(..there’s a saying that you can’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you’ve been. While I had written books about E.P. Taylor, Northern Dancer, and Nearctic, I knew little, if anything, about the early history of Thoroughbreds in Canada. So off I went, off to the headwaters of these Rivers of Gold. I would make some quite remarkable discoveries.)
… Prior to the 1840’s in Canada, the definition of a good horse, was a useful horse- an animal that worked for its living. Horses provided the sole means of transportation for everyone from the local clergy to the constabulary.
The first Thoroughbreds arrived in Canada with British soldiers dispatched to the settlements. Their mounts were often well-bred, retired racehorses. Before long the soldiers were hosting horse races in the garrison towns that dotted the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes. In the early days these events were simply part of raucous social occasions- parties that often went on until dawn.
In the mid-1850’s Canadian farmers recognized that crossing Thoroughbreds with their sturdy carriage horses created some mighty fast roadsters. To that end the farmers began looking to the US as a source of good breeding stock. They were soon joined by the British soldiers. As horse racing became more popular they too began travelling to Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky to invest in sturdy US Thoroughbreds. Traces of some of these animals, no doubt, will have found their way into the headwaters of Canada’s Rivers of Gold.
… to be continued… next, Right Place, Right Time.