Getting their kicks: Horse and carriage hobby proves popular service

December, 2016 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community

plowingBy Nancy Jennings

Major, Spike, Oliver and Quincy are chomping at the bit to meet you. Along with their owners Tim and Betty Bielenberg, these majestic draft horses will be decked out in their holiday finery at Sublimity’s Sixth Annual Christmas in the Country Light Parade. Tim and Betty have been involved in the parade since it began. Rides range from 30 to 45 minutes long, with different routes taken through town. The couple own seven carriages and wagons. Kicking off on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m., the parade will start on E. Main Street at the Sublimity Middle School. Then it will travel South on Pine, West on Church, North on Center to Starr. It will conclude at D&W Automotive. Following the parade, all are invited to come to Early Settlers Park, between Sublimity City Hall and Sublimity Fire Station, for caroling and watch as Santa and his friends light the City Christmas tree. Afterwards, Santa will give out candy canes inside of the fire station.

Married for 40 years, Tim, 64, and Betty, 60, are dairy and row crop farmers in Aumsville. The horses help around the farm, pulling a plow with Tim walking behind. But they also get fancied up for special occasions. The Bielenbergs started Mill Creek Carriages in 2012.

“It’s a hobby that developed into its own business,” Tim said.horse-carriage-2016

“As long as we’ve been married, he talked about wanting draft horses and he finally got them,” Betty added.

They got their horses in 2010, with th eintention of using them on the farm. They stable them in Sublimity on the property of  their good friends Tony and Renee Hendricks. Renee kidded Tim and said “You need to get a wagon and start a carriage business and help pay for them.”

“That was the beginning of the major part of it. We built the ‘people mover’ that hauls about 10-12 adults. We used it in a lot of parades,” Tim said. The community took notice and the horse carriage rides took off.

Sublimity resident Sherry Gallaway and her husband Les started offering free hot chocolate and cookies to riders during the holiday event. At the end of the route for the night, she places two carrots on a platter just for the horses.

“The horses will look around and look for that platter. They know her,” Tim laughed.

“Tim and Tony now have these horses to keep them busy and out of trouble. It hasn’t worked, but it was a good thought,” Renee joked. “It’s been very good for both of them.”

The horses can weigh between 1,000 and 2,300 pounds. Spike, Oliver and Quincy are full Shires (English breed). Major is a Shire/Percheron (French breed) mix. Grooming and preparing for a carriage ride is no small feat.  For the two-horse team, it takes an hour to wash them and an hour to get them all dressed up in their fancy tack. Figuring in the traveling time, and the fact they like to arrive one hour early – it’s a full day.
Tim said the most expensive upkeep is maintaining the shoeing costs.

“It probably averages about $350 for keeping shoes on two horses (plus trimming) per month. A new set of shoes on two horses costs about $650.” The horses get re-shoed every six weeks.

Dressing up like Santa Claus, Tim has heard many a Christmas wish list from children over the years. With the jingling of sleigh bells and the clippity clop of horse hooves striking the pavement, riders are treated to a slice of yesteryear.

“We put some lights on the horses and the wagon’s lit up. The Christmas rides have gotten really big. Last year we were pretty well all booked up,” Tim said.

Major and Spike have become equine celebrities of sorts, especially among the children in town.

“We come around the corner and everybody is like ‘there’s Major and Spike!’” Tim said.

“Major shows off. We go on a parade and he’ll start this prancing deal. I fight like heck trying to hold him back to walk. People just go nuts when they see him doing it. It’s just beautiful,” Tim said.

“I have come to really enjoy it and I love to take the pictures that we put together in our calendar,” Betty said. 
Tim enjoys building a sense of comraderie during the rides.

“I always try to find out where people are from and start conversations.” He driven folks from Kentucky, San Diego and Poland. One was from North Pole, Alaska.

The carriage rides are popular for weddings in the summer. The Bielenbergs suggest reservations be made at least a year in advance. Birthdays are also occasions that seem to call for asomething special. Their services have been called for funerals. They do not charge for military funerals.

“It’s kind of a community thing,” Tim said.

For information, contact Tim or Betty Bielenberg at Mill Creek Carriages, LLC at 503-769-2090 or at millcreekcarriages.com.

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