Festival of the Horse Carriage Parade 7/25/2011

The third annual Festival of the Horse is officially over, and it just keeps getting better and better.  Each year more events are added, more equestrian clinicians present workshops, and more people show up who are either equestrians themselves – or who simply love the power, majesty and beauty of this four-legged creature.

I’ve always loved horses, but have never been in an environment where I could be around them all the time – until our move to Mackinac Island.  Now I see more horses everyday than I do dogs, and instead of waning, my fascination with them increases daily.

This week is all about the horse – every size, every shape, every color.  Riding horses, driving horses, pet horses.  There’s something for every kind of horse lover, and I hope you enjoy these writings as much as I enjoyed covering the events.

Today is about the carriages that horses pull.  Unfortunately, my knowledge of carriages is almost nonexistent, so the photos are going to pretty much have to speak for themselves.  Each one is lovely, and the horses pulling them are no less than splendid.  Where carriage information was available, I’ve included it, and I’ll name the driver and horse(s) if I know them.  Otherwise, the caption will be blank.  Thanks to The Mackinac Island Town Crier for quoted information.

A thousand thanks to Mary Stancik from the Grand Hotel for these beautiful shots.  Enjoy!

Grand Marshal of the parade was "Gracie Irish, riding in the Grand Hotel's 1904 vis-a-vis". Ben Mosley is driving a team of matched Hackneys. Look at those legs - all four in perfect sync!

David Levy, in a "superlight wagonette", is being pulled by the Levy family Friesian, Lars.

Michelle and Randy Stuck and their family. Pulling their carriage is Todd Z, one of their four Friesians. This is one of three photos in this group that is mine. My camera was still having issues at this point.

Ann Levy, driving her Paint, Image. "Ann's carriage is a 1910 Meadowbrook."

Don Eckhardt, "who with wife Lisa was in charge of the parade", is driving two Friesians. Another of my photos.

Seymour, a Jack burro, pulls a cart driven by owner/trainer Cady Ness-Smith. I LOVED this little guy. Seymour was adopted in 1999 as part of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program. He travels the United States as the program's advocate. He is trained in carriage driving (pleasure, distance & other) single and pair, English pleasure and parades, and has won a gazillion national awards. My favorite thing about him though is that he is a Delta Certified Therapy Animal - just like BEAR!

A carriage from Jack's Livery Stable, pulled by everyone's favorite Belgian, Bud.

Lisa Brock, driving her Friesian/Paint cross, Ringo.

I believe this is one of the private livery's wedding carriages.

Another awesome pair of Hackneys!

The 2011 Lilac Queen and Princess were riding in this buggy. Again, these look like Grand Hackneys, but I'm not sure.

Taz and Skip, two Standardbreds, owned and driven by island veterinarian, Dr. Al Sibinic.

A Grand Hotel omnibus, being pulled by two of the Grand Percherons.

This photo is mine also and shows Miwok, a mustang adopted through the BLM program. She is also a national award winner and has worked as a Therapeutic Riding/Driving Horse. Miwok has the distinction of being the only mustang to be quiet enough to handle the added distraction of a portable ventilator and oxygen tank set up for a disabled trail rider. Pretty awesome!

The parade this year was probably twice as long as last year’s, with around 20 entries (apologies to those we missed photographing) – and the drivers and riders were all in period clothing.  It was totally awesome to watch – talk about taking you back in time!  Even better is that most of the folks above are island summer residents, and they hitch up their horses to their carriages and go out for pleasure rides quite often.  If you’re visiting, you might just see them on the roads through the woods or near the fort or on the bluffs.  It’s always a special “added attraction” to an island visit.

Tomorrow – the Breed Show!

Previews! 7/24/2011

Oh my gosh – I am so excited about this next week of blog posts I can hardly wait to get started.  With the help of friends, I was able to capture “almost” every event of the Festival of the Horse, and miraculously my camera started working like a champ again on Saturday afternoon for the Breed Show.  Below is a little preview of what’s to come in the next few days.  I sure hope everyone loves horses!


Thanks to Mary Stancik from the Grand, you'll get to see the spectacular Carriage Parade through the streets of Mackinac Island.


The Breed Show held Saturday afternoon. You'll see over 20 breeds - from the largest, like this magnificent Percheron . . .

. . . to the smallest, like this precious miniature, appropriately named "Shortcake" . . .

. . . and everything in between - like this beautiful hackney from the Grand Hotel.


The heart-warming story of a "found" horse that played out at the Breed Show Saturday afternoon. You won't want to miss this one.

That will finish up the Festival of the Horse except for a few random photos that I’ll post on Thursday (you can expect several Friesians to be featured in that one).  Come Friday, we’ll be back on our “normal” schedule with something totally different than horses AND this week’s Mystery Spot – guaranteed to be the toughest one yet!

See you Monday morning!

Mackinac Island Festival of the Horse – Part II (The Breed Show) 7/27/2010

In a copy of the Mackinac Horsemen’s Association publication, “Mackinac Hoofbeats”, Phil Porter (Director of the Mackinac Island Historic State Parks) talks about the importance of the horse on the island.  He says, “I don’t think people always realize the full impact of the auto ban,” referring to the 1898 prohibition of automobiles.  “Because cars were banned so early, the island never changed to accommodate an automotive world.  As a result, we have narrow historic streets, no stop signs or stop lights, no gas stations or fuel fumes, and barns that still have horses.”  He goes on to say that “It’s the horses that help create the historical character that makes Mackinac unlike anywhere else in the world.”

No wonder the Mackinac Horsemen’s Association felt so strongly about creating a festival that revolved around that four-legged creature the island so depends on.  The horse is indeed “King” here, and now it has a festival to celebrate that fact.

The Breed Show was perhaps my favorite part of the Festival.  It was a chance to learn about and see “in person” every breed of horse on the island – there are twenty, according to the Festival program. 

Before I get to the photos, let me give you a little “Horse 101” – just a few things I learned about horses in general by attending the Festival of the Horse this year:

  • To be considered a horse, the animal must be 14.2 hands in height.  A hand is a measurement that equals approximately 4 inches (the width of a human hand).  Anything under that size is called a pony.  In the pony world, the height divisions are called small, medium, and large ponies.  The animal is measured from the base of the left hoof to the withers.
  • Horses/ponies are called foals at birth.  A young male is called a colt, a female a filly.  Males that have been de-sexed are called geldings.  A mature male horse is called a stallion, a mature female a mare.
  • Horses can live well into their thirties, but the average life span of a horse is between 19-24 years.

Mackinac Island Breed Show

Phil Porter led off The Breed Show dressed as an officer of Fort Mackinac (circa 1812). Only officers rode horses at the fort during that time period. Officers needed to be able to speedily travel from one end of the island to another - in case of trouble.

This is a Belgian draft horse, and probably the most recognizable and popular of all horses on Mackinac. They pull the carriages for Jack's Livery, Arrowhead, Mackinac Island Service Company, and Mackinac Island Taxi and Carriage Tours. Belgians can weigh over 2,000 lbs., are quick to mature, and long-lived. The Belgian is said to have the quietest disposition of any of the draft breeds. They are usually chestnut or sorrel in color, with a white mane and tail, four white stockings, and a blaze. This horse is "Toby."

A beautiful and powerful Percheron - a breed originally from Normandy, France. Percherons are predominately black, and some turn gray to white with age, while others remain black. The breed was often selected as a warhorse, and though powerfully built, they are also elegant and showy. Percherons pull the Grand Hotel Omnibuses and are used by the State Park, Arrowhead and Carriage Tours. They weigh close to 2,000 lbs., and this one's name is "John."

One of the Grand Hotel Hackneys, driven by Ben Mosley. Hackneys have been synonymous with the Grand Hotel for years and are featured on everything from ash trays to water glasses to carpeting. They are famous for their spectacularly high, ground-covering motion. Hackneys are originally from England.

A Welsh Cob, popular for driving, riding, and jumping. This one is dark bay in color and is 19 years old.

The lovely Haflinger Ponies. Haflingers are originally from Austria, where they are called "princes in front, peasants behind" because they have beautiful heads and muscular hindquarters. They are always chestnut in color, with flaxen to white manes and tails.

Doc Al and his Standardbred "Skip". Skip has retired from racing and is getting adjusted to the slower pace of the Mackinac Island streets. The breed originated in America and is the breed of choice as Amish buggy horses. They have a very fast trot, and make wonderful riding horses after their racing days are over.

This beauty is "Addy", a cross of Percheron and Standardbred. She is used for riding and driving, and is also a great trail horse. Addy is seven years old and is bright bay in color.

Beautiful "Grey", the only Thoroughbred on Mackinac Island, ridden by owner Trish Martin. Thoroughbreds originated in England, and no other breed has their combination of speed, endurance, and heart. They excel in racing, polo, foxhunting, jumping, eventing, and showing.

These are two island Arabians. The Arabian is said to be the first "true" breed and originated in the Middle East thousands of years ago. It is the most influential of all breeds, having been used to improve the blood lines of almost every other horse. Arabians can be ridden in Western tack as well as English, and are often called "high-strung" because they tend to have exceptionally quck movements. They are known for their great beauty, tremendous endurance, high tail carriage, and unflagging spirit.

A beautiful Tennessee Walking Horse. Originally bred in Tennessee, it would pull a plow in the morning and take its master for a drive in the afternoon and a saddle ride in the evening. They are naturally smooth-gaited and are known for nodding their head at the running walk.

These are two American Quarter Horses, the most popular riding horses on Mackinac Island. Cindy's and Jack's Riding Stables are full of Quarter Horses, as is the 4-H Club barn, and there are also many privately owned Quarter Horses on the island. This is an American breed that is renowned for its talent to seemingly understand and "work" cattle. They are usually ridden Western, but work well under English saddle also. They are solid jumpers and trail horses.

This is "Puzzle", a cross between a Quarter Horse and an Appaloosa. Puzzle is 10 years old.

Two more Haflinger Ponies. The second pony in line in this photo is "Blaze", a 4-H Club pony who remained on the island through the winter last year. It was Blaze who pulled the sled we rode in when we were on the island during Winter Festival in February.

"Ringo", a beautiful Friesian/Paint cross, owned and ridden by Lisa Brock. Ringo is new to the island this summer and is being broken to drive. He is very tall, measuring almost 17 hands.

Ann Levy, leading a Registered American Paint. Paints come in striking color patterns and are versatile, athletic, and gentle in temperament. This particular Paint has white eyelashes.

This Pinto Pony is "Topaz", ridden by Colton Fisher. Pintos came to America with the Spanish, but these patterns have existed among horses for thousands of years. Colton has been riding Topaz since he was old enough to sit up on the pony's back.

This is "Navejo", an American Show Horse (pinto in color). American Show Horses have an Arabian look about them and are prized for their looks and gaits.

This is "Emma", the only Norwegian Fjord on Mackinac Island. I saw this horse being ridden last year behind the West Bluff and frankly, I stopped and stared. It was by far the most unusual horse I'd ever seen. The mane is coarse and sticks straight up, with a dark dorsal stripe that extends through the mane and tail. Emma's coat is plush and feels like velvet. A gorgeous, unusual horse.

Little "Gingersnap", the closest thing we have on Mackinac Island to a Pony of the Americas. Gingersnap is a cross between a Shetland Pony and an Appaloosa and is one of the 4-H Club ponies.

One of the island Friesians. They are always black, weigh between 1,200 and 1,400 lbs., and have long flowing manes and tails.

Friesians were orginally used as coach horses. These two are being driven in tandem.

As the finale of The Breed Show, Maryanke and Michelle once again performed a Musical Kur to "Exodus". This time I got to photograph the entire performance.



The Breed Show crowd was large and enthusiastic.

At the end of the show, the horses once again circled the arena while the crowd voted on their favorites.

Maryanke on "Regina".

Lisa on "Ringo".

A close-up of those long white eyelashes on the American Paint.

Up close and personal with "Topaz", the Pinto.

Wednesday morning we will make a major jump from horses to baseball, and on Thursday I’ll have photos from the Chicago to Mackinac Yacht Race, which began this past Saturday.  As I write these words, the boats are sailing in under the Mackinac Bridge.  See you Wednesday!