It is that time of year once again, the 2014 season ends in just 19 days. Where has the time gone? It seems as though we were just figuring out creative ways to get all the things we needed to open the hotel for the season across a frozen Lake Huron. Now here we are, it is October, and that means it is time to say goodbye to the horses for the winter. During peak season there are several hundred horses on Mackinac. Over the winter only about 20 horses remain to pull drays and taxis for winter residents and businesses that stay open.
Some of the larger dray and carriage horses have left already to begin their winter vacation. Can’t you just imagine them, sitting around getting massages and hoof manicures, just chilling out for the winter.
Not that the horses are not pampered, and very well taken care of during the season. They work fewer hours than their human counterparts, and veterinarians out number human doctors on the island two to one. However, they do work very hard for the five to six months they are here, and they definitely deserve the winter break.
Hackneys are smaller, high stepping horses used to pull the private carriages owned by the hotel. This week the Hackneys left the island to go to Hiawatha Hawk Ranch located in Mackinaw City. They will spend the winter there and return to Mackinac Island next May.
A truck and trailer from Hiawatha Hawk Ranch is brought over to the island to transport the horses on a freight boat. The truck backs off the boat on to the dock, and the horses are loaded into the trailer. Hackneys are a little high strung, and at first there was a bit of defiant “I’m not going in there” stomping, but that calmed down quickly with a simple “hey now, it’s ok” from stable manager Ben Mosley. After that each horse walked right into the trailer, one-by-one, following a little goodbye nuzzle.
So, we say goodbye to these beautiful animals. Until next spring, when they will return all refreshed, and a little fuzzy with their winter coats.