Jingle all the way: Enjoy a sleigh ride this season

John Allegra of East Haddam with Sir Lancelot, a British shire draft horse.
John Allegra of East Haddam with Sir Lancelot, a British shire draft horse.

On the outset, the idea of a horse-drawn sleigh, hoofing, slicing and jingling through the snow may seem like the serenest of scenes, the Courier-est and the Ives-est.

But the horse-drawn business, isn't exactly the a picture postcard way to earn a living.

"I'm going on about two hours sleep," Jon Allegra, owner and operation ofthe Allegra Farms in East Haddam said over his cell phone.

Allegra was on his way back from New York City where he was helping a film crew shoot a commercial that required a chariot. He has the horses and, yes, he has the chariot, one of several equine powered vehicles at Allegra Farm, which is also home to the Horse Drawn Carriage and Sleigh Museum of New England.

Allegra usually goes along on the shoots and various off-site locations his business takes him.

"I'm very hands-on," Allegra said.

But even though he was going on two-hours and had a miles to go before he could sleep, Allegra's voice and picked up a bit when he could talk about sleigh rides for a few minutes.

"Actually, it really is like Courier and Ives," Allegra said.

According to the Connecticut Office of Tourism, along with Allegra Farm, there's Foxglove Farm in Lyme and Cedar Knoll Farm in Lisbon all within roughly an hour's drive of New London where you can don your scarf and earmuffs, fill up a cup of wassail and go on open sleigh ride.

Allegra, who's got a bit of a sense of humor, said the first thing you need for a sleigh ride, is indeed, snow.

"We don't do mud rides," Allegra said.

Allegra was half-joking. What is essential to a successful sleigh ride is a frozen ground, which with recent weather trends, pushes the season into January and February.

After a snowfall, Allegra said the phone starts ringing for reservations.

"It's usually families and other get togethers," Allegra said.

Allegra has sleigh which can accommodate as little as two people up to six.

Unlike his other fleet of carriages, Allegra's sleighs stay on the farm, which includes a run through the near by woods, with its views of Lake Hayward.

"It really is over the river and through the woods," he said.

Allegra's sleighs are pulled by two-horse teams, what he jokingly calls the "Bud Lights," nod to the Budwieser Clydesdales that tend to trot out on Christmastime beer advertisements.

Sometimes, Allegra sets up some bonfires and the sleighs will shuttle between them.

Lisbon's Cedar Knoll Farm, which also offers carriages for hire, has a two to three person sleigh which a can be fitted for tires, if temperatures are milder than the norm.

But it also has runners, in case the winter weather cooperates.

At Foxglove Farm, if it's snowing around the holidays look for the farm's popular "rides with Santa."

Still driving back to East Haddam, Allegra suddenly needed to get off the phone. It was getting late and he had to make some more business calls.

But winter's not far off.

"Don't that bring a smile to your face," Allegra said.


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