Dashing through the snow, bells on bobtails ring, o’re the hills we go. We’ve all heard the song Jingle Bells and know the words that inevitably gets stuck in your head during the holidays. These lyrics truly came to life for me when I took a trip to Ruska Laukka horse stables right outside of Kuusamo. They offer horseback riding lessons, pony riding, trail rides, and sleigh ride adventures of a lifetime.
The trip was organized for the professional players on our team, a fun cultural event to experience life in Lapland. However, I was the lone foreign player on the team who had interest in these things. A newspaper team joined along with Arja, a club representative, to take pictures for a story to ask questions about the upcoming game.
We arrived to the stable greeted by Venni the sweet minishetland pony. He is a free-range horse, at his size he actually kept escaping the fences so they gave up on containing him. As the resident greeter he runs up the road alongside the dogs upon your arrival, after your sleigh ride, responds to treats, and is generally curious. He is what I would consider a dog trapped inside a mini-horse body. His friendliness added genuine character to the experience.
Two horses and two sleighs were prepared for our ride. It truly was an open sleigh drawn by one horse strapped with bells. The sleigh was so authentic, seats made with hay bales covered with reindeer pelts for warmth, because it is still -18 C outside, and blankets to cover up with during the ride. Arja and I rode in a sleigh driven by the owner with her young son on her lap. He was a good co-pilot until he fell asleep shortly after the ride began. I can’t blame with him though, it is a beautiful relaxing ride that could easily lull you into a dreamlike state.
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight
Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
As we got started on the trail through the woods o’re the fields we rode dashing all the way. The only noise you hear in the quiet forest, aside from the sleigh on the snow, is the gentle jingle of the bells on the horses bobtails, literally. The snow in the fields was so untouched it was impossible to imagine the last time any crops occupied the area. Moments like this make you truly feel like you have entered a winter wonderland.
The sleigh glided swiftly past snow-covered trees on a trail that seemed to take me like a scene from Narnia, a perfectly white forest full of undiscovered magic and adventure. The trees today were completely frost covered and heavy with snow.
At one point when the forest opened up again to the fields you could actually see in the distance the town of Kuusamo from the small hill we were on.
Finland is very flat which means your view from any hill will probably give you an amazing view of the snow covered horizon and the masses of trees reaching into the distance as far as you see. Our ride concluded and as we rode up we were greeted again by Venni, who gave each horse a nose nuzzle, as if to say well done buddy!
We then walkedto an old blacksmiths shop where a fire was waiting to warm us up. We conversed around the fire seated again on reindeer pelts, cooked sausages, eating traditional pastries, and drinking coffee. This the way you conclude most outdoor activities in Finland. Fire. Sausage. Coffee. It was a perfect ending to the day to my Jingle Bell afternoon. What fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh!