“A pony is a childhood dream. A horse is an adulthood treasure.” Author unknown
Many little girls dream of owning a horse, but as a child, Mary Stancik wanted a sailboat.
It was perfectly natural. Mary’s family was into sailing, and for many years Mary and her mom traveled to Mackinac Island to wait for her brother and father to arrive in the family boat, which they sailed annually in the Chicago to Mackinac Race. Following each race, the family would spend a few days playing “tourist” on the Island, before sailing the boat together to St. Joe. It was on one of those “after the race” vacations that Mary rode a horse for the very first time.
Mary remembers: “Dad and I rented a couple of horses from Jack’s Livery. I still remember their names – Dad’s horse was Poncho, and mine was Bob. We got up into the middle of the Island and wanted to take the right-hand trail back to town. The horses had other ideas, obviously knowing the left-hand trail was the fastest way back to the barn. My horse Bob sat right down in a patch of prickler bushes and refused to budge until we agreed to turn left. We were back at Jack’s in less than an hour.”
And that was Mary’s last time on a horse until 35 years later – once again on Mackinac Island.
Mary has been the Director of Grounds and Golf for the Grand Hotel for several years now. I met her three years ago when I was walking past the Grand, and Mary yelled, “Are you Bree, the blogger?” at me from the middle of the tulip bed where she was standing. “Why yes I am!” I said, so excited someone recognized me. A friendship was struck that day in the middle of red, yellow and white flowers, and it grows stronger each summer.
One of our first conversations was about horses. Like Mary, I had watched Maryanke Alexander and Michelle Stuck ride their Friesians around the Island. I’d never seen one before and neither had Mary. At the very first Festival of the Horse – at the Breed Show – we both watched Maryanke and Michelle perform with their Friesians, and we both were hooked. I soon learned Mary was even more hooked than I.
With Maryanke and Michelle’s encouragement, Mary took riding lessons at the end of that summer. Suddenly, Mary’s mind was no longer filled with sails. Instead, her dreams turned to shining black steeds, flowing manes, unbelievable power and beauty, and hearts almost as big as their massive bodies. Mary wanted a Friesian.
Once more Maryanke and Michelle stepped in, looking for the perfect horse for Mary, who admittedly had little horse experience. They found Teddie, who will be 14 years old this summer. He is huge, he is shiny black, his mane – cut short because he was used to teach small children to ride – is not flowing, but it will grow. And his heart – oh my goodness.
Mary purchased Teddie last fall and took lessons with him over the winter in Grand Rapids, where he was boarded. This spring she brought him up to Hiawatha Hawk Ranch in Mackinac City for a few weeks, where he was cared for by Angie, Joe and Abigail Ostman, and it was the Ostmans who accompanied Teddie over to the Island last week (along with Mary). Teddie handled his first ferry ride like a champ (a little dose of horsy tranquilizer didn’t hurt either).
Bear and I walked over to see Teddie this afternoon and found Mary busy mucking out the corral as Teddie munched on oats. I sat down in the door of Teddie’s barn and brushed Bear as I watched Mary go about the business of being a horse owner. She’d shovel a load of manure into the wheelbarrow, then turn and talk softly for a few minutes with Teddie – scratching his ears, sweeping down his neck with her hand, a love so big already shining between them that my eyes filled with tears.
No, Teddie isn’t a sailboat. But who needs to sail across the water when you can ride across the land, astride one of God’s most beautiful creatures.