As the custodian of his family’s incredible collection of horsedrawn vehicles, Peter Keir and his horses are a much-appreciated fixture on the show circuit.

Story By Mark Muller

Peter Keir's blue eyes sparkle as he looks around. Here, on “Canberra Park” – the property outside our nation’s capital in an area that has seen the work and lives of generations of his family – Peter is in his element. The source of the sparkle? The amazing collection of horsedrawn vehicles, the hundreds upon hundreds of ribbons, photos, trophies and mementos that mark not just one lifetime, but several lifetimes of devotion to horses in harness. For Peter is, like his father and grandfather before him, and like his children and grandchildren, a reinsman. But more than that, Peter is a collector – a fervent collector who has the patience, expertise and means to secure vehicles he knows and desires. “Sometimes you have to wait a while, but if you’re patient, you’ll often be rewarded,” Peter says through a smile. The longest he has had to wait to take possession of a vehicle he wanted (a smart, black buggy) is, to date, 35 years.
The collection that has been put together is large and comprehensive, and has been built over generations. “My grandfather was a collector – he was always buying sulkies and buggies – we’ve just followed that through over the years,” Peter says. Vehicles inherited and bought, but never traded. “No, no,” says Peter with some shock. “We don’t trade them or sell them – we collect them!”
“There’s probably not another collection like it in the world,” says Shane, one of Peter and Helen Keir’s five children and a champion in his own right. “Other collectors may have more of one sort of vehicle, but part of what sets this collection apart is the variety – we’ve got dogcarts and carts for Shetland ponies, sulkies, hansom cabs and coaches, right up to heavy-horse vehicles – over there is the old horsedrawn bus that used to run between Bungendore and Queanbeyan.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #76

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2011