2018-08-24 / Columnists


Jack, a Dark Feathered Roan, Takes Visitors for Island Tours
by Candice C. Dunnigan

It’s August, and traditionally that means an annual visit for me to Jack’s Livery Stable. Where else can you rent your own horse and carriage for an hour or more and see much of Mackinac Island using horse power, not pedal power? As more and more cyclists arrive in the summer months, many miss the beauty and tranquility of the Island. People are racing against the clock or themselves to see how fast they can ride around the Island. Our most unique transportation feature is how we move “things” and people by horse power. Mackinac can nicely be enjoyed from a carriage, buggy, or in the saddle.

Although bicycles outnumber horses here 10 to 1, there still are plenty of people who want to take advantage of the option of taking a buggy ride on their own term. There is only one place one can do this. Jack’s has 18 horses that can be hired for an hour or more that you can drive. Even some seasoned cottage families will do just that and rent a horse and buggy from Jack’s and take a drive. Many of our Amish visitors make a trip to Jack’s a priority. It is a great option for guests and family reunions to rent, too. It seems that every time I go to Jack’s, they get busier than ever.

Jack and Burton Gough share a moment. Jack and Burton Gough share a moment. This week I was there shortly after 9 a.m. and both the “saddle side” and “buggy side” had people waiting. Many say they want to rent a “drive-yourself” buggy “to see Mackinac at a quieter pace, be by the lake, and see the woods.”

The reason I happened to be at the stable that day was to see if I could get a photograph of a new horse in the buggy lineup. I have seen him for several weeks coming down the hill by Grand Hotel on Cadotte Avenue. He struck me as most unusual, a very large, roan-colored horse with black, feathery legs. Could he have been crossed with a Friesian along the line, perhaps back an ancestor or two, or was he just a draft?

When I asked about this big roan with the black feathers at Jack’s, Burton Gough was the man on duty. Immediately he knew what horse I meant. “Oh, you mean Jack. Ya, he is a little unusual.” Jack happened to not be working yet, so Burton took him out from his stall so I could meet him. Jack would rather have gone back to his hay than stand around for a photograph once he realized he was not going for an outing and I did not have any treats for him, but he was patient enough for me.

He is an amiable horse, a large horse, and an odd horse. Jack stands more than 17 hands and is big boned. His coloring is a dark reddish rose and brown. His mane is roached (clipped short), and his forelock is gone, but if they were not cut, both would be very thick and black. His legs are thick boned and his hindquarters are strong. Jack’s black tail is full, although cut short, but his legs have long black stockings with thick feathering on them. Feathering is a term used to describe the many hairs that can appear to be shaggy or soft and flowing, which cover the horses from just above the ankle to the hoof.

One thinks mainly of Clydesdales who have this. In fact, there is a pair of Clydes on the line this summer at Mackinac Island Carriage Tours that horse watchers may spot. The Gypsy Vanner breed I wrote about a few weeks ago also has this characteristic, and so does the Friesian breed. While Friesian breeders have strived so hard to keep their breed pure, once they arrived in the United States from the Netherlands, all kinds of crosses have been made with them. They have bred with Morgans, Andalusians, Hanoverians, Paints, and Quarter Horses, so why not another draft? Friesian horses were originally bred for coaching and farming, so anything is possible. Percherons also have some feathers around their ankles. Jack just has many of them, so perhaps there was a hirsute Percheron in his lineage.

Well, Jack certainly doesn’t know or care what his lineage might be, but what the Goughs do know is that he came from Wisconsin, and this is his first season. He was already broke to drive. Once he arrived on their farm, and then on Mackinac, he was hitched for a trial period to the buckboard, so he has been driving around since June.

A horse this size takes a lot of hay, and actually, they all do. Jack averages a good bale a day. Hay bales on average weigh anywhere from 35 to 60 pounds. At the stables, those bales tend to be on the heavier and larger side. Jack and his stablemates also consume a fair amount of grain. He usually eats a 12% compound feed that comes from the mainland. Of the 18 buggy horses at Jack’s, a small, stout, little Belgian named Shorty has been there the longest. How long is long? I am not certain, but it seems like forever. These equines in this lineup seem pretty interesting to me, as each is far from uniform in size or shape as well as personality.

If all goes according to plan, Jack will remain on Mackinac Island into the fall. 2018 prices for a one-hour drive-it-yourself horse and buggy begin at $70 for a twoseater, $88 for a four-passenger buggy, and $108 for a six-passenger buggy. The horse and buggy business will remain in operation until October, weather permitting.

Happy Trails!

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

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