When it comes to equestrian travel, Canada offers a unique blend of natural beauty and rich equestrian culture. From the Rockie Mountains and stunning lakes of the West to the vast prairies of the central provinces, Canada provides a diverse backdrop for your equestrian adventures. Canada is not just about maple syrup and hockey; it has a deep connection with horses too.

Exploring Canadian Equestrian Heritage

Canada is home to the Canadian horse a horse imported from France in the late 1700 hundreds and bred for various purposes over the centuries.  The horse played essential roles in agriculture, racing, military and nowadays is mostly used for riding and driving.

Native breeds include the Newfoundland, Sable Island, and Lac La Croix Indian Ponies.

The Newfoundland Pony is known for its hardiness and surefootedness and was an asset on small farms and in logging operations but sadly now is an endangered breed.

Sable Island is home to a wild horse population off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. The Sable Island horse is usually dark in colour, and it is believed the first horses were released on the island in the late 1700s and soon became feral.

Lac La Croix Indian pony or Ojibwe horse, the small North American breed that lived in the boreal forest around the Great Lakes, is the only known indigenous horse breed in Canada and is also endangered.

In the mountainous and rugged parts of Canada horses play a crucial role in ranch life and where vehicles cannot access.  Horses are still used for cattle drives and still very much a big part of ranch life.

Calgary Stampede

One of the most iconic events held every July in Canada is the famous Calgary Stampede called the “Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth” and this showcases 10 days of Canada’s vibrant equestrian heritage. While the Calgary Stampede is known for its rodeo events it also offers many horse-related events including barrel racing, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc, bull riding, bareback, chuckwagon races and agricultural exhibitions and so much more.

Canadian Mounties is a Symbol of Pride

If you are travelling to Ottawa in Ontario, you must visit the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Stables, and Visitor Centre, and watch a Musical ride.  The stables are open from May to the end of August.  RCMP is famous for its Musical Ride, a formal event where uniformed riders execute intricate figures and drills on horseback with precision and teamwork.

The Musical Ride also moves around the country and performs in up to 50 communities across Canada each year between May and October.

The RCMP breeds its horses, which are black and 16-17 hands high. Until recently, they were part-bred Thoroughbred, but in 1989, Hanoverians were purchased to improve bloodlines.

Museums and other Exhibitions

If you are a fan of Carriage driving the Remington Carriage Museum is one of the largest museums of its kind and tells a story of horse-drawn transportation in North America.  The museum features interactive displays, horses, a working restoration shop, 240 carriages, wagons, sleighs, and fun activities for the whole family. The Museum is 2.5 hours from Calgary in the town of Cardston, Alberta.

Canada Horse Expo is Canada’s largest Equestrian event with over 200 exhibitors and hosts clinics from dressage, jumping, horsemanship, working equitation, reining, and cast members from the well-known Netflix show Heartland often make an appearance.  Held in the last week of April at Westerner Park, Red Deer, Alberta over three days.

Skijoring is very popular in Europe and at Banff Snow View Festival in January they offer this to entertain the crowd. (where a horse and rider pull along a skier on skis and they race) It’s fun to watch Alberta cowboys, cowgirls, and their horses, partner with trick skiers to thrill and entertain the crowd.

Major Equestrian Events in Canada

Canada hosts a variety of equestrian events throughout the year. From prestigious dressage competitions to thrilling show jumping events.  Show jumping is the most popular equestrian sport in Canada.  FEI competitions are only held in four main regions including dressage, jumping, driving, and eventing.  Alberta and Ontario have more than half the horses in the country, with Quebec and British Columbia combining for another quarter of the population. Less than 1% of Canada’s horses are found in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

One of the biggest horse shows in Canada is the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair held annually in Toronto, Ontario in November, attracting some 320,000 people each year.  The equestrian events include show jumping, dressage, hunter classes, and other horse-related activities as well as the agricultural fair.

Western riding is very much part of the Canadian heritage, and the rodeo and reining are popular especially on the ranches. Canada hosts rodeos throughout the country and the Canadian National Championship Rodeo finals are held at different venues around the country each year. featuring various rodeo events, including barrel racing, bull riding, and much more.

There is always something happening at Spruce Meadows, Alberta just 35 minutes from Calgary. Spruce Meadows is one of North America’s premier show jumping facilities which was opened in 1975 by the Southern family. It hosts various international show jumping events, including the prestigious Spruce Meadows ‘Masters.’ And hosts many other events including the winter Christmas markets.

Thunderbird Show Park, 35 minutes from Vancouver in Langley, is the premier equestrian event facility in BC.  Hosting hunter and jumper tournaments.  This is where riders from all over the country showcase their skills and compete for top honours.

Bromont Equestrian Park in Quebec also hosts many top equestrian events in show jumping, eventing, and dressage. Bromont was to host the World Equestrian Games in 2018 until it withdrew due to lack of funding and Tryon in the USA took over last minute.

Caledon PanAm Equestrian Park is Ontario’s top international venue and is one hour from Toronto.  Having more than 30 years of history and playing host to the equestrian portion of the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games, the Caledon Equestrian Park has developed into a world-class venue and is known for its breathtaking scenery.

Canadian Pony Club, organises events and activities for young riders, emphasizing education, horse care, and riding skills.

These events showcase the diversity of equestrian disciplines in Canada, from traditional rodeo competitions to international-level show jumping and dressage events. Riders and enthusiasts can find events catering to various interests and skill levels across the country.

Saddle Up for Breathtaking Landscapes

In addition to its equestrian heritage, Canada boasts breathtaking landscapes perfect for exploring on horseback. From the expansive Rocky Mountains to the serene shores of the Atlantic, there’s no shortage of stunning scenery to discover during your travels.

Riding holidays in Canada offer a unique blend of exploring the stunning scenery and the wilderness. Rides in the Rockies including Banff National Park from day rides to a week and stays on guest, dude, and working ranches.   Local equestrian centres and ranches provide a range of experiences, from guided trail rides through picturesque scenery to expert-led lessons for riders of all levels.

Snaffle Travel offers riding holidays and tours to explore the best of Canada’s equestrian scene. Saddle up and discover the beauty of Canada on horseback.

Snaffle Travel has a tour of Canada and the Calgary Stampede in July 2024

Contact Snaffle Travel at info@snaffletravel.com.au