Some people discover what they’re good at and what they love after years of searching and trying several things out. Some lucky few find it early. 19 year old Rosedale Park resident Emma Stark played just a couple of seasons of neighborhood baseball and soccer and knew that her future did not lie in either sport. Then her mom signed her up for a day camp that had horses. The connection “was instant,” Emma says. Emma learned how to ride and eventually went on to participate in several equestrian competitions throughout high school.
As a senior, Emma was required to do a practicum. Because her high school is in Henry Ford Village, and she didn’t have a car, and she had riding experience, Emma signed up to be a horse groomer at Greenfield Village. After graduation Emma continued grooming as an employee for another year. In June she finished 50 hours of training to be a carriage driver. She now drives two large, draft or Percheron horses which pull either a surrey, which is a covered wagon that seats about nine, or an open wagon that seats as many as 30 on wood benches.
The carriage works a bit like a bus through the Village. Emma picks up passengers at stops, and, as she drives the carriage, she narrates the history of the places she passes, such as the red barn built by William Ford in 1863, the Orville and Wilbur Wright bike shop, the 1913 carousel, and the Model T loading dock. She also calls out an affectionate “Good Boy!” to Abe and Lincoln, other horses pulling other carriages. Even if people do not board the carriage, they stop to look at the horses. “If you don’t want to ride, you can pet the horses,” Emma tells the kids who run after the horses as they slow to a stop yelling “Look! Horses!” Some more passengers board and Emma begins narrating, adjusting the amount of information according to the speed of the horses. In the course of the day Emma, Amos, and Edsel travel from the early 1600s to the late 1930s. She makes all of it look easy, natural: “Working with horses is easy. You just can’t let them walk all over you.”
During the week Emma is a student at Michigan State University where she is majoring in Liberal Arts and Japanese with Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification. While her major does not obviously involve work with horses, it’s perhaps not surprising that she’s studying language. She has mastered communication with horses; people might just be a cinch.