2018-05-19 / News

Horse Crazy 4-H Club Rides The Trails of Mackinac Island

By Marley Tucker


Morgan Anderson prepares two horses for the trek back to the ferry docks Sunday, May 13. Morgan Anderson prepares two horses for the trek back to the ferry docks Sunday, May 13. Members of Rapid River’s Horse Crazy 4-H program again brought their own horses to Mackinac Island this spring, experiencing its transition into summer while exploring trails and learning more about horseback riding.

Fifteen members and their horses traveled from the Delta County community and boarded a chartered ferry from St. Ignace the weekend of May 12 and 13. Ashley May, barn manager and instructor at the Mackinac Community Equestrian Center, said advance organization and communication are required to keep the horses safe and comfortable. It was the second Island trip for club members, who also visited last year.

Once they arrived, they were split into three riding groups, based on skill level, before embarking on a guided trail tour to historical sites, along with riding instruction.

“The Mackinac Horsemen’s Association was built around nourishing and educating the youth and really getting them to improve their horsemanship skills,” said Ms. May. “We work a lot with 4-H groups, and we really give them an opportunity to go out and not only experience Mackinac, but put some of their skills to work.”


Maci Menard and her horse, Ricky, prepare to go for a walk at the Mackinac Community Equestrian Center. Maci Menard and her horse, Ricky, prepare to go for a walk at the Mackinac Community Equestrian Center. The Horse Crazy 4-H riding club has 26 members and formed in 2007 to address a lack of resources for youth in the community. To raise money for travel and lessons, members bake around 4,500 pasties and sell them in a weekend. Throughout the year, they travel to horse fairs and attend workshops.

“Our club has clinics and lessons,” said Betsy Harris, a leader of the Horse Crazy 4-H program. “We all own our own horses as a riding club, and we wanted the kids to have a place to meet and to learn and care for their horses. This weekend for these kids is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and they work hard to earn it.”

The Mackinac Horsemen’s Association would like to become the horse capital of Michigan, said its president, Steve Rilenge, in consideration of its rich history with horses and the people who care for them. Bringing groups to the Island to focus on education helps that vision come to fruition.

“We share our facilities with 4- H groups to focus on teaching and connections with the Island,” he said. “We want to expose the Island to people and highlight everything we find special here. We’re trying to build a base so that people know we’re here and use our facilities.”

In addition to helping the 4-H members gain skills related to horseback riding, the instructors help them foster a relationship with their horses and reap benefits from the experience.

“It’s very rewarding and why I do my job,” Ms. May said. “My number-one reason for being here is, when you see somebody who is struggling with confidence, being able to start from the ground up and build on that and create a relationship with a horse. Watching people grow in real time is a wonderful thing.”

After instruction Sunday morning, the 4-H members and leaders ate a meal provided by the equestrian center and hit the trail one last time before leaving the Island.

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