History & Heritage

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Today, the piercing clamour of a fire truck’s alarm brings excitement and awe from people gathered on the street. We admire and even gawk at the skiny red and chrome mechanical beast, carrying its dark-suited riders as it winds its way through the city. But once, when the streets were still dusty, our cities relied on much more than the cold steel of a fire engine; they relied on the courage and heart of the fire-horses. Then as now, people would line the street to admire the beauty and bravery of these public servant horses.

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In the July/August 2017 issue of Canadian Horse Journal, we celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary with stories of 20 exceptional horses that have reflected our values and fired our national pride. One of those horses was Hickstead.

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Delvin Szumutku was stressed. It was 1983 and he was living on the family farm in Saskatchewan where they grew grain and had been breeding Clydesdale horses since the 1960s. But his father was sick and in urgent need of heart surgery. He had been ordered by his doctors not to lift even so much as a suitcase, a tough call for a farmer.

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The horse will teach you if you listen - Spanish cowboys (vaqueros) who came to North America over 500 years ago left a lasting legacy — not only in words such as chaps (from chaparreras) and rodeo (rodear) which are engrained in today’s Western lifestyle — but in their riding and horse training skills, too. In the early 1500s when Spanish cows and horses were imported into what is now Mexico, cattle ranching and bridle horses were introduced to North America. Vaquero bridle horses were highly trained, handy stock horses that worked as partners out on the range and were in tune with their riders’ every aid. Making a bridle horse was and is a multi-year process whereby horses are started in a hackamore (bosal), then advanced through a two-rein bridle (small diameter hackamore beneath a spade bit bridle each with a set of reins) until they are ready to be ridden “straight up in the bridle” in a spade bit.

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February 24, 2006 was a routine day when Police Constable Kevin Bradfield saddled Brigadier and, with Constable Ron Gilbert on Blue Moon, rode out of the Horse Palace on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds, home of the Toronto Police Mounted Unit, on their way to patrol the Scarborough area on the east side of Toronto.

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If a dog is man’s best friend, then the horse is his most loyal servant. – Joseph V. DiBianca, Loudly They Speak: The Memoirs of a Horse Listener - What is it that makes the vast majority of horse people love dogs? Dogs indeed possess some of the same admirable traits as horses and complement the lifestyle of a horse person very well.

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“I had a home-bred [Morgan] gelding named Duncan,” says Tina Collins, office administrator, Canadian Morgan Horse Association. “Duncan was the type of horse that had to investigate everything. He not only had a humorous personality, but he was incredibly trustworthy and a superior trail horse.

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