The Horse and Its Uses

Captain John Palliser’s expedition came to Southern Alberta in 1857 to map the area. They came riding horses and leading pack trains. From that day, horses filled many functions in transport and industry.

All mines, from their establishment in the late 1800s to the early 1900s, such as the coal mines run by Alexander Galt, used ponies, mules, and horses to provide the muscle needed to remove ore from the mine to the surface. The miners were fond of their horses and tended them carefully because the health of the horse determined the production capacity of the mine.

Farms used horses in a variety of ways. Horses were used to pull stumps out of the earth to clear the land. Plow and draft horses drew the plows that broke the prairies into arable plots. They helped till the soil, rake the hay and transport the harvested crops to elevators. Horses were the power to move timber to the saw mills and lumber from them. Farm kids had horses for riding to and from school, visiting their friends or to pull the stone boa [a boat-like sled] in the farmyard.

City and town businesses used cart horses. They pulled every conveyance from farm carts to city carriages. Milk trucks, such as the ones used by the dairies in Lethbridge, were pulled by moderate sized placid beasts. Fire trucks, railcars, Postal trucks, and delivery vans were all horse-drawn.

Prior to the railways being completed, transport between cities was available by stagecoach. The Fort MacLeod stage left town in the morning, made a stop near Kipp at the stopover house for a rest. After changing the team of horses, the stage continued on to its destination at Lethbridge arriving in the evening.

The Power of the Horse exhibit in the lower level gallery at the Galt Museum & Archives runs from June 18 to September 25, 2016. Visitors to Fort Whoop-Up have the opportunity to marvel at real live Spanish mustangs pulling wagon rides after it opens on June 21, 2016. Admission fees apply in both locations.