2015-07-25 / News

Horse Driving Clinic Hosted at Mackinac Community Equestrian Center

By Matt Harding


Nora Bailey drives a horse for the first time alongside Don Eckhardt, who has been teaching the skill for 30 years. Nora Bailey drives a horse for the first time alongside Don Eckhardt, who has been teaching the skill for 30 years. Don Eckhardt, a horse driver and trainer of more than 30 years, led a small class at the Mackinac Community Equestrian Center Thursday, July 16, where he taught participants the basics of horse driving safety and working with horses.

The “Horse Driving 101” class was designed to give people a “safe taste of driving,” Mr. Eckhardt said. With help from Lisa Eckhardt and Ann Levy of the Mackinac Horsemen’s Association, he taught the rules of safety and how to harness and hitch a horse to various carriage styles.

Jeri-Lynn Bailey of Gaylord attended the clinic with her daughter, Nora, a regular participant in the Equestrian Center’s events.

Mrs. Bailey has always wanted to try horse driving, she said, even though her affection for horses isn’t quite as great as her daughter’s. Still, she said, “It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”


At left: Nora Bailey and Don Eckhardt (right) drive horse Marco, while Lisa Eckhardt and Heather Martin drive Nicolas. Mr. Eckhardt held a clinic Thursday, July 16, at the Mackinac Community Equestrian Center. At left: Nora Bailey and Don Eckhardt (right) drive horse Marco, while Lisa Eckhardt and Heather Martin drive Nicolas. Mr. Eckhardt held a clinic Thursday, July 16, at the Mackinac Community Equestrian Center. Nora, 10, has a strong interest in horses, said Mrs. Bailey, who added that she was proud of her daughter for getting back on horses after she fell off and broke her arm on a trail ride.

Nora said she found the lessons on trotting and horse control the most interesting.

“Kids are easier to teach” than adults, Mr. Eckhardt said, “because they’re usually horse crazy to begin with.” Interacting with horses comes naturally to people, he said, children often absorb instruction without preconceived reservations.

Cara Ropp of Ann Arbor is a longtime rider who has horses of her own. She had never driven before, but she wanted to learn because she was considering training her Haflinger, a breed suited to driving. She had the opportunity to learn near her home, but since she regularly visits relatives on the Island, she thought the Equestrian Center would offer a better experience.


Ann Levy (left), Mackinac Horsemen’s Association secretary, gives pointers to Sarah Growney, who regularly participates in Horsemen’s Association events. The two are driving Todd. Ann Levy (left), Mackinac Horsemen’s Association secretary, gives pointers to Sarah Growney, who regularly participates in Horsemen’s Association events. The two are driving Todd. “What a perfect place for this type of training,” she said, adding that she liked the “subtle communication between the driver and the horse.”

Don Hinman of Alexandria, Virginia, frequents the Island, but hadn’t been around horses much, only riding a few times in his life.

“This is really carriage 101 for me,” he said.

Mr. Hinman said he would like to rent a carriage from one of the downtown companies, but wanted to gain experience first.

“I just want to have confidence to drive,” he said.

The clinic was a first on this topic for the Equestrian Center. Mr. Eckhardt gives private lessons there.

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