2014 was the Chinese Year of the Horse, but perhaps 2015 will be remembered as the year of the Canadian Horse. This is the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the horses that were the foundation stock of the Canadian Horse breed. It was the year 1665 when King Louis XIV of France shipped 2 stallions and 20 mares from his royal stables. Eight of the mares perished on the journey, but the remaining horses set foot on the soil of New France (Quebec) on July 16th of that year.
According to founding CHHAPS member Yvonne Hillsden’s well-researched webpage on the history of the breed, “These horses were some of the best, taken from the King’s royal stud and are thought to have derived from stock from Normandy and Brittany which were the two most renowned horse breeding provinces of France. The Breton horse was small and noted for its soundness and vigor. The Norman horse resembled the Breton but had evidence of the infusion of oriental blood; possibly Arab, Turk or Barb, but most likely Andalusian. Much of the eventual hardiness, and prepotence of the old french canadian was felt to be due to this Andalusian inheritance.” For more historical information, see this article by CHHAPS member Ken Morris.
The Canadian Mint has issued a 500 gram (yes! half a kilogram!) silver collectible coin to commemorate the event. They say, “Robust, resilient, and good natured, the petit cheval de fer—the “little iron horse,” as it became known in its native Quebec—has survived near extinction to emerge as one of Canada’s official national symbols. ” It is only the second coin minted on the Royal Canadian Mint’s unique new 85-millimetre blank, and only 1000 coins were issued. (Info on the coin on mint.ca) The design is by Canadian artist Michelle Grant and the coin sells for $1099.
However much we would like to celebrate the Canadian Horse, the unfortunate fact remains that the world is still in danger of losing this historic breed. Each and every Canadian Horse owner should consider themselves stewards of the breed, and do what they can to promote the Canadian breed to potential new horse owners and the public in general. One of the ways anyone – horse owner or not – can contribute to breed preservation is by joining an organization like CHHAPS, the Canadian Horse Heritage & Preservation Society. Membership fees and calendar sales go toward financing breed displays at equine shows and agricultural fairs, promotional handouts such as CHHAPS rack cards and bookmarks, and online information sites like this one. Dedicated member volunteers organize and participate in breed demonstrations, staff information booths, create and distribute promotional materials and generally let the world know about the Canadian Horse.
Membership in CHHAPS allows members across North America (many of our members are in the United States) to connect with each other, and also gives them an opportunity to submit photos for consideration in the annual CHHAPS Canadian Horse calendar. CHHAPS also has award programs so members can show off what they’ve accomplished with their horses.
Working together, we can help to make 2015 the Year of the Canadian Horse!