Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride this winter

I certainly enjoy hunting, and when I can’t hunt, I like wandering around the woods, looking for wildlife, or maybe fishing. But there are other things to do outside, especially this time of year, that don’t involve wild animals.

Last weekend, my wife lined up a visit to her friend Kristina’s house to “help” them feed their cattle. But this wasn’t a typical cattle-feeding expedition. Kristina and her husband Rob feed their cattle from a wagon, or a sleigh when there’s snow on the ground, and they use a team of horses to pull it.

A pair of draft horses pull a sleigh
Riding on a sleigh pulled by a pair of Halflinger draft horses is an incredible experience, even for someone who has spent his life around horses and cattle. Photo by Ty Stockton, available at TyStockton.com

I’ve been around horses and cattle all my life, but this was still an incredible experience. I think we’ve lost some of the connection we once had to livestock and the land with the introduction of motorized contraptions that make farming and ranching easier. Decking out a team of draft horses in the harnesses, hames and other gear they need, then hitching them to a sleigh, is a whole lot more involved than just wandering out to the tractor and turning a key.

And that’s not even considering the training that goes into these amazing animals. The horses, Sport and Roy, were so gentle, and so attentive to Rob’s every move and command, it was easy to forget these one-ton animals could decide to just run off and drag us to the next time zone on a whim.

After they’d fed, Kristina and Rob tied a giant inner tube to the back of the sleigh and had Sport and Roy pull the kids around the pasture for a while. I jumped off the sleigh to take some pictures, and then I jumped onto the tube with my boys for a little while.

It was an amazing day. We got to play outside in the snow for an hour or two, and we got to see how this family feeds their animals every day. It was a glimpse into how people made a living in this part of the world 100 years ago, but then we got to come inside and warm up with hot chocolate by the wood stove.

I’ve often said I think I was born 100 years too late, but after seeing this little piece of how things were in those days, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have survived.