Mike and Barb Miller’s critters supply horsepower for carriage rides

The Hitching Company co-owner Mike Miller gives horse-drawn carriage rides and tours of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. (MPR photo/Amanda Snyder)

The horse-drawn carriage rides you see around the Twin Cities, especially in Minneapolis, are supplied by The Hitching Company, owned by Mike and Barb Miller. The Millers have a farm near Stacy north of the Twin Cities where they have 22 horses, most of them employed to pull various conveyances for hire here and around the country.

Mike allowed me to sit ‘up top’ alongside him as we clip-clopped through a portion of downtown Minneapolis including across the Stone Arch bridge.  You can hear excerpts of our ride today as part of my Minnesota Sounds & Voices story on All Things Considered.  The Millers, their horses and rigs, are a big deal not just locally but elsewhere.  Mike and his teams make appearances in all sorts of parades.  On many weekends he and Barb and some four-legged companions are in their 18-wheeler en route to special appearances.

One can’t resist a visit to the very fine Minnesota Historical Society collection of photos that document, in this case, the big role horses played before the infernal, sorry, internal combustion engine.  Courtesy of the MHS, here’s an 1886 view by an unknown photographer of what passed for Minneapolis mass transit back then.

A horse-drawn street car image from 1886 by an unknown photographer courtesy the Minnesota Historical Society.

There are plenty of colorful accounts of the ‘output’ left by horses on city streets back then.  Not these days.  The Miller’s horses have strategically placed bags  to catch the eliminations.  And as for the horse’s treatment, the company is licensed by the city of Minneapolis which requires inspections by the city’s Animal Control staff.  The Millers practice herd health on their own with routine vet visits.  Mike asserts the horses have a better health plan than most Americans.

Finally, another historic photo courtesy of the MHS, and this one is precious.  Take a careful look.  It’s a horse-drawn wagon with workers making repairs to the overhead electrical lines that powered the streetcars.

A 1923 photo from the Minneapolis Journal newspaper of a horse-drawn wagon with crew repairing overhead electrical wires for the streetcar system. (Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)