The sleigh creaks as it rounds a turn, and a harness jingles merrily.
The sleigh glides over a trail carved into snow of the gently sloping Meadow Lakes Golf and Country Club course.
Snow dampens the sound of our six-person sleigh as we trot through the hushed white scenery.
Our sleigh horse, the gentle giant “Rocky”, is eager to get going on the home stretch and lengthens his trot stride. Light glistens off Rocky’s hames collar, shiny silver prongs used to support his harness.
We bounce lightly in the sleigh, covered by huge blankets, as Rocky carries us over small bridges, up a small hill and all throughout the golf course.
My sleigh seat partner shrieks softly when Rocky plunges down a short incline and the sled briefly feels a bit like a wooden roller coaster juddering around a sharp turn.
We’ve got nothing to fear, as sleigh operator Michael Wanner rights Rocky using the long reins and guides him back on the groomed trail.
It’s hard to imagine travelling by a sleigh as a primary method of transportation, but at the same time there’s a certain romantic allure to it. Wind whips our faces, the cold sneaks under our large blankets, but you can’t help imagining what it must have been like to harness up a big draft horse to travel into town.
Pulling a large cherry-red, six-person sleigh is no small feat for a horse, but Rocky is no ordinary horse. He is close to 2,000 pounds of muscled Belgian draft horse, and has a friendly and personable face peering out from lovely blond forelocks.
Standing at 18 hands high, he towers over us, his owner Michael Wanner, and any normal-sized horse, which usually don’t grow taller than 16.2 hands.
When we meet Wanner and Rocky for our sleigh ride, Rocky can’t stop watching us. Wanner mentions that Rocky is used to having photographs taken and people admiring him, as he also pulls carriages in Dawson during the summer season.
“Now Rocky is starting work in the winter season, but he’s known about town in the summers in Dawson for sure. He’s a bit of a celebrity horse there,” says Wanner fondly. This is Rocky’s second year of pulling a sleigh, and according to Wanner, Rocky “takes to it like a duck to water.”
At 19 years old, Rocky is still going strong.
Michael Wanner operates Rocky’s Rides at the Meadow Lakes Golf and Country Club, arranging sleigh rides for tour groups and individuals with special event sleigh rides for Valentines Day and Rendezvous.
His sleigh rides are by appointment, and the sleigh holds five guests. The ride usually takes 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how energetic Rocky is and if he feels like trotting a lot … or a little.
Rocky’s Rides operates almost every day and end when night falls. To book a ride, contact Michael Wanner at 633-4553.