Thursday, February 3, 2011

Canada's National Horse

Mountainview Jackson Xavier 2010 Canadian colt

Now isn't that a really gorgeous body?  The young colt above is from 'Mountainview Canadians', one of two breeding farms in Cranbrook, BC., the other is 'Fisherview Canadian's.  There are oodles of wonderful pictures on their website.

 My knowledge of this breed is sorely lacking so I went on the hunt to find out what I could and have been well rewarded.

This horse with the long mane and a tail often touching the ground is in the official records as the Canadian and is a result of many European breeds and known by trainers, breeders and owners as the Little Iron Horse.
France's King Louis XlV was responsible for providing the breeding stock that eventually became the Canadian.  Between 1665 and 1671, he donated 81 horses to officers and settlers in New France (primarily present-day Quebec).
The gift horses were both hardy and elegant and in the isolation of their new home, they adapted quickly.  Within a few decades the strong little horse became common in the settlements.
Eventually, Belgians, Clydesdales and Percherons made their appearance in New France as well.  When these 'heavy' horses were teamed with the Canadians, the Little Iron Horses outworked them.  With their high-performance abilities they proved invaluable to the settlers in these new primitive circumstances.  They cleared land, pulled plows and stone sleds; (called stone boats on the prairies), used for freight wagons, sleighs and every form of transportation of the time including the family carriage.  They skidded out logs from the forests in the winter and being calm and easy to train they were used as riding horses.
For all their value and versatility they got few handouts.  Their year-round feed trough was the forest, and they were often expected to forage for themselves.
To this day, Canadians prefer being in the rough to pasture.  Ontario breeder Brenda Pantling recalls the time when her husband cut down a substantial poplar on their property.  By the next morning their 11 Canadians had stripped off and eaten every bit of bark!
By the early 20th century the breed was disappearing.  Since then the survival of the breed has been due largely to a few private breeders who maintained a horse registry that had begun in 1886,  One, the Lalonde family, began raising Canadians in eastern Ontario in 1904; today, the Lalondes are still in the business.  By the 1970's numbers dwindled to fewer than 400 and by hard work Quebec and Ontario breeders began to rebuild the numbers and find new markets so that by 2009 the population had climbed to nearly 6,000. 
In 1999 Quebec declared the horse it's official heritage horse and an Act of Parliament later declared the Canadian to be our National Horse.  Canada Post in recognition issued a commemorative stamp on May 15th, 2009 and later issued a 54-cent stamp honoring the Canadian.

General Montcalm's personal mount during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was a Canadian.

Canadians were used by the North West Mounted Police as riding and pack horses during their westward trek.

Several thousand Little Iron Horses accompanied our troops to South Africa during the Boer War.

Canadians served as cavalry mounts and supply and artillery haulers for our troops during World War l.

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