By Janet Plave-Gross
“Mickey”, a 38 year old Morgan gelding, rests on his laurels since retirement at the Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center, in Lansing, Michigan. Today we are all so grateful to have such a wonderful horse in our presence. He is still alive and well and ambitiously serving in our therapeutic program! For this, we give credit, with deep gratitude; to the Kent Feeds product Dynasty Senior for Mickey’s continued superior health and longevity.
Known bits of Mickey’s history trace back to mention of his retiring as a stud and show horse, later to becoming employed as a carriage horse for the Milwaukee Carriage Service, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mickey did not serve long for the carriage service, however, simply due to his small stature, 14.2 hands. He was viewed as unfit for the demands of hauling large passenger carriages around the city. In 1981, Mickey was sold to Ken Gagne from Bark River, Michigan with a vision of starting his own carriage service.
In 1982, Mickey was put back to work as a carriage horse, when Ken started the “Ludington Park Coach and Carriage Company” which was stationed at the House of Ludington, a historic hotel, in Escanaba, Michigan. Escanaba is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, on the shore of Lake Michigan. Mickey took good care of Ken as he was a novice to the driving discipline and fairly new to horses in general. Ken ran the business 6 days a week, with Mickey being his only hitch horse. Mickey was hitched to a restored antique 4 passenger surrey. Each night he stood hitched awaiting paying customers to tour through the beautiful Ludington Park, which was less than a block away. With the town being small, the business was sporadic so there were times when Mickey worked all night long and more times than not, didn’t work at all. This meant standing hitched and tied to a street lamp post for endless hours. Mickey was so good about standing that one evening an elderly couple approached the carriage driver to settle a disagreement that they were having between themselves about whether or not the horse was real! Apparently they drove past the hotel more than once that evening, just to check out the motionless horse, as this had the husband convinced that the horse was a statue!
Mickey’s career ended with the Ludington Park Coach and Carriage after 16 years of service. In 1998 Ken retired Mickey from his string of 4 horses and decided it was time to sell him due to his age. In no time Ken had a buyer who was going to use Mickey for driving and pleasure riding. However, for whatever reason, the deal fell through and that’s when Mickey’s destiny changed.
In the fall of 1999, the Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center was looking to set up a driving program for the disabled students. As luck would have it Mickey was still with Ken. When asked if we could borrow Mickey to get the driving program started he agreed to the request and said we could have use of the horse until the following spring. So, at the prime age of 28 Mickey took an 8 hour trailer ride from home, only to land in Lansing, Michigan where he was to fulfill his duty of initiating a long awaited driving program!
Since the program was not set up with the proper driving equipment upon Mickey’s arrival, he started in the program as a riding horse and was soon a favorite to the students and staff.
In the very early spring of 2000 a Meadowbrook cart was purchased for the program and Mickey began his career as a therapeutic driving horse for disabled ambulatory students. With the program just getting underway, time was getting shorter and we were beginning to realize that sadly Mickey was going to be returned to Ken. However, a phone call to Ken telling him how much the horse was being appreciated paid off as he decided to donate Mickey, knowing he was in a perfect place to retire.
Within a year of the driving programs’ beginning, a specialized driving vehicle, complete with hydraulics to accommodate power and manual wheel chairs, was purchased with funds raised from the Special Cars for Special Kids car show. From the time of its purchase, Mickey pulled the cart on a regular basis, racking up 7 years of service to many wheel chair bound clients, covering several hundreds of miles and bringing just as many smiles to those who adored him.
In May of 2007 Mickey was officially retired from his driving career; however he still remains in the Therapeutic Riding program, part-time, as a mount for students under 50 lbs. He continues to get used weekly and truly looks forward to the attention. Without a doubt we know we can credit Dynasty Senior from Kent Feeds for the gift of Mickey’s longevity. His presence is so precious to the many children and adults who adore him and we are deeply grateful to Kent Feeds, Inc.