A few months back, we posted about the possibility that the Canadian Horse breed was once again in danger due to the drop in foal registrations over the past few years. (Is the Canadian Horse Endangered again?) Well, according to The Livestock Conservancy, it’s official. Although the complete 2015 Report has not yet been posted on their website, the status of the Canadian Horse is now listed as critical.
Ironically, this has coincided with the celebration of the 350th Anniversary since the ancestors of today’s Canadian Horse first set foot in North America in 1665, as well as with a proposed amendment being voted on by the CHBA (Canadian Horse Breeders Association or Society des Eleveurs du Cheval Canadien) to initiate the requirement for inspection of Canadian stallions beginning with those born in 2015.
According to Victoria Tollman, Executive Director of Equus Survival Trust, imposing stallion inspections on an endangered breed can work against breed survival. Warning that “inspections limit diversity”, she says that, “Even if the inspectors do their very best job, they will limit your gene pool.” In a rare breed, diversity should be the goal, and not perfection. She holds out the Friesian as an example of how inspections can damage a breed by limiting its genetic diversity. The resulting health problems in Friesian Horses are cause for concern.
In a discussion on the Canadian Horse Yahoo Group, Victoria comments that “healthy diversity can only be accomplished by encouraging the widest acceptable parameters within your breed standard.” While it should definitely be the goal of breeders to produce high quality individuals in the next generation, she says “I have personally seen average quality horses with good pedigrees produce some fabulous progeny. The value of the average horses properly bred should not be underestimated. They help keep your gene pool diverse and that keeps your gene pool healthy.”
Victoria also cautions that visual inspections cannot take into account “the inner qualities – temperament, disposition, hardiness, strength, endurance, heart, etc.” which are just as important to the success of the breed as things an inspector can see. Her entire post to the group can be read here.
Obviously all active Canadian Horse breeders in North America are members of the CHBA (SECC in French) and will be concerned about the proposed amendment, but membership in the CHBA is not limited to active breeders. Anyone who is the registered owner of a Canadian Horse is eligible to be a member of the CHBA, as many owners already are. Those who were paid-up CHBA members as of January 31, 2015, should have received their postal ballot and can vote on this amendment. Each member should weigh the pros and cons carefully before casting their vote on the amendment, but the critical status of the breed should be the first thing taken into account when making that decision.
Note that CHBA/SECC members who are on Facebook and are interested in discussing the amendment are welcome to join the SECC CHBA Amendments Discussion group on Facebook.
Fans of the Canadian Horse who are not members of the CHBA can still help support the preservation of the breed by supporting Canadian Horse breeders. How? Buy a Canadian! And encourage your friends to do the same.
If you’re not in a position to own a horse, joining the Canadian Horse Heritage & Preservation Society with our mandate of breed preservation and promotion will help spread the word to potential buyers about this wonderful but endangered heritage breed. CHHAPS membership fees go toward paying for booths at equine fairs in both Canada and the United States, an international web presence, and promotional materials, such as these rack cards and business cards, which are available to members to hand out at local events.
We can’t take the future of the Canadian Horse for granted. Let’s pitch in to bring it back from critical status and on track for a secure future as a living link to not only Quebec’s, not only Canada’s, but to North America’s past!