THE CANADIAN HORSE IN MODERN TIMES
© 2007 CanadianHorseLink.com
There are innumerable reasons why people throughout North America are falling in love with this rare and regal breed of horse. Initially it is the breed’s sheer beauty and long, flowing wavy mane and tail that first draw most people in and I am guilty of this too. My initial attraction to the Canadian Horse was pure lust before ever having met one in the flesh. However, beauty is only skin deep and what hooks each and every one of us in the end is the steady and endearing temperament of the Canadian Horse.
Add to the mix, the Canadian’s multi-disciplinary abilities to do well in any discipline ranging from dressage to eventing to competitive driving, vaulting, foxhunting and cross-country. It is very common to take a Canadian horse to a show and enter them in every class and they will do well in every single one. They are a dedicated, hard working breed.
The Canadian’s early pioneer history of logging and grueling farm work is well behind them now. In the 1800s, Canadians became well-known as fast trotters on the track and fine harness and saddle horses in the show ring. Thanks to modernization this breed has left the farm and stepped into the show-ring. Many Canadian Horses now excel in dressage, jumping and eventing. They have long been known for their talent and endurance as driving horses.
The breed also captures the attention of Friesian and Baroque horse lovers. While strikingly similar to some old European breeds in appearance, a Canadian Horse is usually affordable for most peoples’ budgets as they are not imported but instead home grown.
Besides their beauty, the draws to this breed are indeed many: their longevity, hardiness and great temperaments being just a few more reasons to consider this breed. As well, it is not unusual for a well cared for Canadian mare to still be a valuable broodmare delivering soundly without complication well into her mid 20’s.
A Distinct and Rare Breed
Canadians are frequently confused with Canadian Sports Horses. Sport horses, whether Canadian, American or European, can be many breeds and cross-breeds. Although some Canadian Horses have been approved as Sport Horses, the Canadian Horse is a distinct breed on its own with their own unique DNA. They are also know as le cheval canadien.
Talk about Variety
This breed comes in a variety of color, height and body type while still keeping its distinct look and this is what I find so exciting about the Canadian Horse. Canadians offer complete versatility for every rider’s build, chosen discipline and personal taste. The height of the Canadian varies from 14hh to 16hh which I think is wonderful for folks who are intimidated by a taller horse and conversely, for the taller rider who needs a tall horse. Despite popular belief, Canadians are not all black but also chestnut, red bay, bay, brown and even palomino.
There are those who want their horse to be their best friend and not just their mount or show horse. Canadians are extremely personable and if you go visit a herd of Canadians, they will usually be competing and vying for the attention of the visiting human, straining to get near that hand giving out the strokes and scratches and affection. You will be swarmed; treats are secondary to human attention for most Canadian horses. They have a strong need to engage and interact with humans and this goes for both the quieter docile types as well as the more energetic type of Canadian. Most would follow you right into your living room if you let them.
Above Average Intelligence
This of course has its pros and cons. The pros; Canadian horses can be a dream to train as they get things really, really quick. The cons: they can figure out how to outsmart you really quickly too! Opening doors and latches is child’s play for a Canadian Horse and it is not uncommon to hear a breeder speak of their horses having dropped and rolled under the fence to get some better grazing and then drop and roll right back into their fenced area before graining time with no one the wiser!
Built to Last
This is true even of the finer boned Canadians. If you are tired of your mount breaking down on you with hoof and leg instability, this is the breed for you. In addition, cold or rainy weather does not bother them as they weather superbly outdoors during all four seasons.
You probably won’t find a breed of horse that is an easier keeper than a Canadian. Your feed bills will be minimal. People have asked if Canadians are known for any conformation weaknesses and if they are prone to any diseases or ailments. The answer is no but they are extremely easy keepers which can lead to obesity or metabolic syndrome if not kept in check. Moreover, due to their laid back temperaments, they really don’t fuss much hence colic is not a common occurrence in this breed when on a regular worming program. They have very strong constitutions and are one of the hardiest breeds of horse in the modern world. You can expect your vet bills to be very low too.
A Great Range in Height
Historical records show this breed to have originated as short but powerful horses with hooves of steel hence their nickname, ‘The Little Iron Horse’. However many decades have passed and some Canadian horses have evolved and grown taller due to improved living conditions and no longer having to survive on such meager rations. Similar to we humans; we are getting taller with each generation, usually exceeding our parents’ heights as our living conditions have improved too. Some Canadians have exceeded the breeds’ upper limit standard of 16hh yet I have even met some Canadian Horses who stood only 13.3hh. There really is a size for everybody!
Dispelling some Myths about the Canadian Horse
“Canadian horses do not naturally canter and have trouble with this gait.”
Completely untrue. There are some Canadian horse trainers/breeders that believe in training their horses to drive before going under saddle and it is strongly enforced during their training that cantering is completely out of the question. Some horses take this to heart and feel when under saddle they would be breaking the rules and are very hesitant to canter. I witnessed one Canadian mare like this and when the rider asked for canter she tried to give a faster and faster trot to please him. She had an extensive history of competitive and pleasure driving, going under saddle was new to her. She didn’t understand. Her new owner had her cantering within days after going back to the basics on lunge line, etc. to assure her that cantering was not only all right but was what he wanted her to do.
Untrue again. While these horses are renowned for their tractable temperaments and general un-spookiness, they are exceptionally smart and powerful. Their above average intelligence coupled with their above average strength (even the shorter ones) can prove to be too much for most beginners. If you are a beginner and have your heart set on a Canadian, please take your time to find a horse that has had extensive training and handling. Sometimes a younger horse is blessed with an extremely docile and quiet nature and while it is very appealing to take that horse, a beginner should do so only if they will have an instructor or trainer to help them put more training and miles on them.
“Canadian horses are all stocky and choppy movers with coarse heads.”
Couldn’t be more untrue. Most Canadians have what we describe as the classic Canadian head; a small muzzle, short head, large intelligent kind eyes and small delicate ears, one often describes their heads as ‘pony-like’. A lot of people who are drawn to the thick mane and tail of ponies, Andalusians or Friesians, are drawn to Canadians. Many Canadians move so elegantly that you can see their French ancestry shining through. Some Canadian horse breeders breed specifically for dressage prospects and are turning out some stunners!
Of special note: In 2002 The Canadian Horse was recognized by Parliament as Canada’s National Horse.
Author: Jody Turvey
All rights reserved by Jody Turvey