Steamboat Springs Michael Joseph Miller’s trot to the railroad tracks where Steamboat Springs Police Department officers said he was subdued by a Taser at 10:30 p.m. Sunday and then arrested began more than 10 hours earlier atop Emerald Mountain. But for many Steamboat Springs residents who followed the news story Sunday night and Monday morning, the ride might well have begun 30 years ago in an era in Steamboat when horses and bars didn’t make for such an unusual pairing.
“I had a great ride right up until the very end,” Miller, 44, said an hour and a half after he was released on a $750 bond from the Routt County Jail on Monday afternoon. He had spent the night there on charges including suspicion of harassment, disorderly conduct, obstructing a police officer and resisting arrest. Police said the charges stemmed from a fight they said Miller was involved in at the Old Town Pub at about 9:30 p.m.
But at noon Sunday, Miller, of Steamboat, and friends Kenneth Recker and Roxanne Lange, of Clark, started what they now call a memorable ride through town by galloping up Emerald Mountain on their two Tennessee Walkers and a Morgan Paint Mare. From there, they went to race up and down Howelsen Hill before grabbing drinks at Sunpie’s Bistro. From Sunpie’s, they rode to Double Z Bar & BBQ on Yampa Street. They rode to Old Town Pub, and from the pub, they traveled to a grocery store on the south end of town to grab a bag of chips before heading up to Torian Plum Plaza for a sushi dinner at Saketumi and later a beer at The Tugboat Grill & Pub in Ski Time Square. It was then back into town and another stop at Old Town Pub and a final stop at the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Lincoln Avenue, where the riders rode their horses through the bar.
Seen around town
Standing in the cash room of the Steamboat Springs Safeway store at about 6 p.m. Sunday evening, store manager Artaya Jackson said she heard screams coming from the front of her store. It was near the origin of the screams that Jackson saw a few uninvited guests.
“I came out and saw three huge horses standing in front of our Starbucks counter, and one of the riders was trying to buy a bag of chips,” Jackson said. “These were three huge horses, not small horses. I looked at the riders and I told them ‘You have got to go. This violates every policy we have.’”
Jackson said Miller, Recker and Lange exited the store moments later and left behind $5 for a bag of tortilla chips.
“And thankfully, the horses didn’t slip on our freshly waxed floor,” she added. “That could have been a disaster.”
But the riders’ journey through town that eventually became reminiscent of a 1970s Steamboat scene didn’t end in front of aisle 11. Approximately three hours later, one of the riders managed to get her horse up the steps and around the sharp corner leading into the Old Town Pub.
“It was quite an event,” said James Boyd, who was sitting in the bar when Lange rode Blacktail into the front door of the pub. “It shocked everyone, and of course the bartenders told them ‘You cannot have a horse in the bar.'"
Horse and rider in downtown bar Dec. 11
A woman entered Old Town Pub in downtown Steamboat Springs on horseback the night of Dec. 11. A resulting altercation outside eventually led to the arrest of a 44-year-old Steamboat Springs man.
Police Sgt. Rich Brown said Monday it was at Old Town Pub where Miller allegedly pushed and tore the shirt off a man. The altercation started after pub staff refused to give Lange back a beer she surrendered to bartenders when she rode into the bar.
After the altercation, the horseback riders left the scene and bar staff called police. Thirty minutes later, police said they caught up with the riders by the railroad tracks near the Depot Art Center. That was after Lange said the three riders did a quick trot through the inside of VFW Post 4264.
According to Miller’s arrest affidavit, an officer asked Miller to dismount his horse after he was contacted by police on his way home, and he refused. The affidavit goes on to state Miller, who owns Rogue Resources Inc., continued to disregard officers’ orders to dismount, at which point Miller “spurred” his horse, causing it to rear up. Officers used a Taser on Miller and removed him from the horse after they said he continued to ignore commands.
Lange and Recker were not taken into custody and left the scene without facing charges.
'A great ride'
Steamboat Springs Police Department community service officer Scott Shaffer said Monday that while the city’s municipal code has specific regulations for owning horses and riding them on equestrian trails, there is no specific ordinance regulating horse ridership through the downtown area.
Lange and Recker said their approximately 10 1/2 hour trot through town was unplanned but was nonetheless a great time.
“One thing led to another, and we just kept going,” Lange said. “It was super fun to be in a town where you can ride your horse to dinner. People just loved it. Little kids were petting the horses. It was just fun.”
Ron Partington, who was visiting the Yampa Valley from Chicago, said he had a beer with the three riders at the Tugboat on Sunday night.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” he said about the three horses tied up outside. “The (riders) seemed to just be enjoying the evening. I took a couple pictures of them with their horses on my cellphone.”
And Barb Simms, assistant to Steamboat Springs Chief of Police J.D. Hays, said the equestrian tale was reminiscent of 1976 Steamboat.
“I was working as a waitress downtown on the Fourth of July, and I’ll never forget the day someone rode a horse through the bar” at El Rancho, Simms said. “It was what it was back then. People were riding horses all over the place, so why not ride it through a bar?”
But times were different in the then one-stoplight town, Simms added. In the years before that, some downtown establishments also sported hitching posts.
“It was a cowboy town,” she said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com