When I was a little girl, growing up as an only child in the small south Georgia town of Sylvester, my ultimate wish was to have my very own horse. I asked my parents for one, prayed for one, spent a ridiculous amount of time reading about them, and watched every TV show and movie about them – My Friend Flicka, Fury, Mr Ed, Misty, and National Velvet. And then there were the cowboys’ (and cowgirl’s) horses – Roy Rogers’ Trigger, Dale Evans’ Buttermilk, Gene Autry’s Champion, Hopalong Cassidy’s Topper, Tonto’s Scout, and the Lone Ranger’s Silver. Loved them all.
My only real life experiences with horses came on a few special Sundays with my daddy. The funeral director in Sylvester kept 4 or 5 horses for people to rent, and occasionally when my whining about a horse got overwhelming, daddy would say, “After church today, I’ll take you riding.” Oh my gosh, those were the best Sundays!
As I grew older, I realized that horse ownership was just not going to happen for me. We lived in the “city” (no horses allowed), and horses were expensive (as was their upkeep). But more than all that, as an only child, I lived in a pretty protected cocoon. Anything that might bring me harm just wasn’t going to be chanced. And horses fell into that category. So I slowly funneled my love of horses to a love of dogs and cats and any other small furry mammals that I could get my hands on. Those pets were “do-able” – but my love of horses remained.
Fast forward 50 years. In the summers, we now live surrounded my horses day and night. We see them when we look out our front door, our back door, and every window we have in the condo. When we are outside we see horses everywhere, are pulled by horses in taxis, avoid being stepped on by horses at street corners, and constantly step around horse poop. The ridiculous thing is, with the access I now have to horses, I am prohibited from horseback riding. Due to a fairly serious neck problem, my doctor has said a car accident or anything that would cause stress on my neck could be very dangerous to me. So even though I live with horses now 5 1/2 months out of the year, I can’t ride them.
But you know what? I don’t really care. I can walk down the road and pet and feed MacGyver any time I want. There are other horses that stick their heads over their corral fences every time we walk by that I can talk to and pet. And for the rest of this week, I get to immerse myself in the Festival of the Horse on Mackinac Island.
There will be a parade down Main Street of antique carriages pulled by beautiful horses, tours of Grand Hotel and private West Bluff stables, carriage driving demonstrations, a breed show, horse culture lectures, and an old-fashioned barn raising party. The festival is being sponsored by the Mackinac Horsemen’s Association, whose mission statement reads: “In recognition of the unique ordinance of 1898, banning the “horseless” carriage on Mackinac Island, and in that the “HORSE IS KING” on Mackinac Island, the Mackinac Horsemen’s Association is dedicated to the promotion, education, and future of horses and horsemen on Mackinac Island.”
I walked over to the Carriage Museum late this afternoon just to get a few shots of horses to add to tonight’s blog. It just goes to prove what I said above – all I have to do is walk out the door, turn left, walk about 100 steps, and there they are.
Carriage Tour Horses
Private Carriage Tour Horse
I hope you join me for the next day or two as I fulfill a little girl’s dream of surrounding myself by these magnificent creatures that make Mackinac Island so unique. On Friday I will be touring the West Bluff Victorian era cottage stables and watching a farrier shoe horses. On Saturday, Blake and I are volunteering at the Burough Lot below the Grand Hotel where we’ll do whatever they ask us to – sell tickets, sell t-shirts, help with the games, run errands, answer questions – whatever. I’ll have my camera, of course, so Saturday and Sunday’s blog will be all about horses, carriages, stables, horseshoes, and the people who love everything about horses. And that includes me.