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Profiling Canadian Warmblood breeding regions: Alberta

The pleasure of napping in the sun

By Chris Gould / CWHBA
Photography: Vanessa Latford, Peter Llewellyn

This article is the first in a series profiling the Canadian Warmblood breeding regions by province. Canada is a very large country. In fact, the second largest by area (including lakes) in the world. It’s climate is so diverse it includes 12 climate zones, ranging from mild coastal areas, to the continental middle with severe winters, snow-covered for up to six months of the year. Winter temperatures can reach -40˚C, with summer highs in the 30s.

Forty-two percent of the land mass is covered in forest with several mountain ranges, so the portion of farmland for pasture and crops is much smaller than one would expect. Concentrated in the southernmost region of the country it makes up only 4.8% of the total area. Nevertheless, this is still a lot of land out of a total area of about 10 million square kilometres stretching 7,000 kilometres from east to west and encompassing five and a half time zones.
So in this vast land, where are the horses, and more specifically the Warmblood horses? And under what conditions are they raised? If we take the regions alphabetically, we begin with Alberta, one of only two landlocked provinces, where the aforementioned continental climate dictates much of everyday life.

Mares in the snow

Alberta is the westernmost province of the prairie heartland, bordered by the Rocky Mountains to the west. It’s also the largest horse producer regardless of breed, but in the case of Warmbloods, around 40% of annual registrations originate with Alberta breeders. Known as ‘cowboy country’, the region boasts the ‘greatest show on earth’ – the Calgary Stampede. However, even more famous in the world of equestrian sport is Spruce Meadows, whose Masters’ tournament is a horse sport mecca that draws the world's top showjumpers, providing a template for local breeders and a familiarity with bloodlines to produce the highest quality sport horses.

Access to open water

Some of the very first Warmblood stallions imported into Canada in the late1960s found their way to Alberta. The first wave to arrive was predominantly Hanoverian. Stallions such as Abrupt (Abglanz x Adlerfarn) imported by Joe Selinger in 1967, laid the foundation for what was to follow. A steady stream of quality stallions representative of many of the top bloodlines in Europe ensured that Warmblood breeding in Alberta was on a firm footing, and with the advent of frozen semen that practice has continued.
Alberta breeders have been early adopters of advances in breeding technology and that has allowed them to remain competitive. They have also been innovative: the CWHBA Fall Classic Breeders Sale is the longest running Warmblood sale in North America. Warmblood horses are becoming so ubiquitous that they now dominate horse shows at all levels... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber