As a bit of a Christmas miracle, people and horses from Pärnu County have been known on occasion to end up in Tartu for the holiday season for years now. 😊
Jaanus Kallaste is one such man, who, for many years now, has spent his Christmas in Tartu with his family (and horses). To show that they care and appreciate Jaanus, the residents of Tartu respond in kind, sharing stories about family Christmas traditions that revolve around sleigh rides with the horses and coach drivers from Jaanus’ stables. A sweet elderly lady once let Jaanus in on an insightful observation, noting that grandchildren used to go to the countryside to see their grandmothers and ride sleighs, whereas these days things are quite the opposite. The grandmothers are the ones coming to town and taking their grandchildren for a spin around Tartu Town Hall Square.
The sleighs are ready with Passion and Poltergeist taking the lead this year. Ortensia and Priisa have also promised to head down to Tartu. All four are local Tori breed horses and happen to be distinct personalities in their own right.
Passion is the leader of the herd and believes he serves a higher purpose. He guards the foals and their mothers, keeps order within the herd to keep the young colts from getting too cocky and makes sure they show respect towards their elders. Passion puts every new coachman and rider to the test and is perfectly aware that he is one extremely dashing horse.
Poltergeist is a loyal and faithful friend, if somewhat peculiar in his ways. He prefers the company of people to that of other animals and his bloodline has gifted him with a strong will to work as a draught horse.
Ortensia has finished tending to her offsprings and is back in shape for sleigh season. She isn’t too crazy about being doted on and prefers to keep things straightforward with just the right amount of attention. And when it comes to deciding how much attention is the right amount, she always has the final say, as all of her ancestors hold records for equestrian high jump and won first prizes in all sorts of pulling contests.
This will be Priisa’s second winter in Tartu. This farm girl is still a little shy and is slowly getting accustomed to the ways of the city. She has managed quite well, given that the city isn’t all that different from the stables back home. After all, she has Ortensia and familiar people to keep her company in Tartu.
Driving around in the city takes skill and experience – only a few select horses are trusted with this task. Coachmen Ott and Jaanus will usually be the ones to grab hold of the reigns in Town Hall Square, but you will occasionally also see Christi or Siiri accompanying them in Tartu.
Horses and sleighs will be on Town Hall Square from 15:30–20:00 on 31 December and 1, 2 & 3 January.
A quick word of comfort to those hoping for a ride at a later hour – sometimes it’s a good idea to call Jaanus on the number below; from time to time, and provided there are people interested, he can stay in the Village of Light a little longer.
Price: €7 per person per sleigh ride (children up to the age of 3 ride free).
Contact details for sleigh rides: +372 528 6284 (Jaanus Kallaste, also speaks Horse)