The pedigree of the Canadian Horse goes back to the early part of the 1600’s. Originally a gift to New France from the Sun King, Louis X1V, the horse was known for its remarkable strength, endurance and hooves of steel. Habitants of Old Quebec called him, “The Little Horse of Iron".
I first became enamoured with The Canadian Horse some years ago when I saw them on show at an agricultural exhibition. At the time I knew nothing of its history or its near extinction and revival. Then a friend urged me to read “The Little Iron Horse", the story of The Canadian Horse. It’s a must read, she said, so I picked up a copy of the book and found the story of Canada’s National Horse as intriguing and fascinating as my friend had intimated.
The author Lawrence Scanlon, known for his national best seller, “Wild About Horses", chronicles the glorious and rocky past of Canada’s heritage breed. The “little iron horse" was used for ploughing, riding, pulling logs, pulling a carriage and a host of other chores. Owners would often race the horses traveling home after a church service. Because of his strength the little horse of iron was used in the various wars over the centuries at home, in the U. S. A and across the waters. For decades he was cross-bred to develop a taller horse and to provide stamina for other breeds.
The pure blood line became almost extinct with only a few hundred pedigreed horses accounted for by the mid-late 20th century. It was then that the key supporters of the valiant horse rallied to re-establish the breed and for him to become Canada’s National Horse by parliamentary decree April 23, 2002.
The story of the Canadian is enriched by the personal account of Lawrence Scanlon’s experience with a sturdy Canadian bay gelding called Saroma Dark Fire Dali. Scanlon, age fifty at the time, although not new to the horse world, was green as a trainer and Dali was a green, vibrant 5 year old.
Interwoven with the history of the Canadian is a warm and sometimes humourous accounting of his training of Dali over a one and a half year period. With professional trainers and coaches at his side Scanlon goes through disciplined ground training, schooling and riding and eventually builds trust with Dali. Green horse and green rider become one. In “the Little Iron Horse" we get the perfect melding of the story of the breed and the personal odyssey of Dali, which brings it all to life.
Watch for Canada’s National Horse in an agricultural show and pick up a copy of the book, “The Little Horse of Iron , " by Lawrence Scanlon. You’re in for a good read.
Walter Paetkau has had a lifelong love of horses. He currenly operates a horse rescue agency, CircleF , in the Fraser Valley just outside of Vancouver, BC. A selection of his, along with other equestrian articles, can be viewed at Moraine Adventure Books.com, an independent source of Adventure Travel and Outdoor Recreation resources.