Why I chose Le Cheval Canadien
I’ve always been drawn to the history of Canada, there’s something about examining where you came from, how the land and society came to be what it is today. One of my dreams as a kid was to be an mounted officer with the RCMP musical ride. It’s something truly Canadian to grow up idolizing those who serve society who ride the beautiful black horses. I had one book of horse breeds, “Crazy for Horses” and on the cover was a big, broad Canadian horse cantering down a dirt road. As I worked with more horses, I realized just how special the Canadian horse breed is both in it’s history and the rare breed that exists today. They have distinct French and Le cheval Canadien is their true original name, and it’s a hilarious coincidence that my own last name is anglicized French.
Canadians come from the French horses sent from Louis XIV to what is now Quebec. The foundation breeds are understood to be Spanish Norman, Andalusian, Arabian and Barb. Through many keystone events in Canadian history, the Canadian horse proved to be resilient and would often become feral as the breed spread. During the deportation of the Acadians, their horses were seized and some were transported to Sable Island, where their descendants remain today. However the ones who remained in Quebec were bred with close, distinct bloodlines for several hundred years, and became the breed used by officers, military and farm workers. The horse developed an exceptional trot, covering huge distances and making them very popular for the time. They were exported to America where they were used in the American Civil War and the War of 1812. Their bloodlines became foundation for various American breeds, the Saddlebred, Morgan, Standardbred, and Missouri Fox Trotter. Notably not only to myself but to others, is the similarities the Canadian shares with the Morgan breed. And it just so happens my middle name IS MORGAN. I’ve always loved the Morgan breed, but their story is so linear.
Their mass exportation and deaths in combat led to the prolonged threat on the breed despite the efforts of a few. Which then led to a studbook, breed standards and specialized breeding programs to help restore the breed. These efforts have lasted until present day, bringing the numbers from 200, to 5,000 and growing.
The historian Taillon depicts the old Canadian Horse as follows:
"Small, but robust, hocks of steel, thick mane floating in the wind, bright and lively eyes, pricking its sensitive ears at the least noise, going along day and night with the same courage, wide awake beneath its harness; spirited, good, gentle, affectionate, following his road with the finest instinct to come surely home to his own stable. Such were the horses of our fathers."
It's no secret that Canada boasts some of the most unforgiving land to survive. The Canadian horse had to be efficient, and strong. As the saying goes, “no foot no horse,” the Canadian has broad feet, especially for their size. They remind me of good shaped draft feet, and the draft characteristics do not end there. In their history, there were three “types” of horses that developed from that initial group of horses brought on French ships; Draft types, pacer and trotter. This early divergence of the breed and not only contributed to other breeds, but features from all types are clearly seen in the modern Canadian. Their chests are broad, with a thick neck and their personalities also remind me of drafts. Their face on the other hand is refined, with giant eyes and baroque face, in some horses very reminiscent of Spanish and Arabian breeds. In scouring photos of many Canadians, Mira’s bushy, high set tail was on all of the Canadians. It gives them extra expression in their delightful personalities and makes their hind end just pop.
Elan, a 16 month Registered Canadian Filly awaits me this spring
I chose the Canadian because I want a horse that I can depend on. I don’t need a specialized prospect for jumping or dressage. With my mounted archery and falconry aspirations, I needed a young horse with a fairly predictable, good nature. I want to lend a voice to the breed and it’s comeback. In my experience with Mira, the breed has already shown me just how much give and forgive they have.