Over the Northern Border

In this month's issue of The Horse, certain parts of the Canadian horse industry are highlighted. While the industry is smaller in total horse numbers when compared to the U.S. horse population, it is no less active.

Changes to certain segments of the industry, such as the reduction in the pregnant mare urine (PMU) ranches, have affected horse numbers in certain provinces, however, the industry across the country is thriving.

Horses are used for showing, racing, and ranch work, but the primary use for horses is recreational riding. Showing horses is very popular across Canada, with venues like Spruce Meadows in Calgary leading the way. Spruce Meadows is one of Canada's premier centers for conferences, business meetings, and special events. Each year, world-class show jumpers visit Calgary to compete in some of the most prestigious jumping events in the world.

Both light horse and draft horse activities can be found across the country, and the enthusiasm of these horse owners is unparalleled. Canadians have hosted three of the North American Belgian Championships, four of the world Percheron Congresses, and one world Clydesdale show. Places like Brandon, Manitoba, home of the Wyeth PMU plant, is also home to the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, and host city of several championship horse competitions.

Toronto, Ontario, has also hosted these world-class events in addition to the Toronto Royal Winter Fair--a great place to see draft horses, show jumpers and hunters, hackney ponies, and roadster horses, just to name a few.

An interesting note for the horse enthusiast is Canada's Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals (Horses). Finalized in 1998, the Code of Practice is a nationally developed guideline for care and handling of horses.

The code is voluntary, but it is an excellent guideline for promoting sound management and welfare practices for all areas of horse use. These guidelines cover such topics as transportation, nutrition, facilities, and more. This code of practice was one of the first of its kind developed for the horse industry. Canadian horse owners also have a sincere interest in education. In 1980, a group of horse breeders in Alberta developed an educational program with a focus on the science of breeding and horse care plus the business aspects of the breeding industry.

This educational program, the Alberta Horse Breeders and Owners Conference, is one of the most unique educational programs offered anywhere in North America. The conference is held every January in Red Deer, Alberta. The 2007 conference will mark the program's 25th anniversary. While Red Deer in January might be a bit cool, the conference allows a chance for horse enthusiasts from all segments of the industry to meet, learn, and discuss what is new in equine science and management, and how it can be used to the betterment of their horses.

The PMU industry has had a significant impact on the North American horse industry. This issue's cover story (p. 32) will shed some light on that industry and the horsemen and women who truly care for the horses they own and manage. The industry has its own code of practice that serves as a guideline for the care and management of horses found on these farms and ranches.

The PMU industry is changing as market forces dictate, but through the actions of the ranchers, the North American Equine Ranching Information Council, and Wyeth, every effort has been taken to ensure that horses are placed into useful second careers.

Overall, the Canadian horse industry has a diverse population of people with an appreciation for the horse.

About the Author

Bob Coleman, PhD

Bob Coleman, PhD, grew up showing horses and harness ponies in Brandon, Manitoba. He worked as an animal nutritionist for two feed companies in Western Canada before joining the Alberta Horse Industry Branch, where he worked for 18 years as the provincial extension horse specialist. He is currently an associate extension professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

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