The Mackinac Island Horsemen’s Association – a small group of horse enthusiasts – dreams of building a community stable that will house 20 horses. Ten of the stalls will be home to horses used by the island’s 4-H program, which teaches island children how to ride. The other ten stalls will be leased to island homeowners who have no land to build their own barns, but want to have a horse on the island. The rental fees from these ten private horses will supplement the 4-H program, lowering substantially the cost of riding lessons for the island children.
Imagine that right in the middle of this dream stable will be restrooms and tack rooms; and there will be a classroom – where children and adults can learn the fundamental lessons about horse ownership. Then imagine a small cottage on the property, where a full-time caretaker will live so the horses will always be safe.
The dream you are imagining also calls for a riding arena behind the stable, with bleachers where parents can watch their children take lessons and where the public can come and watch horse breed shows, carriage driving demonstrations, and other equestrian events.
Imagine that this group of horse lovers had been seeking property on the island to build this facility for years and years. And then – over two years ago – the Mackinac Island State Park leased three acres to the group for three years at $1.00 per year – with the stipulation that the stable must be started by the end of that three years – March, 2011.
Imagine that the dream was so strong and real that for two years this small, diligent group has put together The Mackinac Island Festival of the Horse to raise money for the stable project. With the money they have raised, the arena has been built, the bleachers installed, and the stable plans drawn. The estimate for the rest of the project is $450,000.
Now imagine this. If construction on the barn does not begin by March, 2011, all the work that has been completed at the site will be for nothing. The land will convert back to the State Park, the arena will be torn down, and the bleachers will be removed.
The small barn where the 4-H horses are housed now is woefully in need of expansion, but part of the land on which it sits has already gone to the expanding construction of residential housing. If one more house is built on the present site of the barn (and there is little doubt that it will be built in the near future), there will not be room for even one horse. The 4-H program on the island will be no more, and the next generation of island children will have lost an essential part of their heritage.
When I was asked to tour the property and perhaps write a blog about the project, I was embarrassingly unaware of what I was about to see. I had heard of the “Community Stable Project” for two years, had even worked two summers at the Festival of the Horse – knowing that the funds were going toward that dream. Had I ridden out to see the property – no. Did I have any idea what this dedicated group wanted to do – the scope of their dream – no.
But now I do.
So why am I writing this to you, my readers? Because I know each and every one of you loves Mackinac Island, and a part of that love is for the horses that make their home there. The majority of the children who live year-round on Mackinac do not own their own horses. Only a couple of generations ago, that was different. I have heard the stories of island children from years gone by – riding their ponies all afternoon until the sun went down and then bringing them home to a barn behind their house. Those barns no longer exist, those horses no longer exist, and the island children of today would not have access to horses if it were not for the 4-H program, which brings horses to the island every summer for that use.
I am asking this. If you know of anyone who would like to contribute to the Mackinac Island Community Stable – in any amount – would you please have them contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will put them in touch with the right people. The Mackinac Island Horsemen’s Association is trying to raise enough money to begin construction by March, 2011. They know they cannot possibly raise it all, but if they can receive enough to dig the foundation and start to put up one wing, their obligation on the lease will have been met. No amount is too small, and it is totally tax-deductible.
The proceeds from next summer’s Festival of the Horse will again go toward this project, but that money will be too late for the lease deadline. If you can help in any way, or know someone who can, you will be donating toward a much-needed facility for an island where “the Horse is King”.
Thank you so much for listening.