The Michigan Horse Council Catalyst Awards were started in 1995 by our then president, Barb Heyboer, who thought there should be recognition for individuals involved in the Michigan Horse Industry. A catalyst is a person who dares to step forward and make a difference. Four “Catalysts” are recognized each year at the annual Michigan Horse Expo®.
The inscription on the plaques presented to the recipients reads: “Your efforts and communication have made a significant contribution to the renaissance of the Michigan Horse Industry. These Catalyst Award recipients have made an impact in the horse industry through education, leadership and innovation.
Ernie Birchmeier is the Livestock and Dairy Specialist for Michigan Farm Bureau. His responsibilities include working to protect the rights of Farm Bureau members and their families involved in the animal industry, enhance Michigan’s agricultural economy and advocate for the agriculture industry. Ernie guides the work of the Michigan Farm Bureau Equine Advisory Committee which is tasked with providing horse industry specific recommendations and policy ideas to the state’s largest general farm organization.
During his tenure with Farm Bureau, Birchmeier has helped lead collaborative efforts relative to Michigan’s horse racing industry, has assisted with efforts to establish an equine promotion fund, and helped foster Michigan equine participation and understanding of the Right to Farm Act. He has participated in a variety of equine industry priority and planning discussions and worked with many equine enthusiasts to strengthen the horse industry. Ernie is a strong advocate for member involvement in the Farm Bureau and agriculture and has a fundamental belief that those involved in the industry will typically come up with the best solutions to solve the problems facing them.
He began his career with Michigan Farm Bureau in 1989 following graduation from Michigan State University. He managed leadership development efforts for the Young Farmer Department for over eight years. Ernie has been in his current role since 1999.
Along with his position at Farm Bureau, Ernie is a lifelong farmer. He grew up on a diversified livestock and cash crop farm in Shiawassee County and currently owns and operates Birchmeier Show Hogs, specializing in producing high quality show pigs and working with youth involved in livestock exhibition.
In 1969 my family moved to a new home in Walled Lake, MI on acreage that came with a Shetland pony. I was 8 years old and instantly fell in love with my new friend Bonnie, and everything and anything to do with horses. I learned to ride, joined 4-H and even went to a few horse shows. I was blessed, my parents allowed me to have any animals I wished, as long as I took care of them. Soon, a 14.2 hand Pinto mare named Melody was added, along with many other farm animals.
After college, in 1992, I started my publishing career by creating a regional magazine in West Oakland County that was direct mailed to over 42,000 homes. Success with this first publication lead me to start an all breed magazine for horse enthusiasts in 1996. This was truly my passion, I adored everything horse related, and was delighted to be able to have a career within the equine community.
It’s been 21 years since the creation of Saddle Up! Magazine and we’ve grown to thousands of monthly followers in print and online. When I started Saddle Up! I never dreamed that some day people could read the entire magazine online from the comfort of their homes! The changes in this field since I started have been dramatic, and thankfully have made my work much easier throughout the years to produce a quality equine publication.
Thank you to the Michigan Horse Council for this honor, I am grateful to be nominated for this award. I am devoted to the equine community and will continue to do my best in producing an informative publication devoted to horse enthusiasts.
Paula Hitzler’s career with horses spans nearly 40 years. Paula entered the horse world at the age of nine when she began showing her family’s Arabian horses. By the time Paula turned 18, she had numerous regional and national titles under her belt. Paula then went on to attend Michigan State University and enroll in its Animal Science program. Upon graduating from MSU, Paula left Michigan to manage Dallas-based Zodiac Farm’s breeding operation. From Texas, Paula went on to Sonoma, California, where she managed Saddle Rock Ranch. It was also at that time when she began her teaching career. Paula taught Horse Management courses at California’s San Joaquin Delta College and Santa Rosa Junior College.
In 1989, Paula was asked by her alma mater to return to Michigan to manage Michigan State University’s Horse Teaching and Research Center. It was a perfect match – she never left, and continues as its manager. Paula teaches many of the Institute of Agricultural Technology Horse Management courses offered by MSU’s Department of Animal Science. These courses include starting horses under saddle, advanced horsemanship, introduction to horse science lab, young horse handling and labs in reproduction and breeding farm management. Paula’s proudest moments have occurred when the MSU students she has taught have shown MSU bred and trained horses to numerous regional and national titles. So far Paula and her students have won more than nine national championships and forty national top ten awards. However, Paula’s greatest achievement is when the students she has taught graduate and go on to make their own impact on the horse industry.
I showed horses in the mid 80’s to early 90’s. I showed in the Ingham County 4-H program as well as AHAM and WMAHA on the Arabian circuit. I moved to Mason with my family in 1992 and left the horse world for about 12 years working direct and retail sales. In 2002 I began working with my family at Crest View Tack Shop as a way to help my parents out with their growing business. In 2012 I became the Open Horse superintendent for the Ingham County Fair. Bringing the open show from a loss of money to one of the biggest open shows in Ingham County. In 2014 I was asked to become a board member for the Ingham County Fair Foundation which I was pleased to do and am currently the president of that board. In 2015 I decided to apply for the Ingham County 4-H horse superintendent and was blessed with being chosen for that position. Today I now own Crest View Tack shop and am enjoying all that the horse world has to offer. I have made it my mission to give the kids in Ingham County all that I can so that they can continue to make the best better.