Since the roots and purposes of the Canadian Horse Heritage and Preservation Society (CHHAPS) are tied to the history of the breed, in order to learn what we are all about, you’ll need to know a bit more about the history of the breed first
A Brief History of the Canadian Horse
The Canadian Horse was officially deemed to be the “National Horse of Canada” in Parliament in April of 2002. The journey to arrive at this momentous achievement was a long and rocky one.
The Canadian Horse is a breed of horse inherent only to Canada, and which has evolved over the past 350 years to become a distinct breed in its own right. It developed from stock sent to Canada by King Louis XIV during the 17th century.
The Canadian Horse is one of the oldest recognized North American horse breeds, with the first breed registry and stud book established in 1886. Through selection of only the fittest individuals, the breed became uniquely suited to the rigors of living in Canada.
During the past three centuries, the breed has remained largely unchanged, and even now closely resembles those horses noted in Canadian historical etchings and paintings, such as the one to the right.
Of note is the fact that that “the Canadian, bred in isolation for so long, does still appear to be genetically distinct from the popular racing and riding breeds, reinforcing the need to give high priority to its conservation” (DNA Detectives, 1998 Canadian Horse Annual).
For more detailed information on the breed’s history, see our breed information page.
The Threats to the Breed
The advent of mechanization during the mid 1900s nearly marked the end of the Canadian Horse breed. After the second world war, the Canadian Horse population steadily dropped until it hit crisis proportions in the 1970s. Less than 5 registrations per year were being recorded from1970 – 1974, and the number of horses had dropped to an estimated 400.
During the late 1970s a few influential breeders recognized the plight of the breed, and slowly started acquiring quality animals, setting up breeding programs, and once again began promoting the breed and its wonderful qualities.
By the early to mid 1990s, the breed finally began to look like it was on its way back to recovery. The numbers were up to about 2500 – 3000 live animals worldwide and the status was changed from “critical” to “rare” by the American Livestock Conservancy.
With its increase in popularity during the early 2000s, unfortunately, just as has happened to so many other breeds, pressure began to be placed on the Canadian Horse to change from the traditional breed type, in order to suit the show ring and to meet perceived market trends.
Of great concern to Canadian Horse lovers everywhere, was the ongoing concerted effort by some, to change the Canadian Horse and its century old breed standard from its original historic type, to a “taller, more refined” animal.
The CHHAPS Motto
In 2002, a small group of individuals in western Canada became very concerned about the direction the breed was going. Determined to not lose the integrity of this breed, they decided it was time to form a group whose goal was to preserve and respect the history of this historic and distinctly Canadian breed. And thus the idea of CHHAPS was born.
Since breed preservation was of the utmost importance, a motto that truly represented the goal of the group was essential. We feel that the CHHAPS motto, “Preserving for our children, the horse of our forefathers” captures this perfectly. This motto was adopted from a translation of the original motto used by l’Association Québécoise du Cheval Canadien (AQCC); “Nous elevons pour nos enfants les chevaux de nos peres”. The AQCC has very graciously allowed us to use the english translation of their motto.
We feel that the shared use of this motto very much demonstrates the ongoing sense of cooperation and unity regarding the preservation of this breed. This drive for breed conservation is occurring nationwide, and is born out of the mutual love of the breed, and the desire to preserve something very special, and uniquely Canadian.
The Formation of CHHAPS & Our Affiliations
CHHAPS was officially formed in the fall of 2002, and is officially registered as a non-profit society under the Society Act of BC (Oct 2002).
CHHAPS is a completely independent organization, although we do have ties to organizations with similar purposes which are located in both Ontario and Quebec. For more information on these organizations, please see the Canadien Horse Breeders of Ontario or l’Association Québécoise du Cheval Canadien websites.
We are not a formally recognized district of the Canadian Horse Breeders Association (CHBA) for a number of reasons. First of all, the CHBA districts are designated by geographical region, whereas our membership is much broader, coming from all over Canada and the USA. Secondly, the CHBA’s mandate is quite different from ours. Their mission statement reads: “The [Canadian Horse Breeders] Association’s primary mission is to register and identify individual animals belonging to the Canadian horse breed, and keep up-to-date pedigree files on these animals.” Since our aim was to have a much more “hands on”, social, and educational role regarding the breed, we felt that this would be best served by remaining an independent organization.
However having said that, CHHAPS does continue to have close ties to the CHBA. The majority of horse owning CHHAPS members are also CHBA members, and all Canadian Horses attending the CHHAPS shows must be registered with the CHBA/CLRC. Several CHHAPS members have served, or continue to serve on a variety of CHBA committees. In addition, since June 2005, all CHHAPS events have been officially sanctioned as well as publicized by the CHBA. In 2006, CHHAPS was proud to have the CHHAPS Pacific Horse Show officially opened and overseen by Sylvie Denault, 2006 CHBA President.
Thinking of Joining CHHAPS?
Our organization consists of an enthusiastic, yet relaxed and informal group of individuals whose interests lie with the breed education and preservation, and in networking and participating in various activities with others of a similar mindset.
We invite all Canadian Horse owners, any members of the CHBA or any other Canadian Horse or equine organizations, and in fact anyone at all who is simply interested in the Canadian Horse breed (even if a non-horse owner) to join our group. If you support our goals, want to participate in our great variety of activities, and want to learn more about this wonderful breed, you’ll fit right in!
If you want to join CHHAPS, check out our Membership Registration here.