Our horses come … and our horses go. That makes us happy … and sad. They’re part of our seasonal ritual … and the romantic fabric of Mackinac Island.
Our beauties arrive on the ferries in shifts every spring and parade off every October. It’s part of what makes our slice of Pure Michigan paradise so special.
And that’s what reporter Louise Knott Ahern wanted to capture in her end-of-the-season feature about the Horses of Mackinac, which first appeared in the Lansing State Journal.
Check out her delightful story and the 41 awesome photos by Rod Sanford in the Journal here.
The Backstory: We asked Louise what makes her Mackinac Island tale more than just a travel story.
“I’ve had the idea for a while, but I wanted do it differently than it has been done before. I wanted to tell the story, as much as possible, through the lens of the horses themselves,” says Louise, a veteran newshound for the mid-Michigan Journal.
“I didn’t want them to just be passive props in the background while people did all the talking.
“I also wanted people who have never witnessed the horses leaving the island to feel like they were there, watching and experiencing it themselves.
“So far, it seems that folks are enjoying the story! It is by far one of the most popular stories we’ve done year to date at LSJ.com. I’ve gotten emails from all over the country from people who said the article brought back memories of their trips to the island,” she reports.
Louise says every visit to Mackinac Island is special, but being able to get “behind the scenes” made this visit unique.
“I enjoyed getting to know the people — the Gough family, Dale Peterson, Ben Mosely at the Grand Hotel stables. It was also wonderful to experience the island near the end of the season. The autumn colors were breathtaking, and the vibe of the island is different than during the summer.
“The thing that struck me immediately while reporting this story was how much of a sense of family exists on the island. That is what I wanted to capture — that people who own shops on the island and work with the horses feel like they’re saying good-bye to a family member when they leave the island. I wanted to capture that, above all else.”
You’ll find Louise did a fabulous job of that in her Journal story here.
Looking back, Louise says that she was able to best take in the ambiance and mood during her quiet moments alone, apart from her mom and 9-year-old daughter, Alice, who accompanied her on the trip.
“I loved witnessing the efficiency of the operations and the relationship between the horses and their drivers.
“My family has owned horses in the past. I wonder if people who’ve never spent time around horses realize how much personality they have. They have such individual quirks and characteristics, just like a family dog,” she adds.
“We had a horse once who could escape from the pasture. We could never figure out how he did it. He would wander up to the house and stare in the windows. He was also friends with our cat. They would basically hang out together.”
Did she discover a favorite Mackinac Island horse?
“You bet. Buck from Cindy’s Riding Stable. He cracked me up when he escaped his stall and headed outdoors as if he owned the place,” she recalls.
Her favorite part of the visit (besides the horses): “Making memories that my daughter will have forever, just like the memories of Mackinac Island that I carry of my visits here as a child.”
Mackinac Island, Louise says, is one of those places that everyone needs to visit at least once — especially Michiganders. “I’m looking forward to coming back, hopefully next summer. When I do, I hope to visit the site of Fort Holmes. I wrote a story last summer about the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Mackinac Island, and I’m now fascinated with that part of the island’s history.
“I would encourage people to check out the island in the fall. It’s a different place than in the summer, and it is bittersweet to watch the Mackinac horses leave. I also want to thank all the folks who helped us out when we were on the island — Dale Peterson, Dale Gough, Ben Mosely.”
Email Louise at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a favorite Mackinac Island horse?
Please share your feedback in the comment box below!
Posted Nov. 13, 2014
Mary Lynch says
I read Louise’s article in the Detroit News. Brought back great memories of my recent trip to the island
( the end of September-it was 70 degrees that wk.) Love Mackinac Island. The sights, the sounds, the smells. It is a Michigan treasure for sure.
Mackinac Island is pretty i been go there when i was a little kid i grow up around horses and i got a horse of my own.Nice story on them and mackinac island.
Carol Rittenbery says
I loved the story about the horses leaving. Next trip I will come the day after Labor Day. I want to see the horses walk to the boats. Knowing they will have some leisure time will is comforting.
Carol Rittenbery says
I loved the story about the horses leaving. Next trip I will come the day after Labor Day. I want to see the horses walk to the boats. Knowing they will have some leisure time is comforting.