Carriage ride at Garden Gate Nursing Home in Cheektowaga, NY.

Christmas came early for Garden Gate Nursing Home residents in the form of holiday carriage rides led by two distinguished Clydesdales.

Residents and their families were treated to tours around the 184-bed Cheektowaga, NY, facility — fully decked out with holiday lights and decorations — courtesy of a horse-and-carriage team brought in from nearby Banner Farm.

“I thought it would be wonderful for the families and the residents to get together during the holidays,” said Rhonda Gorman, activity director at Garden Gate. “A lot of times we do a tree lighting or something like that, but this time we thought it would be nice to do something different.” 

She was inspired to organize a carriage ride activity after the success of festive fall hayrides earlier in the year. 

The event — which Gorman is calling “Country Christmas” — drew quite a crowd. Gorman estimated between 50 and 75 residents, family members and staff came to hang out with the horses.

Residents who were physically able were whisked away on the carriage ride, but even those who weren’t able to access the ride itself got to participate in the highlight of the event.

Even more than the holiday spirit-boosting ride, the horses were clearly the star of the show. The team showed up early and stayed late, Gorman said, ensuring that everyone got to spend time with and even pet the enormous Clydesdales. 

“It really adds a wonderful quality of life for the residents to get outside in the wintertime and see horses and be with their families,” Gorman said. “It’s something that we strive for with our staff.”

The Banner Farm Clydesdales don’t only go out for Christmas events, but the horse breed has become synonymous with Christmas ever since it was featured in an iconic series of holiday Budweiser ads. 

This is the first time that Garden Gate has run the carriage ride event, but it will not be the last.

“This will definitely be an annual tradition,” Gorman stated.

And the holiday season is just getting started for Garden Gate’s residents, as the facility has more Christmas events lined up, including three days of lunch and gifts with Santa later this week.