Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Listening?

November 2019

Most people like to wax-poetic when it comes to describing our winters here in Northwestern Ontario, but we all know poetry only takes us so far. After awhile we get tired of “the sweep of easy wind and downy flake” and although the woods may be “lovely, dark and deep”, when it’s 35 below and the wind is howling, winter is better enjoyed viewed through a window, with a fire in the hearth, and a thick sweater covering us from chin to bum.

So, what is there to do during our half year of winter? There are only so many books to read, Netflix series to watch, or sweaters to knit before a person gets antsy and needs to get outside. And while skiing and snowshoeing and ice-fishing may be the norm for some, perhaps others want to try something new – or, rather, something old.

Years ago, there were horses: big, strong, majestic horses who pulled the cart in the summer and the sleigh in the winter. Travel by horse was seen as a necessity, especially when children had to attend school on cold winter mornings, or an emergency prompted a quick trip to the city hospital. When the era of the automobile began, the horse became the poor man’s way of travel. Then, when all farmers could afford tractors, horses were sold, and sleighs and carts were put in storage to collect dust and the sound of sleigh bells ringing on a cold winter’s night was gone and then forgotten. But not at Gammondale farm.

Every winter, for the past 30 years, Sue and Gerry Gammon have harnessed their horses and brought scores of people on sleigh rides, the old-fashioned way.

“There is something enchanting about a sleigh ride on a winter’s evening,” Sue says. “It never gets old with me. Every time I go out, I have a wonderful time, and I’m always happy to share the experience and watch people enjoy everything: the moon, the stars, the stillness of the night, the sound of the sleigh as it cuts through the snow, and the pounding of the horses’ hooves in rhythm with the sleigh bells.”

And it is enchanting, especially when you have a chance to meet the horses up close and personal.

Kip, Tex, Ike, and Larry are black Percherons, one of the tallest horse breeds in the world. Standing between 18 and 18.2 hands, (1.82 metres from the ground to where their neck meets their back), a person cannot see over their backs. And along with their huge stature are their huge hearts. They are gentle beasts who are very willing to work and even more willing to please.

“It’s strange now, how years ago, when people used horses as their main means of transportation that they were afraid of cars and planes. Now that the car is the main mode, people are afraid of the horse,” Sue says. “But once people meet these guys, they’re in awe and even more pleasantly surprised when they see how calm they are.”
To complete the sleigh ride experience, hot beverages are provided in the cozy log house so guests can warm up before they hop on the sleigh for another round. There are also opportunities to visit the barn and meet the farm animals.

For those who want a little romance, cutter rides for 2 are also available.

So, to wax poetic once again, a different verse comes to mind: “Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening. A beautiful sight, we’re
happy tonight. Walking in a winter wonderland.”

To learn more about Gammondale Farm go to

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

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