2014-08-09 / Top News

Festival Shows Off Island Horses

By Macaela Bennett

Mackinac Island’s annual Festival of the Horse begins Friday, August 8, with a parade at 7 p.m. and continues Saturday morning, August 9, at the Grand Hotel Horse Council Arena at 10 a.m., for a musical freestyle workshop. The festival concludes with a show at 2 p.m.

All are welcome to attend the events, which are free except for a $10 charge to see the 2 p.m. show Saturday.

Friday’s parade, featuring historic carriages and up to 40 horses, begins at Mission Point and will end at Grand Hotel.

“The parade gives people a chance to see Mackinac Island’s many breeds that they wouldn’t see otherwise,” Mackinac Horsemen’s Association president Maryanke Alexander said. “People will see there’s so much they didn’t know about the Island. What better way to see all of these horses than enjoying them spit-cleaned and polished on beautiful Mackinac?”

The horses featured in the parade will be those owned by Island residents, Grand Hotel, and Jack’s Livery Stable. Grand Hotel and some private owners will also showcase their historic carriages.

Jack’s Livery Stable will show 13 horses, including a variety of breeds: buckskin, Missouri fox trotter, Tennessee walker, palomino, pinto, and a draft mix of Percheron and quarter.

Grand Hotel will add three pairs of horses and one omnibus.

“The burgundy-colored omnibuses people see as Grand Hotel’s carriages today used to be the traditional buses in city streets,” Grand Hotel Stable Manager Ben Mosley said. “It was common for hotels to have the omnibuses pick up guests at the steam ships or railroad depots. Some wealthier businesses had them take their white-color workers to and from work, too.”

The carriage drivers will also wear the traditional livery uniform from the Victorian Era that includes top hat, Windsor tie, white shirt, waistcoat, breeches, gloves, and top boots.

The uniform was important for the drivers because they represented the family for whom they drove.

“Coachmen were highly responsible for representing their families and it was very important they were highly thought of,” Mr. Mosley said.

Pulling the omnibus will be hackney horses that became the symbol for the hotel in the 1930s. Also important to notice will be the horses’ Chicago-style harnesses, originated in a Chicago stockyard in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

“Mackinac Island is the only place in the world that I know of that the horse culture saturates every section of culture,” Mr. Mosley said. “Hopefully, we can give people a taste of what’s here so they’ll get more interested in all the Island has to offer.”

On Saturday at 10 a.m., gold medalist Betsy Van Dyke will teach a free clinic about the basics of musical freestyle, and a show starting with an overview of the Island’s equine culture from State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter will begin at 2 p.m.

“It’s important for people to notice that Mackinac Island has been left almost wholly untouched by motorized transportation,” Mr. Porter said. “We don’t have the smell, sound, garages, and have kept our quaint, wide streets.”

After Mr. Porter’s history, there will be a presentation of more than 15 breeds on Mackinac Island, Ms. Van Dyke will perform her musical freestyle routine, 10-year-old Erica Matherly of Grand Rapids and her horse, Cervantes, will perform musical freestyle, and concluding the show will be Island residents Mrs. Alexander and Michelle Stuck with their costumed routine.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2014-08-09 digital edition