Sharon Kennedy – Sleigh Ride Time

If you want to give your family a special present during the holiday season and well into the New Year, book a sleigh ride from Melchiori’s Cold Springs Livery in Gwinn, MI. The clop, clop of the horses’ hooves will put everyone in a good mood. For 30 minutes, kids and adults will enjoy the beauty of their surroundings. Thanks to Jerry Melchiori and his daughter, Jesie, the magic of a winter sleigh ride will temporarily make Mom and Dad heroes in the eyes of their children.

Melchiori’s Livery is one of those rare places where winter weather is embraced by visitors as well as Julie and Rose, two Belgian mares who pull the sleigh. Well, actually the “sleigh” is a former hay wagon, but nobody cares about semantics when there’s so much fun to be had. “My parents used to own the Red Horse Ranch where my
dad, Jerry Melchiori, offered sleigh rides with his original team of Belgians,” Jesie said. “After the ranch was sold, Dad kept the horses for a few years but eventually sold them. However, he had the foresight to keep the sleighs and harnesses and other necessary tack.

“What had once been Red Horse Ranch became Up North Lodge. The original location of the ranch was on Mitchell Lake. When the ranch burned down, the owners rebuilt it in its current location on CR-557 in Gwinn, two miles from where it once stood. In 2018, I began managing the Lodge and told Dad it was only right we bring back the
sleigh rides. It took some coaxing, but a year later he finally agreed. We bought our own team of Belgians, Bob and Duke. This was the beginning of Melchiori’s Cold Springs Livery business. We offered winter sleigh rides to the public that were so well received, we grew our business from winter rides to summer and fall as well. We also started
participating in community parades.”

“We lost Bob to colic and needed a new team to pull the sleighs. Anyone who has worked with horses knows the importance of a team that pulls together. They have to get along and not pull against each other. Dad and I went to a horse auction in Indiana and purchased a team of Belgian mares, Julie and Rose, both in foal. Early last summer they
each delivered a healthy filly. We named one Daisy and the other Dixie. “Belgians are gentle giants and are perfect for our business. They don’t mind being petted by children and will patiently wait while family members take pictures. We
allow adults to hold the halters for a photo shoot. Sometimes Dad will show youngsters how to hold the reins during a sleigh ride. He always stands guard over them. It’s wonderful to hear the laughter of children as they ‘drive’ the horses and squeal with excitement when they pet them. We want everyone to enjoy the horses as much as the
sleigh ride.”

“There’s a lot of work involved in keeping horses. Along with the usual grooming, Duke and the mares go through 75 pounds of oats in two days. We also feed the mares a protein mix. The horses will consume a 900 pound round bale every five days. Our 100 gallon water tank is filled every other day. We take off much of our own hay and purchase the rest from DeVooght’s farm in Skandia. Timothy hay is best for the horses. It’s easily digestible, tends to give them a shiny coat, keeps them regular and at a healthy weight. Duke weighs about 1,800 pounds. The mares weigh approximately 1,600 to 1,800 pounds. Each horse has its own harness, sleigh ride halter, and warming and
cooling blankets. They winter at my farm on the outskirts of Gwinn, close to the Up North Lodge. They spend summer in Chatham on Dad’s 40 acre farm. Duke is our 13 year old gelding. Rose is 14 and Julie is 10. Although Julie is the youngest, she’s a good team member.”

“My son, Tyler, is groom and horse handler. Dad and Glenn Peterson are team drivers. I’m the marketer for our business. We offer rides Friday at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. for people who want to experience a ride beneath the stars. On Saturdays, we schedule rides every two hours starting at noon with the last one at 8:00 p.m. Sundays are from noon to
6:00 p.m. Reservations are required.”

“We have special accommodations for groups of 16 or more, and we’re looking into becoming wheelchair accessible. If the temperature falls below zero or icy conditions make it dangerous for the horses, we cancel the rides. It’s important for people to know we always consider safety first. We don’t allow alcoholic beverages to be consumed on the rides, and during the pandemic masks are required. Our sleigh is disinfected between rides, and we recommend guests bring their own blankets and dress for the weather. There are benches along the sleigh sides for seating.”

“Rides take place on the 80 wooded acres we lease behind the Lodge. The trails are groomed and the scenery is like a winter wonderland. We invite folks to come out and enjoy a ride before the snow is gone. Kids will love the jingle of harness bells, adults will appreciate the glistening snow as the sun hits it, and couples will smooch beneath a
winter moon! Rates are reasonable and can be found on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Melchioris-Cold-Springs-Livery-Horse-Drawn-Rides or call us at 906-360-7069 to make a reservation.”

One Comment

  1. It’s on my bucket list!

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