The Quebec Department of Agriculture purchased some stock and continued with a smaller breeding program at Deschambeault research farm. The rest were sold to private breeders. As horses were replaced on the roads by cars and trucks, pressure to develop the breed as a medium draft for farm use set the Deschambeault farm on a course to produce larger heavier horses. No one then foresaw the role of the horse as a companion or pleasure animal. By the mid-1960s, the role of the general utility horse was finally recognized, and plans were undertaken to produce once again a light all-purpose horse suitable for driving and riding. However, with the rise of the pleasure horse market and the development of other popular light horse breeds, national awareness of our own unique Canadian breed declined. By the late 1970s only about 400 registered individuals remained.
In November 1981, the remaining forty-four Canadian Horses at Deschambeault (La Gorgendiere) farm were sold at an auction reserved for members of the Canadian Horse Breeders Association.
Today, the Canadian Horse has made a remarkable recovery and although still endangered, registered individuals exceed 4,000. Formerly found only in any numbers in eastern Canada, the breed has been rediscovered by horse enthusiasts across North America and can now be found in every province territory, and in the United States. Despite pressures over the previous decades to breed larger, heavier horses, quality individuals of the original type could still be found, and were recognized and treasured by dedicated private breeders.
Over the past 30 years, changes in demographics and trends in the horse industry have created new challenges for the breed, and differing opinions and goals among Canadian Horse breeders. While this has been a source of conflict in the past, there is room in the breed for diversity. There have always been several types within the Canadian Horse breed, from trappy roadsters to compact, muscular animals suitable for farm, ranch and backcountry work. Today, the Canadian Horse Breeders Association Web site recognizes two types that nevertheless fall within the breed standard:
“A shorter and stockier build, with substantial bone (sometimes referred to as the ‘old type,’ but we prefer using ‘traditional type’ to highlight their timelessness);
“A slightly longer, lighter and more agile build, also with substantial bone, good balance and all the breed characteristics (commonly called the ‘sportive type’).” (Canadian Horse Breeders Association 2022).
The past 20 years have also seen the formation of active provincial and regional groups, each dedicated to the stewardship and conservation of this heritage breed. These groups have instilled pride in the Canadian public over what a unique national treasure we have, while increasing awareness of the Canadian Horse amongst our neighbours to the south. One such group, CHHAPS (the Canadian Horse Heritage & Preservation Society) incorporated in the province of British Columbia in 2002, now boasts members across the continent, and holds educational events in both BC and the United States. With the economic downturn of 2008, the horse industry suffered a major hit, and rare breeds like the Canadian Horse suffered most of all. This makes the work of organizations like CHHAPS more vital than ever.
Despite the trials and tribulations of its long history, through mechanization, war, and changing fashion, the Canadian remains “A People’s Horse”, sound, tough, enduring, capable of inspiring our greatest passion, pride, and determination.
CHHAPS is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of Canadian breeders, to ensure that the remarkable Canadian Horse will live on not only in the words captured by Faillon’s pen, but in our barns, and in our pastures for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to appreciate and enjoy.
(Original article by Roxanne Salinas, 2004. Edited by Ken Morris, 2023)