Mackinac Island is a gorgeous island just off the coast of UP (that’s upper peninsula for those of you not in the know) Michigan, in the waters of Lake Huron. Way back in 1898, they passed a law on Mackinac Island that banned “horseless carriages,” as to not scare the horses. It essentially prevented people from bringing their cars—or any other form of motor transportation—to the island. They created the perfect ‘turn of the century’ world where the “Horse is King!” That certainly is my kind of place! In the summer, it is very easy to get around the island. You can ride in a horse drawn carriage, rent a buggy, or ride a bicycle. Walking is also another option for most people. The island itself isn’t very big and it is very safe, especially when the last ferry has left with the day trippers. In case you are wondering, emergency vehicles, motorized wheelchairs, and snowmobiles in winter (when most of the horses are sent to warmer climates) are permitted on the island.
The Festival of the Horse was a natural way to capitalize on the perfect equestrian environment they have on Mackinac Island. It is a chance for them to celebrate all things horse. In previous years, they have had a horse and carriage parade. People and their horses get all dressed up for the occasion and it looked pretty amazing. Most of the people who are in the parade are locals, but I would imagine that anybody who was able to bring (and board) their horse on the island could participate. They usually have a good representation of different breeds and colors of horses, and go into more detail with that at a breed show where you can learn more about the different types of horses on the island. Another bright spot in the festival is the musical freestyling. If you haven’t seen someone do musical freestyling on a horse, you should go look it up online. It is pretty darn cool. I am pretty good at riding a horse but there is no way I could get Skye to dance like that. It’s just so cool though. At past festivals, they have also displayed antique wagons and buggies—not hard when it’s basically all you’ve ever had on the island, right? There are also informational sessions during the weekend, which I am sure my parents would love. They talk about the history of horses on the island and the different breeds there, where the horses go in the winter and things like that (they are snowbirds—snowhorses? mostly. They tend to be shipped to the mainland or to warmer climes during the offseason).
Of course, I happen to be from Michigan and love horses, so I could be biased when I say this is one of the best festivals around. But I don’t think so. Hopefully we will all be able to meet up at the next festival!