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As winter approaches and Christmas draws all too near, what could be better than a horse drawn sleigh ride? Across the world there are places to visit that are perfect for a sleigh. This is really a treat for a winter holiday. You are wrapped up warm in furs and your drawn vehicle glides across the snow drawn by horses. How did the idea for a horse drawn sleigh begin?
Sleighs (or sleds) are essential in areas of the world where snow falls most of the year and travelling by car is not as practical. A sleigh is an efficient way to glide across the snow, rather than wheeled transport that digs into the snow and causes pressure points making the drawn vehicle sink even further down requiring more energy to pull it. A sleigh, on the other hand, distributes the weight of the vehicle across the runners so it cuts and glides into the snow and ice, reducing friction. Teams of animals could be used to pull sleighs across terrain that would be impassable by another form of transport.
When we thinks of sleighs we usually imagine them being drawn by reindeer, or we think of the smaller sleds pulled by dogs. But horse drawn sleighs are just as popular in regions of the world where tough mountain ponies are ideally suited to the harsh conditions. Norway is one such country where visitors are charmed by a horse drawn sleigh ride, often as part of the experience of seeing the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. The stunning mountain region of Whistler in Canada also provides horse drawn sleigh rides through some of the most dramatic scenery in North America. Guests are warmly tucked up underneath blankets and given thermos flasks of hot drinks to keep them toasty as they travel through snow-covered trails.
For the more adventurous there are fast paced horse drawn sleigh rides taken at full gallop with horses racing each other across the snow. This can be a wild and exhilarating ride and in some places you can even have a go at driving the sleigh yourself.
The British weather in winter does not always lend itself to sleigh riding but that does not mean you cannot enjoy a sleigh ride in the beautiful highlands of Scotland. Your thermos flask is more likely to contain a hot toddy with whisky and the season may be more limited than elsewhere in the world, but viewing the highlands from the comfort of a horse drawn sleigh can be a really breath-taking experience. It is a firm favourite in this region for tourists celebrating the traditional New Year celebrations, or Hogmanay.
So if you are looking for a winter trip with a difference it is worth considering a horse drawn sleigh ride as part of your experience. Just remember to wrap up warm and don't forget your camera!