Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday Western - Horse Drawn Sleigh

This month children are watching for a jolly man in a red suit to come riding in on a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

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/

17 comments:

Cynthia Woolf said...

I took a ride on a horse drawn sleigh in Breckinrigde. They covered our legs with an elk skin and then took us to a western dinner. It was great fun and I'd do it again in a heart beat.

Lana Williams said...

Paty - great post! This would be such a fun thing to do this time of year - it would really put you in the Christmas spirit!

Tanya Hanson said...

Great post, Paty. No sleigh ride yet for me but it's definitely a bucket list thing. I have sleighs in a couple of books, though.

Paty Jager said...

Cynthia, that sounds better than the ride we went on. We didn't get an elk hide or any kind of covering if we didn't bring it ourselves.

Thanks Lana! It would be a fun thing to do this time of year.

Hi Tanya! It's a great bucket list entry. It's hard to write a winter scene in a western and not have a sleigh or wagon with runners. especially if the books are set where they get lots of snow. Thanks for popping in!

VICKI BATMAN, said...

Hi, Paty! I've never been on a sleigh. I bet it's fun, tho. You always have such neat topics. Thank you for sharing.

LisaRayns said...

Oh, wonderful post. My sister has sleighs and buggies.

Roxy Boroughs said...

Sounds like great fun. Your words and that photo certainly puts one in the mood for a sleigh ride.

ellaquinnauthor said...

I've ridden in a horse drawn a couple of times in Austria. By the way sledge is the English word for sleigh. At least during the Regency it was.

Jessa Slade said...

A sleigh ride among the elk sounds so winter perfect. And a good excuse for hot cocoa ;)

Paty Jager said...

Vicki, Thanks for stopping in and your kind words.

Lisa, You must get lots of rides! My daughter wants a horse drawn sleigh and I'm sure once she gets back in the lower 48 she'll have one.

Thanks Roxy. That was the plan. ;0)

Ella, Sledge is the word for sleigh in England. Thanks for stopping in!

Hah, Jessa, you know me too well! Any time is a good time for Hot Chocolate!

Susan Macatee said...

Never have, Paty, but it sounds like it would be a lot of fun!

Caroline Clemmons said...

My sister-in-law's niece was married in winter and the guests were ferried from the wedding to the reception in fancy horse-drawn sleighs. She said it was a wonderful experience. Sounded lovely. I don't mind cold, but hate the heat of summer.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Susan. Maybe one of these days you'll have the chance.

Hi Caroline! That would be a wonderful way to make a winter wedding memorable.

Dianna said...

My Grandmother spoke often of her childhood on the family farm. She said that snow would pack into the horse's shoes forming into rock hard "snowballs". During a brisk trot they would come flying back at the people in the sleighs like baseball pitches. She had some great memories to tell us; you could swear you could smell fresh cut hay and feel the jostle of the mower during harvest or how when milking the cows in a winter barn they had one little cow that threw off so much heat she was like warming yourself by a kitchen stove. But you warmed your hands in your pockets first, cows do not appreciate cold hands!(That NCIS Gibbs "back-o-the-head slap" was invented by a disgruntled cow.)

Paty Jager said...

Dianna, it's fun listening to our elders and learning how things were in an earlier time. I had to laugh at comparing "NCIS Gibbs "back-o-the-head slap) to a cow. I've had my head smack by a cow's tail several times when milking and it is just like that. LOL

D'Ann said...

My family (dad and sister) ran sleigh rides out of Telluride for years. It's cold and hard work!

Paty Jager said...

D'Ann, I think riding in a horse drawn sleigh is fun but having a daughter who did horse driving in 4-H and all the work she did, I can't imagine doing all that in the cold weather. My hat's off to your family.