a CanTRA-Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor.

In 1998, Dr. Joe Dietrich an International Specialist in Acute, Chronic and Post-Traumatic Stress, a former Employee Assistance specialist with the RCMP and Massage Therapist, helped train Willowbank Staff for the summer project funded by Ontario’s ice-storm recovery program (COBRA, Canada Ontario Business Recovery Assistance). Each week we hosted 8 different kids.
We completed all the camps with good feedback from every camper!

Laurraine Gouin, a Family Practitioner and Maryl Weatherburn, an MSc Counselor, developed and delivered invaluable workshops for our Staff training programs.

In 2009 Willowbank was invited to present the results of a Research Project to the International Congress for Therapeutic Riding in Germany. The research project helped youth who were not doing well in school to regain their focus.

From 2007 to 2009 Carol added six CanTra-sponsored workshop in equine facilitated mental health to her credentials.assisted-riding-history

In 2010 Carol became certified as a Level 1 Centered Riding Instructor and also began coaching para-equestrian competitions.

Assisted Riding has become our standard introduction for all riders – able and with a disability, child or adult. Rather than rider dominance, horse/rider trust, respect and communication remain our first principles.

Our website portrays our current services, quality and success accurately.  Come enjoy some upbeat time, and see if horses make you feel that life is good!

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