2009-08-08 / Top News

Tour Offers History Behind West Bluff Stables

By Karen Gould

Marta Olson (left), Island resident and member of the Mackinac Horsemen's Association, offers stable tour attendees a brief history of horses on Mackinac Island. The tour, which included the stables at Grand Hotel and four West Bluff cottages, was conducted during the Festival of the Horse Friday, July 24. Marta Olson (left), Island resident and member of the Mackinac Horsemen's Association, offers stable tour attendees a brief history of horses on Mackinac Island. The tour, which included the stables at Grand Hotel and four West Bluff cottages, was conducted during the Festival of the Horse Friday, July 24. Visitors and residents got a behind-the-scenes view of privately owned West Bluff stables as part of the Festival of the Horse Friday, July 24.

The stable tour began at Grand Hotel stables, followed by tours at the stables of Susan and David Bankard, Michelle and Randy Stuck, Penny and John Barr, and Wendy and Mike Young.

Island resident Marta Olson began the tour with a brief history on the beginning of a carless Island and its horse culture. In 1898, she said, the first "horseless carriage" arrived on the Island and a group of livery men who made a living by giving visitors rides saw the vehicles as a threat to their income. The men were concerned that the vehicles would hurt their business and scare their horses, and convinced city leaders to ban vehicles. By 1901, the State Park also banned the horseless carriages.

Buck Sharrow (center), stable manager for Wendy and Mike Young on the West Bluff, hitches up Prince (left) and Lady to a carriage while stable tour attendees watch the process. The horses are a Hackney Clydesdale cross. Tour attendees watched as Mr. Sharrow drove the horses across the road to the Young's cottage to pick up family passengers Friday, July 24. Buck Sharrow (center), stable manager for Wendy and Mike Young on the West Bluff, hitches up Prince (left) and Lady to a carriage while stable tour attendees watch the process. The horses are a Hackney Clydesdale cross. Tour attendees watched as Mr. Sharrow drove the horses across the road to the Young's cottage to pick up family passengers Friday, July 24. "So there never really were cars here," said Ms. Olson. "If you look at this road, for instance, roads on the Island were narrow; there are no intersections with stop signs."

The tour group progressed west along Algonquin Road, touring the stables and carriage houses and speaking with owners and managers. They also watched as stable manager for the Youngs, Buck Sharrow, rigged a carriage.

Watching an episode of the television show "Dirty Jobs" that featured Mackinac Island brought Jolena Powell of Sonoma, California, to visit the Island for the first time. She was on her honeymoon and happy to learn about the stable tour.

"I wish I could see all of the stables," she said. "The stables are gorgeous."

She and her husband wanted to go someplace unique for their honeymoon, she said, and Mackinac Island was their top choice.

"I love horses, so it is perfect," said Mrs. Powell.

The experience did not disappoint the couple, she said.

"It's a nice place," said Mrs. Powell. "It's a little piece of heaven."

Also on the tour were cousins Roz Anderson of Bellingham, Washington, and Beth Wickman of Swansea, Massachusetts. The two women love horses and take a trip together each year. When they found out about the Festival of the Horse, they agreed this year's trip would be to Mackinac Island.

"It's been wonderful," said Mrs. Wickman. "It is very enlightening to see the stables and horses and to see a driver back up the horses."

Mrs. Wickman has three res- cued horses.

Mrs. Anderson had visited the Island three years ago with her husband. The couple found the Island so relaxing, Mrs. Anderson said she vowed to return. Mrs. Anderson is a therapeutic riding instructor.

Having arrived late Thursday, the women chose the the stable tour as their first activity. They said they enjoyed it and were looking forward to the rest of the events.

"It's unbelievably wonderful and I will tell as many people as I can," Mrs. Anderson said.

Mrs. Wickman agreed.

"I hope they have it again next year," she said. "We will be back."

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