INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — If you visit Lake Tahoe’s Sand Harbor beach on a snowy winter day, chances are you will hear sleigh bells.
The jingles are coming from Borges Sleigh Rides, the lake's oldest sleigh and carriage ride company. Dwight Borges, owner and sleigh driver, says if you give his horse Duke a little treat, there’s a chance you might hear a familiar song.
“Duke's favorite song is 'Jingle Bells' and he loves to hear it. Everybody likes to sing it,” Borges said.
Once Duke gets his treat, Borges will give the reins a shake and your scenic tour of Tahoe’s Sand Harbor beach will begin.
For 50 years, the Borges family has provided sleigh and carriage rides to Tahoe tourists. Duke is an 18-year-old Belgian Draft horse, one of the strongest horse breeds, and that comes in handy when powering through melting snow. Borges says the snow melts quicker these days, so many of the sleighs have retractable wheels if they need to get over bare pavement.
The business was built on a fond memory Dwight’s father Sam Borges had as a kid.
“It was a fun memory my dad had growing up in Massachusetts, riding on a sleigh," Borges said.
Funny enough, Massachusetts is where the song “Jingle Bells” was written.
“Just outside of Boston, they had sleighs that they would race," Borges said, adding those sleigh races often involved questionable driving and getting "upsot," which in the old days meant "getting drunk."
“Yep, that is in the second verse,” Borges said.
A simple Internet search will lead you to some disappointing truths about the song, but long song short: all ends well as inebriated sleigh riders go dashing through the snow.
“It’s more of a party song than anything else,” Borges said.
Alcohol is not provided on the Borges Sleigh Ride, but what is provided is a romantic experience. Borges says on average, he witnesses a whopping 15 to 20 marriage proposals a winter!
“I can say that we have 100 percent success. Valentine’s Day is coming up and this is the sleigh people want to ride in,” Borges said.
Speaking of romance, Borges had a small part in the HBO Max reality show "12 Dates of Christmas," although it wasn’t all that romantic.
“When they got eliminated like most do in those bachelor or bachelorette shows, Duke carried them out on a carriage,” Borges said.
A ride with Duke and Dwight truly is a memorable trip. Not just because of beautiful views and romantic setting, but because of the bond you get to experience between a sleigh driver and his horse.
“I’ve always been part of the horse's life and they will always be a part of mine as long as we have a safe place to do sleigh rides,” Borges said.
Borges Sleigh Rides run weather permitting during the winter. Be sure to check their website for times and availability.
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