There are three terms used for conveyances with runners:
Sled- a small device for recreational use.
Sledge- a heavier sled for moving freight or massive objects.
Sleigh - a moderate to large size open topped vehicle with one or more passenger seats, typically drawn by a horse.
In the 1800's and early 1900's horse drawn sleighs were used to take care of the winter chores and travel about in snow. In the early years of this country, taxes weren't paid to keep rural roads up and even if there were I don't think anyone had any idea what a snowplow was.
Wagons and buggies that had bounced over the rutted and rocky roads and ground in the other months of the year could be converted to sleighs by removing the wheels and setting the boxes or carriages on runners. This way the family could still be mobile in the snow. Or those who could afford it, stored a sleigh during the warm months and used the sleigh in the winter months.
|Photo by Daryl L Hunter|
My dad has told us many times how as a teenager in Nebraska, he loved feeding in the winter. They would harness up four draft horses to a large rake that would draw whole stacks of loose hay onto the sledge. Then they hitched the horses to the sledge and headed out to the field to feed the cattle. In the cold morning air, the horse's hooves would throw up crystals of snow like dust in the summer. The icy crystals glittered like a white cloud in the sunshine. Once they reached the field, pitch forks were used to pitch the hay off the sledge. After working up a sweat pitching the hay, they cold wind on the way back would chill them, but then unharnessing and brushing the horses would put them in close quarters with the horses and use their body heat to warm up before heading to the next chore.
Have you ever ridden in a horse drawn sleigh? There are several places where elk are fed in the winter that have sleighs to feed with and to give visitors rides among the elk. I've been on a ride like that with my family in Baker City, Oregon.
photo by: http://daryl-hunter.net/