WASHINGTON - Crisp air, snow-covered trails, children riding "reindeer" through the woods and Santa with his sleigh.
No, it's not the setting of a classic Christmas tale. It's the Reindeer Rides at the Rock Creek Park Horse Center.
Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21, families are invited to Rock Creek Park's stables, where children, ages 3 and up, can ride the barn's ponies -- dressed as reindeer -- through a trail in the park.
"We have got awesome ponies and a legion of elf volunteers," says Maureen Nelson, programs manager at the Rock Creek Park Horse Center. "We dress up the ponies and we hit the trails."
The quarter-mile rides, led by the barn's volunteers, take about 15 minutes, and parents typically walk alongside for the holiday adventure.
"And then, of course, you have to budget in time to whisper in Santa's ear," says Nelson, who says the barn has been doing the Reindeer Rides for about three or four years.
"We just can't stop dressing up the horses and, you know, getting smiles on our faces, so I think it just naturally came out of our love of fun -- and you know, why not? We're having fun all year long, so this is a natural for us."
Nelson says the Reindeer Rides are different from typical pony rides.
"First of all, they're not going around in a circle in a ring, which is really different from your Joe pony ride.' They're out there in the woods, they get to see everything. This time of year, you can see way out there. And they just get the magic of those fairy tales," she says.
Munchie, a pony at the barn, is one of the handful of ponies on duty for the event.
"Munchie is always the star He's just got the charm. He's the most delightful man here, he loves kids," says Nelson, who jokes that Munchie has about 2 inches on a Great Dane.
Reservations for a Reindeer Ride can be made on the Horse Center's website, and the barn will also take walk-ins.
"Any way you shake it, we're ready to roll," Nelson says.
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