2018-08-11 / Columnists


Yearling Comrades, Lane and Flint, Enjoy a Mackinac Summer

Baby horses, especially newborn foals, have an enduring appeal. Like puppies and kittens, they have Disneyesque qualities of large, inquisitive eyes, soft noses, and little ears, but by the time horses grow up, they first reach an awkward and sometimes foolish stage. Usually this is about the time they are a little more than a year old, when they are called yearlings. Mackinac Island usually is not a place to which foals or yearlings are brought because there is not a lot of grazing space and not a lot of time for a majority of working people to spend on youngsters. In fact, it has been a long time since any have been here.

This summer, however, Mackinac is home sweet home to two yearling colts that are far from nasty or pushy. They are just the opposite, and they are just quite fine. The horses are not related, except for ownership. Their names are Lane and Flint. They belong to the Gough family, or, as Jodi Gough puts it, really, they are her daughter Kristi’s projects. The horses live right off of Hoban Road near Harrisonville and they are happy campers in a nice section of pasture near Hill House.

Lane and Flint are two yearlings enjoying a summer on Mackinac. Lane and Flint are two yearlings enjoying a summer on Mackinac. Attention for these two? Yes, they have much of it, which has enforced their sociability. I spent time just watching them one late morning. True, one was more interested in me than the other, but then both came up to me, then went back to nibble hay. They were turned out with two adult horses and everyone was content. No one nipped, poked, or provoked the older horses. They were pretty mellow for “preteens.”

Their stories began with a quest of Kristi, who was looking for a young Appendix horse. The Appendix is a registered breed of quarter horse crossed with Thoroughbred. The line usually produces a horse that has the leggy quality found in the Thoroughbred with the heavier, more durable bone of a quarter horse. This type of horse is well rounded to excel in a host of achievements in both English and Western disciplines. Appendix horses are usually good jumpers and are good with cattle or team penning, dressage, pleasure, trail, and endurance. The breed has many bays, but there are a larger proportion of chestnuts. Appendix horses, on average, are between 15.1 to 16 hands in height.

Kristi found such a horse, a lovely little registered chestnut weanling colt in Minnesota. Being both the good parents they are (as well as seasoned horse people), Jodi and Dale Gough accompanied their daughter and her boyfriend on the 12-hour one-way trek with truck and trailer to bring the horse back to Pickford, where Gough Enterprises (this includes their dozens of horses), as well as the family, reside in the off-season. Kristi named the horse Lane, a shortened version of his registry name.

In parallel time, the Goughs were in the process of selecting a few horses to supplement their riding stable line. Both Cindy’s, as well as Jack’s Livery, are operated by the family. Usually each stable has about 30 horses on hand, which are hourly rentals on Mackinac during the summer, as well as many “driveyour self” carriage horses. Late that fall Kristi found a cute little mare named Jade, now known as Onyx, at the barn. She is on the small size and good for young riders or small adults to take to the trail.

They felt pretty certain that they were just purchasing a mare, but little did they know. When she got back to the farm and the horse settled in, the barn manager informed them that Jade (Onyx) was pregnant. It so happens that in a near field, where they purchased the mare outside of Skandia, was a Gypsy Vanner stallion. The following spring the mare gave birth to a little spotted colt with feathering on his feet. They named him Flint. He sure looks a lot like a gypsy might have somehow been involved in his making.

The Gypsy Vanner is an Irish Cob horse that was formalized into a registered stud in 1996. The small, sturdy equine is found mainly in the British Isles, but has been imported to the United States. They originally were used as cart horses by tinkers “gypsies.” Vanner means suitable to pull such a conveyance or van. In coloring, most of them are piebald, being black and white; others are skewbald, brownish red and white. They have a heavy, barrel body, short back, deep chest, and feathering, like a Clydesdale, over their ankles. Many horses of this breed have long, flowing manes. Despite their shortness and thickness, they look airy and light when they move. Their average height is 14.2 hands.

On Mackinac it has been a summer of growing and learning for both horses. They’re used to being handled by folks other than in Pickford. Often they are hand grazed here in the evenings. Lane and Flint have gotten a lot of attention, as well as grooming, and have had their feet picked up and trimmed on a regular basis. Many of the Gough staff members have taken a shine to them.

Lane was born with long legs and almost perfectly matched rear white stockings. He is growing into his frame and could be close to 16 hands by the time he matures. He has a lovely, narrow blaze, and definitely will be a “looker.” He could be stunning in halter classes or tacked. Flint will be much smaller in size, but most likely he will be stockier compared to Lane. He may not have a true Gypsy Vanner flowing mane, but he most likely will retain his curiosity and open manner. This guy already has personality. At this point, neither of them seems to be “buddy bound,” which is a real plus.

I thought Jodi Gough’s comment about why they brought them to the Island this summer was a good one: “It would be a lot better for them to be here, because if they were up at the farm, they would just be running around like deer and not getting the human touch.” Anyone who has been around yearlings knows this to be true. Having adolescent horses is a time for learning, trying, and some firm ground work in training. What a lucky pair!

Candice Dunnigan is a resident, writer, and equestrian on Mackinac Island. She belongs to various national and local equine organizations.

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