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Hopes, dreams and the sad reality

Tuesday & Wednesday – The temperature dipped to zero Monday night, and we woke Tuesday morning to not only another gorgeous day, but with frost sparkling on the ground. I rushed out to take some pictures and make my morning rounds of the horses, still in my PJ’s and bundled up in my flannel (it was very early!). Illicit was apparently thrilled to see me as he rushed over to the door of his stall to receive his daily allotment of “luvins”.

Monique and I went into the town of Coldwater for lunch and then took in

some sights and browsed numerous quaint little shops selling antiques and kitschy items of every description.

Then back to Andrea’s for a healthy dose of reality. We may be on vacation, but sadly laundry still needs to be done, dishes needed washing and the trailer had to be tidied in preparation for our departure on Thursday morning. I won’t bore you with the details.

We spent as much time as we could with the horses and Andrea and Karli. I know a great many Canadian Horse people online and it’s always a thrill to finally get to meet them in person. However, in this case, I didn’t know Andrea before we arrived, but I left her home knowing I’d made a friend for life!

Thursday – With all the chores, it seemed like a matter of hours before Thursday morning had arrived and it was time for us to leave. Yugo loaded without so much as a blink (as usual) and after many hugs and maybe a few tears, we were on the road again. The rain which has held off for so long, finally came, though thankfully not heavy as we drove toward Prescott, ON where we stopped for the night.

Friday – So a thing happened. Monique’s influence asserted itself and despite neither intention

nor plan, we picked up a sweet little orphaned filly. That’s right, I’m blaming it entirely on Monique! I’ll just gloss over my complicity; my husband might read this. We drove to the barn of Christine Levesque, who generously offered to care for the little thing (we’ve nicknamed her Jinx) while we finished our trip. She was far too little to be hauled all over Quebec and Ontario, but we left her there knowing she was in capable hands and the photos of her antics were quick to arrive.

The weather continued to be dreary with sporadic showers, but it did little to dampen the beauty. Mother nature has broken out her fall palette and as we drove closer to our next destination, it grew even more breathtaking. Our next stop was one I was incredibly excited for; I probably would have made this trip just for the opportunity to visit this one farm alone. Early Friday evening we arrived at Ferme Litjens!

Saturday – The weather was again lovely and Normand gave us a guided tour of the farm, which included several truck rides to see everything, such is the scale of this place! It also held special meaning for me because my first ever Canadian was from Ranch L, which was Normand Litjens’ (John Litjens) father’s farm. These are some photos Monique took of the Ranch L portion of the farm.

In addition to my personal connection, Normand owns the largest breeding herd of Canadians in the world. As a second-generation breeder, his family has played a significant role in the continuation of this breed and this farm would be just about any Canadian lovers’ dream destination!

Of course, we are in Quebec, quite literally on the Vermont border,

and I expected the language to be a barrier. Thankfully both Monique and Normand’s partner, Linda Flamez, are fully bilingual and frequently translate. But to my delight, between my horrible French and his broken English, Normand and I managed to have a discussion on bloodlines in “Frenglish”. It is very frustrating to have limited French when two breeders are sitting there discussing everything you find exciting, and you can only pick up every fifth word! So much knowledge slipping through my anglophone fingers!!

Regardless of the lost learning opportunity, my breath is simply taken away by the incredible beauty of these horses, but that’s not really all that unusual for this breed. What is unusual is the consistent quality of these animals! While I know no horse is “perfect”, these animals are so conformationally correct it absolutely blows my mind. I’m seeing broodmares every bit as stunning as horses I’ve seen in the ring; and the studs! Oh lord the studs are spectacular! I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite, though being a huge Alex fan, I was totally smitten with Litjens Alex Adamo.

Dorelie's Palmer Y-Galaad

Reg. # 13333

I sat in the trailer and looked out the window as Litjens Marco-Pat Azhuree raced around his paddock just for the sheer joy of it and though it sounds corny, my heart was full to bursting at the pure magnificence, I simply couldn’t look away. Adding to this fabulous sight was a backdrop of the most amazing fall colors. I simply had to walk the property to see more.

The night before I had pointed out a pair of deer in a field and Normand joked that if I was looking for deer, he had about 18 on his property. At least I thought he was joking, until a walk towards the back of the paddock revealed no less than 14 deer grazing contentedly! I thought I was in horse heaven, but apparently, the deer have staked a claim as well.

Sadly, I had to bow out of some of the festivities as I just wasn’t feeling fantastic. My knees are

simply too old for some of the things I’ve been asking of them. Or perhaps I’m just too fat and I’m starting to founder! Either way, a good nap did the trick, and I was able to get back out there and love some horses.

Of course, being an animal person in general, there was more than horses to see and as is absolutely the norm for me, I was quickly befriended by Jackson, the most adorable Doberman pup (8 months old) you could imagine.

As Saturday evening drew to a close, I went outside to enjoy the setting sun through the clouds and just soak up the ambience. It’s so incredibly peaceful here. The only sounds I could hear were the wind rustling the leaves, the faint gurgling of a nearby brook, the occasional nicker interrupting the sound of happily munching horses and in the far distance, the yips and howls of coyotes. A perfect close to a perfect day. Or so I thought.

Nope, no bad news this time. Instead, Normand and Linda hosted us for dinner (again) despite the fact we have a fridge full of food we really should be eating. Although I was the only one in the group that didn’t speak French, I discovered that those daily French classes I so despised actually came in handy. You’d be amazed what you can pick up between a smattering of French and reading gestures and expressions!

After dinner, we stayed late (probably later than we should have for being on a farm!) and ended the evening showing Normand photos I’ve accumulated and reviewing conformation and pedigrees.

To any of you non horse folk, and perhaps even a few Canadian lovers, this may sound like an incredibly dull evening. Starring at horse butts and combing through bloodlines, wow, do I know how to party or what? But you’d be wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever paid such rapt attention in my life or cursed my lack of French more! To my delight, Normand is a very upbeat, yet down to earth guy who has been incredibly welcoming (you too Linda!).

When I first got into this breed, people would be talking about certain lines and pedigrees, and it felt like I couldn’t possibly learn it all. While I still firmly believe that, I have learned a considerable amount over the years. I’ve been lucky enough to connect with people willing to share their knowledge, which I am perpetually hungry for, and I’ve done a great deal of research and study on my own. However, 6 years of my accumulated knowledge is less than this man has forgotten!

We discussed in our stilted languages, the sad reality of our aging breeding population and the repercussions of the years we had incredibly low birth numbers. We talked about his efforts to bring in new bloodlines to keep his inbreeding coefficient as low as possible, while working to maintain old bloodlines truly worthy of keeping. The topics were many and to me at least, the evening was fascinating. My husband once told me I could sleep on a book and learn through osmosis. If only I had a similar ability here, oh the knowledge I could absorb! Lol it would surely make my head swell!

While the conversation was fabulous, it did make me uneasy. It is not only our breeding population that is aging. So are our breeders. Though Normand is a second-generation breeder, he is likely the last generation of his family to pick up the mantle. He is not alone.

As inflation runs rampant, the cost of breeding has increased exponentially. We’ve had numerous long-time breeders retire just in the 6 years I’ve been involved with the breed (Beckett’s Creek, Cherry Creek and Canadream just off the top of my head) and there is little motivation for new breeders.

Our horses are still grossly undervalued and no matter how much a breeder may love Canadians, if they’re unable to sell their horses at a reasonable rate, we will lose even more. It makes me very fearful for the future of this magnificent breed.

Unfortunately, like all good things, the evening had to come to and end. We headed back to the trailer for the night, eager for both a good night’s sleep and for the morning.

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Hello Loreena I'm really enjoying reading this, keep up the good work. Fotos and your reflections appreciated. So sad to read that Normand has no successor in the wings

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