It is common knowledge that outfitting in the Yukon has been ongoing for over a hundred years and that outfitting horses roam feral, until needed. To this day you can spot the Dickson Outfitter horses roaming near the White River, among other places. Horses for outfitting and personal use have become a Yukon staple and pastime – there’s even a dressage show!
Sid van der Meer, the history buff of Beaver Creek, Yukon, has a little part of the horse history displayed at his museum.
Several horse bridles and saddles are spread throughout the rooms in Sid’s museum. He may have collected these pieces out of historical curiosity or it may have been Sid’s love of Sgt. Preston and his horse, Rex.
“I found the bridles at Silver Creek Lodge, close to Silver City by Kluane Lake. That’s when Johnny Musca ran it, he was Hungarian,” Sid says. “I’ve got two saddles, one old pack, sled runners, an old harness and some bridles.”
Curious, I asked Sid about the sled runners that lay in the courtyard between his private home and the museum. “Those runners acted like skies for a wagon that you build on top. I should have four, but I only have two. If you go to the Transportation Museum, they have full ones. I used to have a full sled with runners, but they’re at the Kluane Museum. I had a verbal agreement with Father Huijbers, but things changed with politics; now the government thinks it’s theirs.”
Numerous automobiles, sleds and wagons from Sid’s collection remain housed behind the Kluane Museum of Natural History in Burwash Landing.
I asked Sid why horses were being used in the Yukon. “They were for surveying for the Alaska Highway in the 1940s. The army hired local guides and outfitters to help with the surveying all the way from Silver City to Whitehorse. The horses were already here with the outfitters.”
It has to be mentioned that the Yukon had its very own horse way back during the Ice Age – Equus lambei (Yukon Horse) – which roamed here up until 12,000 years ago. This horse is not the ancestral horse of the ones that roam the Yukon today, as they were introduced much later, however we encourage you to visit the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse to learn more about this early ice age horse.
While you’re at it, hop on over to the Yukon Transportation Museum located within walking distance to the Beringia, to see full sleds and runners that Sid had mentioned.