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In the time before automobiles became popular, many people traveled by horse and buggy in the summer and by sleigh in the winter. Instead of having just one type of transportation in the winter months, people often had a couple of types for different purposes. The most commonly used types were the sleigh and the cutter.
One of the biggest differences between a cutter and a sleigh is the size. Cutters were created for leisurely driving among one or two couples. They were meant to be snug and comfortable. Sleighs, though, were built to accommodate a larger group. They offer a larger capacity so entire families or groups of people can travel together.
The runners are an important element of any form of horse-drawn, winter transportation. The way in which the runners were formed for the cutter and the sleigh were different, reflecting their individual purposes. Because the cutter was used for longer, slower rides, the runners are straighter, which means the cutter is meant to keep going straight. While it can be turned, turns must be taken slowly and wider than normal. The sleigh's runners are placed closer together, which allows for easier turns, though they should still be taken wide and slow.
While the primary use of both a cutter and a sleigh is transportation in the snowy winter months, they each have their own individual purpose. Because cutters offered a cozier ride with all occupants sitting close together, cutters were often used for courting. In modern times, they offer romantic rides for couples in the winter. The sleigh, though, is large enough to accommodate an entire family or a large group of friends. Sleighs were most often used to transport the family to church or another family member's home. Some companies still use sleighs during the winter months to offer rides to visitors.
The construction of cutters and sleighs also differ because of the structures of each type. The cutter, for instance, is built lower to the ground and requires more flexibility to ensure the jarring of the road does not break the structure. The builder often uses a glue to secure the boards together. The construction of the sleigh, however, is sturdier and more rigid. Because the sleigh sits much higher than a cutter, the runners absorb more of the shock and protect the sleigh's structure.
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