Horse-powered winter fun in Cook

Audio Articles on Hometown Focus is sponsored by Rock Ridge Public Schools.

COOK—It started out as a simple day of horse-drawn sleigh riding for a group of friends.

A decade later, it’s still a simple day of horse-drawn sleigh riding, but now it’s open to all who would like to head north of Cook to join the fun. Mike and Katie Hanson, who own Due North Haflingers (a type of draft horse), organized the community sleigh party this January for the 10th year in a row. They ask for food shelf donations in return for all the sleigh rides and s’mores you can handle.

“People come from miles around,” said Mike Hanson, who is pictured with his team on this week’s cover. “They enjoy the heck out of it.”

Hanson held the reins as Grace and Demi, his team of Haflingers, perkily pulled his century-old sleigh through the powdery snow. Families sat snuggled together on the sleigh benches, sometimes singing, sometimes telling stories, all to the tune of real jingle bells on the horses’ harness.

As many as 300 people and seven teams of horses have been part of the event over the years. On Saturday, families trickled in and out of the event all afternoon, hopping on the two larger sleighs for a spin along the wooded trails.

Ed Nelson brought a team of Percherons from his farm near Hibbing. He offers sleigh rides at “Mr. Ed’s Farm,” as well as tours and interactions with the farm’s animal residents. He has belonged to the North Star Draft Horse Association, which helps out during the sleigh ride, for years.

“I’ve had a lot of good horses,” Nelson said. His team on Saturday was 13 yearold Dan and 9 year-old Lily. Dan has “one speed,” Nelson said, while Lily can “kick into four-legged drive” when needed.

“It takes over all your senses,” Nelson said. “The sound of the bells, the cold air, the bright snow, the smell of the horses… it’s very real.”

Nelson said he values the spirit of the community ride that’s developed over the years.

“The event that Mike and Kathie have put together, where you can ride for free, as much as you want, and help out the food shelf, it’s an old-fashioned help-outyour neighbors event,” Nelson said.

Saturday’s event raised nearly $1,000 and 278 pounds of food for the Cook Community Food Shelf.

Janna Goerdt is a HTF staff writer.

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