2018-08-17 / News

Beloved Island Horse Blaze Celebrates 30th Birthday At 4-H Cookout

By Marley Tucker


Blaze licks the birthday cake frosting from his nose. He turned 30 this year. Blaze licks the birthday cake frosting from his nose. He turned 30 this year. Docile, occasionally cheeky, and beloved by the Island equestrian community, Blaze is turning 30 years old this year – so those who know him threw a celebration in his honor at Mackinac Community Equestrian Center Thursday, August 2.

The horse has been with the Mackinac 4-h Horse Club, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, since the club’s humble beginnings in 1998. The club provides safe, professional riding lessons to Island and seasonal youth with the intent of fostering relationships between riders and their horses.

In addition to weekly riding lessons and activities, the club hosts a monthly family barbecue night at the Equestrian Center, which is where everyone gathered to honor Blaze. While enjoying baked beans, grilled chicken sandwiches, homemade salsa, and ice cream desserts, guests recalled their favorite memories of Blaze and celebrated his involvement with more than a generation of youngsters.


Summer Island residents Meghan Akers and children Elisabeth, 7, and Caleb, 5, enjoy food at Blaze’s birthday celebration Thursday, August 2. Summer Island residents Meghan Akers and children Elisabeth, 7, and Caleb, 5, enjoy food at Blaze’s birthday celebration Thursday, August 2. “Blaze is one of the best horses to hug and he’ll love you forever if you give him food,” said 4-H member Makayla Rickley.

“One of my favorite memories of Blaze is this one time we were trotting down Main Street, east of town by a small cafĂ© by Mission Point, and he all of a sudden veered to the right and appeared at this woman’s table,” recalled Jody Barna, the former owner who donated him to the Equestrian Center. “He grabbed an apple right off of her table! She was a good sport about it and was okay with it. He did it so fast, I mean, it was unbelievable.

“He is kind of everyone’s horse here on the Island,” Ms. Barna said.


Mackinac County MSU Extension Program Director Susan Kirkman and 4-H Leader Leanne Brodeur award Jack Kaminen a 4-H pin for his participation in the Mackinac 4-H Horse Club this season. Mackinac County MSU Extension Program Director Susan Kirkman and 4-H Leader Leanne Brodeur award Jack Kaminen a 4-H pin for his participation in the Mackinac 4-H Horse Club this season. Carrot cake in the shape of a horseshoe was presented to Blaze as onlookers sang “Happy Birthday.” He tried a taste, but did not seem to know what to do with all of the frosting left around his mouth.

In addition to honoring Blaze, the 4-H club commemorated another successful summer season. Susan Kirkman, Mackinac County Michigan State University Extension director, awarded 4-H pins to all club participants. She also gave 4-H Leader Leanne Brodeur a special pin with a small, diamond setting to honor 20 years of educating youth in the 4-H horse program, which Ms. Brodeur started.

Reflecting on the season, the young riders said they hope to have an even better 2019 season.


Dax Sigler mounts Blaze during 4-H horsemanship lessons after the cookout. Dax Sigler mounts Blaze during 4-H horsemanship lessons after the cookout. “I think I got a bit better this year and I want to learn more about how things fit and work together, and more about horses and what they like,” said 4-H member Jack Kaminen.

His mother, Carrie, a 4-H advisor, said she’s happy with how the season went and about plans for horses to stay on the Island longer this year so children can continue their lessons.

“4-H, to me, is an outlet for any youth to grow and learn more about themselves in an environment that is supportive, which is lacking in this day and age for many kids,” Ms. Kirkman said. “The dedicated system that 4-H employs helps the kids learn practical life skills that can help them throughout their lives, like interacting with their peers, talking to adults, taking responsibility, and so much more.

“I’m very impressed with the horse club here,” she added. “Every 4-H club is different and Mackinac County is no exception. Here, it is okay if kids do not own their own horses. I think it eliminates a lot of barriers that are found elsewhere.

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