2011-07-16 / Top News

Equine Culture on Display at Festival of the Horse

Celebration Features Tours, Parade, Programs July 20 - July 24
By Lauren Gibbons

Just two years after its inception, Mackinac Island’s Festival of the Horse has become well known and highly regarded, organizers say, among horse festivals in the world. This year, it promises to live up to that designation with a slate of presentations, lectures, hands-on activities, and performances.

The festival is sponsored by the Mackinac Island Horsemen’s Association and will take place from Wednesday, July 20, through Sunday, July 24.

To accommodate the potential crowds interested in festival activities,

Maryanke Alexander, president of the Mackinac Horsemen’s Association, said the festival’s four days will be packed with activities that were popular in the past, as well as new activities and presentations by renowned horse experts to bring different activities to the table.

“What we’ve done this year is make sure there wasn’t really any down time. We’ll have things hopping and going all the time,” she said.

The festival will begin Wednesday with a blessing at Mission Point Resort, and a Saddle Horse Parade down Main Street featuring horses from Jack and Cindy’s Riding Stables and those owned by Mackinac Island cottagers. New for the parade his year will be an announcer reporting the names of those in the parade as they walk by, giving visitors a chance to learn more about the local horses and their owners, Mrs. Alexander said.

Featured speakers will give presentations and demonstrations throughout the week as part of Festival of the Horse activities. Speakers include resistance training expert Richard Shrake, Michigan State University Extension representatives Karen Waite and Paula Hizler, Cady Ness- Smith and Jan Normington, and Lexington, Kentucky, performer Clay Maier, who will perform jumps and tricks with his three Friesians.

Local residents Candace Dunnigan and Dr. Al Sibinic also will give presentations on the history of the horse on Mackinac Island and Mackinac Island’s horse industry, respectively, throughout the week.

“The lectures and performances are going to be a major hook for people to see. Most of them have a major ‘wow’ factor,” Mrs. Alexander said.

Pony rides, vendors, and other children’s activities will be in the Borough Lot Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. A special “Kids Day” celebration will take place Thursday, with free games and activities for children.

Other activities throughout the week include walking tours of historic stables Friday and Saturday, a breed presentation Saturday afternoon, and an antique carriage parade at 7 p.m. Friday.

Mrs. Alexander said one of the goals of the festival is to celebrate Mackinac Island horses, as well as horses from all over the world. This year, many horses will be special guests at the festival, including a rescued burro and a rescued Mustang.

“We’re not just limited to Island horses this time. We felt it would really enhance what we’re trying to accomplish to include more equine variety from other locations in addition to Mackinac, and that makes the plate even that much fuller,” she said.

The burro, the Mustang, and other horses participating in the festival also will take part in the Carriage Driving Competition at 9 a.m. Sunday, the conclusion of the festival’s activities. The competition will take place in the Borough Lot, and will be judged by Mr. Maier. All drivers looking to try their hand at competitive carriage driving, particularly local drivers, are encouraged to attend.

“We’d like to really make that one popular for the Island people,” Mrs. Alexander said.

Mackinac Horsemen’s Association is looking for volunteers, and those interested in volunteering for the Festival of the Horse may contact Mrs. Alexander at (989) 621-3375, Ann Levy at 847-0263, or executive director Leanne Brodeur at 847-3853.

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