Thursday, December 30, 2010

Let's Go On A Sleigh Ride!

        Williamstown holds many surprizes, especially in Winter, when few but the ski fans dare make the journey to our mountains. Just a hop, skip and slide from The 1896 House at the foot of the hill that becomes route 43, is Green River Farms.
Dave Larabee and his daughter
give horse drawn Sleigh Rides
on snow-covered weekend days.

His company, aptly named SPECIALTY CARRIAGE & WAGON RIDES, is a year round service of hayrides, wagon rides and even funeral and wedding rides. I saw him at the Parade in North Adams this past Fall.

Was I ever tickled to spot a sleighride in progress. Many charmed motorists slowed or stopped to take in the quaint view along with me. The bright red sleigh filled with smiling people, clomping across the snowy orchard hills along Route 7 was reminiscent of Currier & Ives or a Grandma Moses painting.
I quickly took my place in line when the sleigh came to a stop at the hay bags attached to a small shed. The horses fed gratefully, while Dave prepared for the next 40 minute trip.
There are generally 4 trips per day. It cost only $12 per person and they provide blankets to crawl shivering under when the temp drops below comfortable.

The sleigh holds about 10-12 people depending on their size. Dave and his daughter sit up front to drive, but they do invite a young child to sit with them as a treat.

I climbed into the sleigh and quickly grabbed a blanket and my camera.

"Backing up is the hardest part", said Dave, as we eased slowly backwards to get positioned on the path.
Dave said he walks the whole trail path before he takes the sleigh on it each day. He clears any debri, checks for ice and bare spots, and notes how he will guide the horses around them.
The sleigh is built to work best on cold snow,  (and really cold temps), so slushy warm winter days make for a bumpy ride. Today was a little warm and slushy, but there were spots where the horses felt inspired to trot quite rapidly, giving some of us a gleeful whiplash startle.

As we trotted serenely around the hills and fields, Dave and his daughter gave a pleasant and interesting running commentary about the area. They also told us about the care, feeding and personality traits of our host horses, "Bob" and "Karen".
They weigh over 1000 lbs and they each eat 60 lbs of hay and a pound or so of grains per day. They love to run and play in the fields when they are not pulling the sleigh or a wagon.
Dave obviously loves and respects these animals and they are treated well.

Bob the horse was particularly "spritely" and Dave said Bob plays tricks on the handlers sometimes by trying to hide behind small trees when they come to get him from the field. He picks on the other horses as well.
His ears raise up and flop slightly and he bays (blurts?) out "raspberries" when he is content (which he did several times along our journey).

Karen, who is 18 years old, was in "work horse" mode and remained silent as she trudged along with purpose and power. She seemed to lead the team more than Bob, who found it amusing (I am sure) to leave "presents" in the path while I was filming the video of the ride.

We had breathtaking views of the mountain scenery and even saw Mount Greylock off in the distance. The farm fields themselves are beautiful enough. Adding in the mountains makes it a spectacular ride.

I felt pretty healthy and almost like a real outdoorsey type...except my eyes were teared up,
makeup smeared,
my face was beat red from the cold air,

hair hopelessly windblown out of any style, and my nose ran constantly.
I am sure glad I did not bring a romantic interest along!

Anytime we came upon a hill, the horses suddenly took to a gallop and while I am no motorhead, I appreciate what the term "more horsepower" means.

Thankfully, no rider felt inspired to sing a chorus of jingle bells or sleigh ride, but the jingle jangle of the horses was pleasant. Dave said it is a law that after sunset, the horses must have bells on. One of those old "Blue Laws" still in the books.

As we returned to the Farm starting gate, I marveled at the fact there is so much hidden fun you can find around here without going very far or spending a lot of money.

Dave's daughter opened up the small side barn for us to warm up in. While some of my co-sleigh riders enjoyed the animal pens,

I gulped down what was possibly the best tasting hot cocoa of winter... and it came free with the sleighride!

What a great way to top off a frosty afternoon in the country!


Here is the short video I took while on our journey...
Sleigh Ride

Hey...Dave also provides private sleigh rides if you want to impress someone special (without a crowd around...)

To contact Dave about taking a Sleigh Ride
CALL: 413-884-4923 or 413-458-4283
Love and peace,