Norman, a veteran by Yellowknife horse standards, retires at 28

A horse that taught hundreds of Yellowknifers to ride over a quarter of a century receives a retirement party this month.

Norman, a resident of North Country Stables, has spent the past 25 years with Pat Dartnell and Tom Pisz at the Yellowknife barn. He enters retirement at the age of 28.

Pisz bought Norman from Spruce Meadows in Calgary as a four-year-old, training him for riding and driving. Standing at 16.2 hands – or 5 ft 5 in – Norman became a schoolmaster, a word used to describe a horse particularly adept at helping riders learn skills.


He was a popular choice among all the stables’ riders, Pisz and Dartnell said this week.

“You get little kids that go on him and he’s just a gentle giant,” said Dartnell. “The day we retired him, the little girl that was going to ride him, she was crying and saying, ‘No! I need my Norman!’”

Norman is a Spanish-Norman horse, a type explained by Pisz – a Yellowknife veterinarian – as an “ancient cross between an Andalusian, which is a Spanish horse, and a French Percheron.”

Spanish-Normans were historically used as war horses, Pisz said. Norman, however, pulled a wagon with his brother, Mack, and taught riders to jump.


The decision to retire Norman came after he developed arthritis in his hind-end. “You can see both of his hind legs drag,” said Dartnell, who described him as previously “an integral part” of the lesson program.

In particular, she said, he had been “super gentle” in accommodating children with disabilities.

As a retired horse, Norman will spend his days hanging out in his paddock and getting lots of attention from the stables’ students.

Kristen Shaw, a longtime student and volunteer at North Country Stables, will bake a horse-shaped cake for his retirement party. The humans will eat that one – for Norman, there will be a carrot cake with peppermints as icing.


The party will be held on June 25 at North Country Stables with buggy and pony rides, a barbecue, and plenty of treats for Norman.