Horse-drawn sleigh rides

horse sleigh‘Jingle Bells’ begins with the lyric “dashing through the snow”, and thanks to one Ishpeming family, U.P. residents can do just that.

They call the business SleighMan, and they take visitors on horse drawn sleigh rides up hills and through trails. Located in West Ishpeming, the trail sits on 33 acres of land. A portion of it allows visitors to sled on toboggans down a steep hill before being caddied back up by the horses.

The business began when the Richards family purchased the first horse. Two more horses followed, and the fourth horse came with a baby.

“Once we had some trails, then we got a sleigh, and then a bigger sleigh and more sleighs and carts, wagons, so right now we can do singles or pairs on a wagon and then we can go riding, four or five people at a time, with the horses that we have,” SleighMan owner William Richards said.

The horses are Norwegian Fjords, one of the oldest breeds, and they take many years to train.

“Horses don’t know how to back up,” Richards said. “They always go forward, so you have to teach them to back up. You’ve got to teach them to go sideways, so there’s different exercises that we do that teaches them to back up, teaches them to go sideways, and then we have to be repetitive to get muscle strength so that they can do it over and over again on the move with weight on.”

Due to the lengthy training process, SleighMan has only been offering sleigh rides for two years. It’s not a seasonal business, either. The Williams family has a wagonette that seats six, and they use it in the warmer months.

A one-hour sleigh ride costs $150, and as you can see, it’s a fast and eventful trip perfect for a romantic Valentine’s Day. SleighMan also hosts parties of various natures that feature a bonfire and a pot luck meal in a large barn.

More information is available on their website.