The Canadian
(Le P’tit Cheval De Fer)

Music: M.L. Hammond/D. Woodhead    Lyrics: M.L. Hammond

The Canadian Horse was declared the National Horse of Canada by an act of Parliament in 2002, but most Canadian citizens, sadly, have still never heard of it. In the 1960s these horses were close to extinction, but the current numbers are around 6,000.  Smallish, tough and powerful, incredibly smart and versatile, they deserve far more recognition! More info:

Well he’s not too big and he’s not too tall                        
overall he’s kinda small
next to your Clydes or your fancy breeds
you mightn’t give him a second look
heavy mane and tail, broad round back,
Not too flashy, usually brown or black
but here’s a case where you shouldn’t be goin’        
by the cover to judge the book

now my grandpapa he used to say
when he was a young man in Gaspé
he had a mare like that, a Canadian they called Rosette
ploughing fields, hauling rocks or wood
that little horse was better than good
you could ride or drive her 50 miles and she’d never even break a sweat

and Grandpapa made up a song that he’d sing to that little mare all day long –

Mon p’tit canadien
mon p’tit cheval de fer             

My former Canadian (photo by Sue Byford)

a’ec sa tête en l’air
pis sa belle crinière
y’est pas ben grand
y’est pas ben gros
mais y’est fort comme le diable
pis ben plus beau!
diddle aï don, marche donc giddy-up   
Mon p’tit canadien

My little Canadian
my little iron horse
with its head held proudly
and its beautiful mane
it’s not very tall
and not very heavy
but it’s strong as the devil
and much handsomer!
diddle aï don, get along, giddy-up
My little Canadian

oh my grandpapa he left Quebec
he took his mare and he made the trek
by rail to North Alberta where good land was almost free
the farmers there all laughed of course
at the little French guy with his little French horse
figured they wouldn’t last too long out on the vast prairie

But they all stopped laughing when that mare
out-pulled every horse at the county fair
and word got round she had legs of steel
and was never lame a day
gentle as a pup and twice as smart
an easy keeper with a great big heart
but that’s your Canadian horse, my friend,
and I’ll tell you how they got that way

See, there’s royal blood in their pedigree
’cause the Sun King sent them here by sea
he chose the best from his stables
for his noblemen in New France
and some never made it through the winter gales
but the horses that did grew tough as nails
and strong and clever, and wove their way
through history at every chance


they were there on the Plains of Abraham
carrying men fighting under Montcalm
they were prized by the Yanks as trotters, and mounts in their Civil war
they were ridden by the North West Mounted Police
in that sad campaign against the Métis
and they stood their ground in World War I through the battle’s bloody roar

now ain’t that just the Canadian way it goes
to have something special and no one knows
and to let it fade and dwindle till it almost disappears
thirty years ago they were almost gone
but the Little Iron Horse is hanging on
and I figure they deserve to be around for the next four hundred years

now my father he spoke French all right
but he married my mama who’s a Mennonite
so though my name’s Labelle, I never learned how to parlez-vous
but I understand my granddad’s song
some days I sing it all day long
to my little black horse and he pricks his ears, ’cause I swear he understands it too!


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