On Sunday, March 29 fifteen sleighs gathered at the farm of Steve Novalkowsky, situated just outside the northwest boundary of Riding Mountain National Park. Steve and Clint Marzoff organize these excursions, held every Sunday in February and March.
There were horse-drawn sleighs of every description, some with traditional hay bale seating and one outfitted with old church pews. The teams were all shapes and sizes, too, including huge, handsome Percherons, gentle giant Belgians, colourful paint mares and perfectly matched palomino quarter-horses.
The scene was bustling with almost 70 people hitching their teams, loading picnic containers, offering extra blankets and calling out to each other in welcome and friendship. A little coated dog trotted after its owner and smiles of anticipation were all around.
The sleighs formed a long line as the teams pulled out. It was an awesome sight and a feast for the senses as well. The smells of horses and leather permeated the fresh, spring air. Horses whinnied, sleigh bells jingled and the drivers used gentle voices to settle and encourage their horses.
There was a real sense of adventure as the horses entered Riding Mountain National Park, negotiating growth caused by tree fungus. There were fresh moose prints, deer trails, elk droppings, and wolf tracks, but the expedition made too much noise for any viewings.
There was a 15-minute break at Kay’s Lake Cabin, were people were able to stretch their legs, use the facilities and peek into the rustic warden accommodation. The final destination was Kay’s Lake Campground. Fires were started, smokies roasted and lunches gobbled up, while horses, tethered to hitching rails and trees, rested in the sunshine.
A brave grey jay fluttered repeatedly to the ground, hopeful of handouts. Kids lobbed snowballs and a couple of “face washes” were witnessed. The ambience was heartfelt and horse lovers were pronounced “good people.”
Altogether, the trip covered 12 miles and lasted all afternoon. From the campground, the route back only took 40 minutes and the last run of the season was over. Anyone with a team of horses is welcome to join in. But, you don’t have to have your own team and sleigh to participate, as many folks have room in their sleighs for occasional passengers.