2018-09-08 / Columnists


Two Great Guides, Two Great Horses Give Tours of Island
by Candice C. Dunnigan

A daily slice of life on Mackinac Island is all the horse traffic passing by. Just look at the carriages, drays, taxis, and saddle horses that appear on Market Street and continue beyond Grand Hotel from dawn until night. A large percentage of the riding horses from both Cindy’s Riding Stable and Jack’s Livery Stable use this route to get into the interior areas of Mackinac. Most vacationing riders rent a horse by the hour and are accompanied by a guide for part, if not all, of the time.

Guiding horses here may look like fun, and may even look easy, and most of the time it is. The guides from both barns do a good job and enjoy their work. Otherwise, they would not be employed. I’ve noticed two in particular, and really it was their horses that first caught my eye. By that I mean a confident horse and rider, one sensible in the saddle with a horse walking out in a good fashion. Usually the rider is a guide. Their riding, in the height of the season, and their horse moving out in step is a really nice thing to see. This year Cindy’s had seven guides, and Jack’s had three. All of them have been busy.

Mariah Horn and Cajun. Mariah Horn and Cajun. A handsome, buckskin 12-yearold gelding by the name of Cajun has that look and flair. Under saddle he seems actually bigger than he is. The horse has a strong appearance and is very impressive. When I first saw him with his thick forelock and mane, the image of the horse character from the Disney film “Spirit” came to mind. It turns out he gets that comparison quite often. He is often ridden by guide Mariah Horn. Cajun has been at Cindy’s most of the summer.

I remember Mariah as a little girl growing up and riding any horse she could on Mackinac Island. Mariah was on everything, from ponies in the village to riding whatever she could, and in the annual horse show at Great Turtle Park. She started to guide at Cindy’s while she was still a teenager. Her forebears loved and rode horses here on Mackinac. Mariah has a farm on the mainland where she raises llamas and chickens and has five horses of her own. She is seldom idle on Mackinac in the summer. She works five days a week at Cindy’s, does gardening for a local gardener two days a week, and drives a team of taxi horses on the evening shift for three nights. Her daughter, Savannah, who is very much like her mother, works with the horses at Jack’s. I actually had to look twice the other day because the two ride very much the same way.

At left: Emily Galka and Lisa. At left: Emily Galka and Lisa. When asked about how Cajun was to ride, she smiled and said, “He is a nice horse, a big and solid horse, and he knows when people are watching him.” The morning I came to see him he was just finished being hosed off, so my photo shows his lower half much darker than he is. Untacked, he has a shiny, dark golden color in the sunlight. Cajun came to be owned by Veronica Gough and her brother, Burton, when he was two years old. He has done well barrel racing and has an independent air about him, which is a quality a good guide horse should have. Cajun has the true buckskin qualities about him in his markings, with a black mane and tail and even a dorsal stripe down his back.

Lisa is the name of the other unique looking guide horse. She is a Percheron-Quarter horse. She is owned and ridden by Emily Galka. They are completing their fifth summer working for Cindy’s Riding Stable.

Lisa is another horse who just seems to know when the camera is on her. She is used to posing for photographs, and the horse is just a pro at this. Owner Emily hails from Cadillac. She attended Albion College, where she was involved in their extensive equine studies program. She recently helped with the college’s Winter Hunter/Jumper Series shows. Her horse, Lisa, also has a talent for jumping, and she likes it.

Lisa is a large-boned horse with a beautiful face and nearly allwhite coat, which Emily works hard daily to keep clean, but Lisa is not a horse in the regular rental line at Cindy’s. Some horses end up becoming guide horses instead of just rentals because they may be a bit too much “horse” for the average holiday rider. While the horse may listen to his rider, he may need a strong rider for him to make certain he behaves and can be ridden without danger to himself, riders, or other horses. On the other hand, some horses just start out with their owners, who bring them to Mackinac and use them daily to guide with. In the case of Emily (like Mariah Horn), most of the staff has the talent and the ability to ride several horses in one day or work with them in one week. Lisa is a “one-person” horse, but that has worked just fine.

Unlike Mariah, who grew up here, Emily, as well as Lisa, worked hard their first summer to learn the trails. On Mackinac we have more than 40 miles of bridle paths, roads, and trails. Few people ride all of them in a summer, even the guides. But some riders really take to this place and have a good sense where one path leads and others begin.

After Labor Day, Jack’s Livery will have closed its stable side of their operation, so if you want to ride on Mackinac, I recommend taking advantage of the horses and the talent at Cindy’s. They open at 9 a.m. Actually someone is there usually by 7 a.m. to feed and clean. At approximately 8 a.m. the rest of the staff, who really do just about everything, are at Cindy’s drinking coffee, cleaning, and grooming. They have some pretty nice horses, some stellar guide animals, and some pretty good guides, every one of them: Burt, Hailey, Kristina, Veronica, Tyler, Renata, Olivia, Emily, and Mariah.

Candice Dunnigan is a resident, writer, and equestrian on Mackinac Island. She belongs to various national and local equine organizations.

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