There are moments during every Maine winter when time seems to stand still, as if one has wandered into a Norman Rockwell painting of down-home comforts against a background of white. There are minutes when time and the elements conspire to delight us as we pause in a snow globe with perfect snowflakes twirling about and the wind a melody to add further solace.

We sing about winter and snow in our favorite holiday carols, artists make paintings about it, we romanticize about it on magical Christmas Eves when Santa visits, some choose it as a venue to celebrate special occasions, and others do it just to feel a bit of the magic.

Winter in Maine is the perfect time, the only time, to experience the “fun” of an afternoon or evening spent “dashing through the snow, in a one – or two – horse open sleigh.”

Meadow Creek Farm

Although Butch and Becky Durgin have owned Meadow Creek Farm in Sumner, about 45 minutes from Lewiston-Auburn, since 1997, they “have always been around horses.”

According to Becky, “We live at the farm and I have nine horses of my own, and a rescue: three Belgians, four Haflingers and three saddle horses.”

To pull their handmade red sleigh, designed and built by Butch, Meadow Creek Farm has two working teams of two horses. Nine-year-old Belgians and half-brothers born 17 days apart, Bill and Ben, “do the work,” while Butch drives. Each weights about a ton a piece, said Becky, and not many people can tell them apart. Haflingers, Nute and Mick, will also have their own sleigh this winter.

The sleigh can carry up to six people each trip. “It’s a small sleigh for the horses, but we like to keep it small and personal, and sometimes we put people up front to let them drive or hold the reigns.”

The trail at Meadow Creek Farm follows the Nezinscot River, crossing over a couple of times. Guests are provided comfortable faux fur blankets to keep them nice and warm during their winter wonderland adventure, which concludes with hot cocoa and homemade refreshments back at the farmhouse.

Deepwood Farm

DiAnne and Wyatt Ward have lived and worked on Deepwood Farm in Bethel for 30 years. For a very small farm, said DiAnne, “It’s a pretty busy place!”

Although she has 10 or 12 horses of her own, and she boards another 10 or so, Ward has one draft horse that does all the work, when it comes to the sleigh. His name is “Sam I Am, and he’s a Belgium Newfoundland cross, 17 hands tall and about 1,500 pounds,” said DiAnne proudly, adding “he has a good heart and he likes to work.”

Sam I Am especially loves to pull the sleigh, and DiAnne drives it while guests cuddle beneath warm blankets.

In addition to sleigh rides on the groomed trails at the farm, Ward works at the Bethel Inn where sleigh rides go out every half hour from 5 to 7:30 p.m. most nights starting in late December, all the way through March, if there’s snow.

Ward enjoys “the hush of the Inn,” where they take advantage of the groomed cross-country ski trails and let the stars light the way; but when it’s snowing, she said, “it’s magical.”

High View Farm

High View Farm in Harrison has been in Bill Winslow’s family since 1810. Bill and his wife Darcy live, work and raised a family there.

Along with their small herd of dairy cows, the Winslows have five horses “all Belgian draft horses, about a ton a piece,” said Bill. “I’ve had Belgians since 1984. Raised, trained and sold horses for quite a few years,” he added.

“We have three sleighs and each is pulled by a team of two horses,” he said. Which sleigh he drives depends on the size of the party, and High View Farm can accommodate parties of two to 15 people. “I bought our six-passenger sleigh from a gentleman in Hebron, who said it was the sleigh body that was used by the Poland Spring Hotel to bring people back and forth to the train station in Danville,” he said, adding, “The sled that body goes on came from my aunt’s barn in Naples and was probably built in the 1920s and then last used in the 40s.”

Rides last about 45 minutes, over groomed trails and fields, through an old growth forest and across a brook by a couple of bridges. “We start at 11 in the morning and go out every two hours with the last ride going out at 5 p.m. seven days a week, except Christmas day, as long as there’s snow.”

Northern Heights Farm

When Jeff and Colleen Winslow purchased Northern Heights Farm in Waterford, less than an hour outside of Lewiston-Auburn, nine years ago, the house was just a little shack and the barn was falling down. Now, said Colleen, it has been completely restored and since their initial purchase they have added another 59 acres, bringing their total acreage to 75.

In addition to their nine horses, including the three big Belgians that pull their sleighs, Northern Heights Farm has two miniature donkeys, sheep and angora rabbits – for spinning wool – and a Cashmere goat.

While Jeff drives the sleigh, Colleen greets the customers and prepares the bonfires, hot chocolate and other amenities.

With two sleighs, the Winslows can offer two very different rides.

“Our big sleigh fits 12 adults comfortably and is great for families. And our new, antique replica, one-horse open sleigh – a fancy, black Santa Claus sleigh with an upholstered seat is just for couples. Couple rides,” said Colleen, “are romantic,” but with all of the animals on the farm, Jack, Colleen and their children enjoy introducing families to the farm animals before the sleigh rides, making for a fun farm experience for families.

Rides begin as soon as the snow flies, and mowing the trails ahead of time means they need just a minimal amount of snow.

All rides are private, and are spaced two hours apart to afford each party a personal and intimate and/or exciting experience.

Sleigh rides are done primarily by reservation only, although every now and then one can get lucky and book at the last minute, and all are affordably priced according to the number of guests and whether a bonfire is requested, with a hookup and minimum charge. To learn more about how you can experience the magic of a winter sleigh ride, call or visit:

Becky and Butch Durgin at

, 207-388-2044 or at www.meadowcreekfarmofmaine.com;

DiAnne and Wyatt Ward at Deepwood Farm, 207-824-2595, the Bethel Inn, 207-824-2175, extension 0, or at www.deepwoodfarm.com;

Bill and Darcy Winslow at

, 207-595-1601, by email at [email protected] or at www.high-view-farm.com; or,

Colleen and Jeff Winslow at Northern Heights Farm, 207-595-3377, or at www.northernheightsfarm.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.