Come along on a Minnesota carriage ride with the Erickson Acres Carriage Company
Shari Erickson and the Erickson Acres Carriage Company offer horse-drawn carriage rides along the Luce Line State Trail near Cedar Mills. The business was born out of the pandemic and Erickson's lifelong love of horses.
CEDAR MILLS — When Shari Erickson started planning for her new business venture — Erickson Acres Carriage Company — she already knew the perfect spot to offer rides, the Luce Line State Trail, which just happened to be right outside her door between Cedar Mills and Hutchinson.
With the landscape and atmosphere in addition to the added experience of taking a ride in a four-wheel carriage pulled by a beautiful horse, it is easy for one to get lost in the adventure.
"I want to introduce you to some of the magic that happens out here," Erickson said. "The meadows, the smells, all the different sounds make it a magical experience. Essentially you are in a time warp."
Erickson, a horse lover her entire life, started getting the idea for the carriage company back in the early days of the pandemic, when pretty much everything was closed and locked down. She figured carriage rides would be a novel way for people to have some fun outside. The outfit got its start during the Christmas season of 2020.
"Our kickoff event was at a Christmas tree farm," Erickson said, adding she dressed up as Auntie Claus. "We had our bells on."
Now 18 months in, Erickson offers several different ride options, including picnic rides. She will also provide carriage rides at events such as weddings, quinceaneras and other special occasions throughout the state, excluding the main metro areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul. She was also on hand at the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra's horse-themed concert in March.
Even her regular carriage rides have a bit of enchantment to them, with Erickson and her small staff dressed up in Victorian-themed garb such as tail coats and corsets.
"I want that hour-long ride to be as authentic and magical as I can make it," Erickson said. "We are a Victorian-themed carriage company with a modern twist."
New this year is an interactive carriage ride, where Erickson and the customer can plan a special themed ride. Perhaps they ride through a fairy wood or along a forested highway where one has to be wary of robbers; just be on the lookout for trolls under the bridge.
A new beginning for both rider and horses
Erickson has loved and been around horses practically her entire life. She had her first pony at the age of 4, and today has 13.
"Some people are born with an inherent love for animals, sometimes a particular species. I guess I am one of those," Erickson said. "Even when I didn't have a horse, I pretended I did. I was about 3 or 4 when I was pretending to have a horse. Since then I have always had a horse or pony in my life."
About five years ago, Erickson started to have back problems that impacted her legs and it made riding a horse a challenge. But, instead of saying goodbye to her lifelong love, Erickson, and some of her horses, learned to drive a cart.
"I started driving because I couldn't give up my horses," Erickson said.
She has three carriages and one two-person cart she uses for her carriage rides. All of them were purchased with safety, stability and comfort in mind.
"I always try to expect the unexpected" when out on the trail, for the safety of everybody, Erickson said.
While she has a baker's dozen of horses at home, only four of them are used for Erickson Acres Carriage Company. That quartet is Captain, Raven, Salma and Thyme.
"Thyme is my prime driving horse," Erickson said. "She is my go to."
All of the carriage horses were bought from horse sales, where any horses left over at the sale are sent to a slaughter facility, usually in Mexico. While Erickson never knows what kind of horse she is getting when she makes such a buy, they never have to worry about being sent away again.
"They are there for life," Erickson said.
Come along for a ride
Erickson's day job as a surgical technologist for Twin Cities Orthopedics requires a three-hour round trip commute. As a result, the carriage company is very much a part-time operation for Erickson, but one she is very passionate about.
"The carriage business is the ability I have to share my love of horses with people," Erickson said.
It is also a chance for Erickson to educate patrons about horses and the plight of those animals facing the kill pen.
"There are many, and I believe they deserve to have a voice in their favor," Erickson said.
At the end of the carriage ride, Erickson hopes people walk away a bit more relaxed, less stressed and happy after a beautiful hour in nature with a noble steed.
"Our hope is for people to step out of the carriage refreshed and feeling all the positive energy surrounding them," Erickson said.