Canadians built for competition
while maintaining breed standards
As with many other breeds, there is much debate in our own community regarding what is the "real" conformation of the Canadian Horse. Many factors effect this debate -- history and its interpretation, the market, preference, breeding stock and for what purpose the horse is used. In fact, the "conformation" of the Canadian has varied many times in its 350+ year history, when breeders have bred for specific ability, conformation or use.
At Three Fold Farm, we don't believe that breeding for a sport horse conformation is in conflict with Canadian Horse breed standards. The breed standards allow for horses to be anywhere between 14.2hh and 16hh and between 1000 ad 1400 pounds. That allows for a lot of variety! We do though believe that the characteristics that make the Canadian unique should be retained -- the strong, substantially-boned legs, the amazing feet, the powerful hind end, the shorter back, the beautiful muscled neck, the shorter yet noble head, the broadly set, bright eyes, the smaller and turned in ears, the tell-tale mane and tail and of course its intelligence and unique temperament. If you know of the breed, you should be able to look at the horse, regardless of its size or build, and know immediately its a Canadian.
As you can see from this comparison of Gorgendier Viger Coco, bred at the Deschambault government breeding farm, and our stallion Three Fold H-Aragorn Anarchy, sport-horse conformation has always been within the breed. Photo of Jax, David Southwick, © Three Fold Farm.
We also feel that developing a market for this breed is imperative. Without demand, what is the incentive to continue to breed more horses? To really push this endangered breed beyond "survive" and into "thrive" there needs to be a demand, a purpose, a need. In New England and the US in general, most people are looking for more of a sport-horse conformation to ride and compete.
Thus, we breed towards the taller and lighter end of the breed standard, breeding horses that are built for competition in such disciplines as dressage, eventing, jumping, equitation, TREC, combined driving, etc.
Sport Horse Conformation vs. Canadian Breed Standards
A sport horse is not a breed: it is a type of horse that is bred to effectively compete in sports. Thus any breed could be a sport horse if it meets the following criteria:
- Conformation: Including a sloping shoulder, a well-developed neck and and uphill build. Conformation directly effects the animal's movement and jumping ability.
- Movement: Most sport horses are bred for a long, athletic stride and movement that uses the whole body. The trot and canter should have good suspension, and the horse naturally reaches under his body with his hind legs. This movement makes it easier for the rider to teach the horse to engage, collect and extend his stride, which are necessary qualities in all sport horse disciplines.
- Jumping ability: Possesses good jumping form, with tight lower legs and good bascule.
- Temperament: Because of the great deal of training needed to produce a successful sport horse, they are generally bred for trainability and willingness to work.
Many of the Canadian breed standards align with sport horse conformation criteria.
Now let's take a look at how this compares to the Canadian Horse breed standards (taken from the Canadian Horse Breeders Association breed standards):
- Shoulder: long, sloping and well muscled.
- Back and loins: short, straight, strong and broad.
- Buttock: firm, thick and well muscled. Gaskin is broad and thick. Stifle clean, close to belly, turned slightly outward.
- Legs: long, wide, the tendon well separated from the bone, large and hard.
- Hock: clean, lean, wide, thick, parallel to the inclined plane of the body, not turned either in or out.
- Neck: rather straight than arched, sides slightly rounded and firmly muscled; gracefully attached to the head and well fastened to the shoulders.
- Temperament: docile but full of vigor and spirit without being nervous.
- Movement: graceful in carriage and demeanor as well as in symmetry and shape.
As a horse that was bred for versatility, has an excellent work ethic and enjoys a challenge, you can see that the Canadian can and does meet the Sport Horse criteria. Does every Canadian meet these criteria? Of course not, just like not every horse in every other breed doesn't either. But we can and do breed for specific conformation within the breed. The fact that Canadians are sport horse and warmblood eligible confirms this assertion.
And as always, everything is relative. A taller, lighter Canadian is still not going to look like a Trekhaner or Holsteiner or Dutch Warmblood but it certainly can and does hold its own against these other warmblood or sport horse breeds.
Here are some that we know of!
Bellechasse Harrison Nathan aka Leonidas van Pelt
"Lionus" has been successfully competing at FEI L1 and was 2018's and 2019's USDF All Breeds Champion. Owner Alison Otter. Photo: Karen Taylor.
Mober Héros Cel-Kim and Bienvenue Héros Rosie
US and Canadian combined driving judge, clinician and Canadian champion François Bergeron and his Canadian Bienvenue Héros Rosie were Canadian Carriage Driving Classic champions five times. His other Canadian, Mober Héros Cel-Kim was ranked 4th in combined driving in Canada by Drive Canada and 13th in North America by the American Driving Society. Both horses competed successfully in tandem at the Bromont International combined driving event at Canada’s Olympic park, one of the most prestigious driving competitions in the world.
To contact François, email email@example.com.
Storybook Prince-2 Xyder
Owner Callia Englund has been burning up the USEA'S Young Riders circuit, competing at prelim with her Canadian Xyder. Photo: MGO Photography.
Canadian Farm Jerrycho Manon
Kristina Eckhert and her Canadian mare Manon beat out 17 other competitors to become 2017's Working Equitation National Champion. Her stallion Amaro was regional reserve champion and placed third at the Cross National Working Equitation Cup. Photo: Michael T. Photography.
To contact Kristina, visit http://www.reindanceriding.com