Canadian Sport Horse

  • HEIGHT: 16 hands and taller
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: Canada, especially Ontario
  • SPECIAL QUALITIES: An evolving breed of large, solid horses that are structurally correct and have fluid movement, excellent jumping talent, and a natural ability to work with their human partners
  • BEST SUITED FOR: Jumping, dressage, eventing, foxhunting, and driving

Despite the similarity in names, the Canadian Sport Horse is an entirely different breed from the Canadian Horse, with its own distinct history. An English lieutenant stationed in Ontario wrote in his journal in 1893 that the horses “which were produced from the farmers here were remarkable for their ability to jump timber fences.” Quite a few of these horses were sold to people in the United States for various uses.

Then came World War I, during which vast numbers of horses from Canada were sent to the war in Europe. About this time, the Canadian Racing Association imported sixteen English Thoroughbred stallions, which they made available to local farmers for the production of crossbreds. The blood of those crossbred horses influences the pedigrees of many of the foundation lines of today’s Canadian Sport Horse.

As the Canadian Sport Horse Association reports, “Although the horse has lost its centuries’ long significance as a partner in battle and work, it has vastly increased its special place as a partner in sport.” As the need for horses has shifted from work and war to sport, the type of horse has also shifted. This breed was specifically developed to excel at sport, particularly the Olympic sports of dressage, show jumping, eventing, and driving, as well as foxhunting. Breeders aim to produce horses that are structurally correct and that are supple, with big, fluid movement both on the flat and over jumps. They also want to maintain the horses’ easy ability to work with their human partners. The Canadian Sport Horse Association says that this is an “evolving” breed, but it is a breed that exists for a purpose.

Thoroughbred blood is evident in this Canadian Sport Horse.

The Canadian Sport Horse must have excellent action.

When the Canadian Hunter and Light Horse Improvement Society was first established in 1926, Canadian draft mares were crossed on selected Thoroughbreds. The society itself evolved into the Canadian Hunter Improvement Society and finally into the Canadian Sport Horse Association, but while it changed names, the goal of producing athletic horses for sport use remained intact. Now, in addition to lines of Canadian Sport Horses and Thoroughbreds, warmbloods of other registries are being used to produce fine, durable sport horses.

Mares that are not of Canadian Sport Horse breeding are inspected by a committee for acceptance to the Appendix Broodmares list. Stallions undergo a rigorous inspection and a performance test or must achieve the equivalent in sport before being accepted for breeding.

BREED ASSOCIATION FACTS AND FIGURES

The records for this breed are kept by the Canadian Livestock Record Corporation. The information below is for the year 2000, the most recent statistics available:

• The original breed association was founded in 1926.

• 12,430 horses have been registered since record keeping began.

• Approximately 300 of the registered horses are purebreds alive and active today.

• Forty non-pure horses were also included in the total of registered animals.

Breed Characteristics

Movement is very important in this breed. It should be sequentially correct, straight, balanced, and with impulsion. Over jumps, the horse should show good leg technique and good bascule, which is the arc of the body over the fence. All of this should be embodied in an animal with intelligence, courage, and character.

Conformation

A Canadian Sport Horse should stand 16 hands or more and be suitably balanced with strong bone. The eyes should be large and quiet. The neck should be well set and of proportionate length. The heart girth should be deep, with a broad chest. There should be good withers; long, sloping shoulders; deep, well-muscled quarters; and solid, correct joints. The knees and hocks should be low to the ground with properly aligned pasterns and healthy feet to match the size of the horse. Horses should have an even bite, sound heart and lungs, and an “overall look of quality.”

Color

These horses can be bay, dark bay, brown, dark brown, black, chestnut, gray, pinto, cremello, or palomino.