COLLEGE STATION, TX –Canadian film-makers Rick Blackburn and his wife Louise Leroux are on a cross-country trip like no other. They are riding two Canadian horses from Quebec, Canada to College Station, Texas to bring 50 samples of Canadian horse genes to Dr. Gus Cothran, director of equine genetics at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
The Canadian horse is a breed that goes back hundreds of years and has had a rich history in North America. Unfortunately, they are now one of the rarest horse breeds in the world with only about 2,500 pure-blood Canadian horses left. They are also listed as critical by the American Livestock Conservation Association.
“We are taking this journey to Texas A&M to both enlist Dr. Cothran’s help in mapping the horses’ genes to find out how the Canadian horse has influenced the blood lines of other North American horses, but also to raise awareness for this dying breed,” explains Blackburn
An expert in population and conservation genetics, Cothran is only one of a few people in the world that does work on genetics of horses as it relates to breed conservation. Until recently he has had very little opportunity to study the Canadian horse because of its rarity.
“The diverse samples that Mr. Blackburn collected from top Canadian horse breeders across Canada will enable me to do a more comprehensive analysis of the breed. There is a strong probability that these horses are ancestors to a variety of common North American breeds such as the Morgan horse,” states Cothran. “This information should bring to light the genetic and historical importance of the Canadian horse and hopefully spark people’s interest in conserving the breed.”
These outcomes are the very reason that Blackburn and Leroux have taken on this three-month, 2,500 mile trail ride. Starting on May 11, 2009, they arrived in College Station on August 31, 2009.
“At 25 to 35 miles a day it has been a long journey for sure,” says Blackburn. “But the opportunity to highlight this breed and to demonstrate its legendary ruggedness by riding them cross-country has definitely been worth-while. There has been an incredible grass-roots interest from Americans in what we are doing and that gives us hope that we will be able to save these horses.”
Blackburn and Leroux are also turning this unique experience into a film entitled, “The Legend of the Canadian Horse” that will air on Canadian network television.
For more information on the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu.