By Chris Gould
Photography: Clix, and owner
In our ongoing series on Canada's Warmblood breeding regions, we are focusing this month on Manitoba. As winter is settling in, this is probably appropriate because, deserved or not, Manitoba has a reputation for severe winters. Certainly its central location in the North American continent means that winters are long, but probably no more difficult than other parts of the Canadian prairie, of which it is the eastern-most.
The southern portion of the province is very flat prime cropland interspersed with shelter belts of Manitoba maples, while the northern boreal forest dominates all the way to Churchill and the Hudson Bay. Manitoba, often referred to as the land of lakes, is well supplied with fresh water, Lake Winnipeg being one of the largest in Canada.
Breeding horses is concentrated in the agricultural southern portion of the province. Warmblood horses have been part of the equestrian scene for several decades with a dedicated group of breeders whose roots connect especially with the Hanoverian society. However bloodlines have expanded to include other major studbooks, and Manitoba-bred Warmbloods have had significant success. Of special note is FEI dressage star Pikardi (Point Maker x Diamont) bred by Jill Biggs, who competed for Canada at the 2010 World Equestrian Games held in Kentucky, under Canadian Olympic rider Bonnie Bonnello.
WKM Stables, for several years a large-scale breeder, has been a prolific producer of top jumpers and hunters. Among the many they produced is Equestrian Canada’s Canadian- bred Horse of the Year, WKM Xenia (Cat Weasel Z x Nicholson B).
Manitoba also boasts some of the worlds top jumping bloodlines through local imported stallions such as Kumano (Kannen x Landjunge). The legacy of French breeding, Cor de la Bryère, Double Espoir, Quito de Baussy and Ibrahim, has a strong presence in the stallions, Gamma Open Main (Hello du Reverdy x Voltaire) and Dicontendro (Diarado x Con-tendro I).
Each year in early spring Cana-dian and American riders converge on the small city of Brandon, Mani-toba to kick off the show season at the Manitoba Royal Winter Fair. It is a great opportunity to showcase young and developing horses as well as seasoned campaigners. Canadian Warmblood horses from Western Canada and of course Manitoba, feature prominently over the six-day show.
Like other parts of the Canadian prairie, conditions are nearly ideal for breeding and growing strong, sound, and sane Warmblood horses. Manitoba may be one of the most affordable places to raise quality horses, with abundant quality feed, open spaces and top genetics. While the breeding population is relatively small, the impact of Manitoba breeders on the Canadian breeding scene has been positive and important.