By Laurie Haughton, Chair, CQHA Media, Marketing & Communications Committee

During the early 1950s, Quarter Horses began their introduction into Canada’s west. The Canadian Quarter Horse Association (CQHA) was first formed in 1957 by inaugural president John G. Millar of Milestone, Saskatchewan with George M. Cheatham of Calgary, Alberta acting as vice president. The following year, Roy Ionson brought the first registered Quarter Horse to Ontario. Ionson, the founding president of the Ontario Quarter Horse Association, was also the first person from the province elected to the CQHA’s board of directors in 1961.

In 1965, the Canadian Livestock Registry published the first volume of the CQHA Stud Book. A PDF version of the Stud Book is available on The book lists the first 1,277 registered Quarter Horses in Canada, most of which were in AQHA’s registry, as well as the CQHA board of directors from 1957 to 1965, and 1964’s membership list.

Interest in the breed grew, as did the list of events the horses competed in. Classes for registered Quarter Horses were established at fairs and livestock shows Canada-wide. In 1969 Quarterama, Canada’s largest single breed horse show, was founded. The week-long horse show was held in Toronto, Ontario every March, and dominated Canada’s Quarter Horse industry. It held the honour of being the second largest AQHA show in North America for the next 25 years.

By the 1970s and early 1980s, as the Quarter Horse population and interest in Canada blossomed, AQHA sanctioned shows and races rapidly increased in numbers. The Canadian provincial affiliates of the AQHA began taking on the primary role of promoting breeding through their regional futurity programs. Slowly the Canadian registry became redundant, eventually leading the CQHA to close its books.

In the gap of time between when CQHA ceased and before it would be reinstated in 2001 by AQHA, Canada’s horse industry exploded. The politics and practices of the horse industry matured and at the same time they began to be challenged by urban mindsets. The need for a national body in Canada to voice the concerns of Canadian Quarter Horse owners with their own government became apparent, and so CQHA was reborn.

Marnie Sommers of Carberry, Manitoba would be elected the first president of the re-established Canadian Quarter Horse Association. She, along with Canadian AQHA directors and members were given this mandate: 

“The CQHA shall exist to address issues of concern to Canadian owners of American Quarter Horses; to be a communications vehicle for and with Canadian owners of American Quarter Horses; and to promote and market — both globally and within Canada — Canadian-bred and/or Canadian-owned American Quarter Horses.” 

In the 20 years since CQHA was re-established it has supported numerous Canadian AQHA shows and Quarter Horse events throughout Canada with its grant program; met with regional and national politicians on behalf of its members; been represented through membership with Canada’s national equine body, Equestrian Canada; and held seats at all levels of directorship and executive within that national structure. It has fielded and supported Team Canada to the biannual AQHA Youth World Cup held internationally and has hosted the competition itself. 

Now, as the horse industry in this country faces another shift brought about by the global pandemic, the current CQHA board of directors and the membership has set in motion new ideas and programs to assist Canadian Quarter Horse owners and breeders into the future. 

The CQHA offers a free membership to all Canadians who own, breed, or adore registered American Quarter Horses; it has launched a new website that is making the association and its programs more accessible and automated; and it has expanded social media presence to build and connect the Canadian Quarter Horse community. 

The grants program has been retooled with the help of AQHA to directly support grassroots events and organizations to help make the breed and equestrian sport more accessible. New programs are also about to be launched to assist professionals and show officials in the Quarter Horse industry with their education and accreditation. Lastly, the CQHA is establishing an export marketing program for Canadian breeders of registered American Quarter Horses to support both the domestic and international markets. 

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Storm watch on Eagle Ridge at Yaha Tinda Ranch in Clearwater County, Alberta. Photo: Kirk Prescott, Bar XP Photo