One of the best-known things about Mackinac Island is that cars aren’t allowed. It’s been that way for over 100 years!
As a result, people get around Mackinac Island on foot, by bicycle or on a horse. Taking a break from our auto-driven society is part of the charm of visiting Mackinac Island.
But while lots of people know that there are no cars on Mackinac Island, there tend to be lots of questions about the authentic horsepower that keeps the island moving. For example, what happens to all the horse manure? If there are no motor vehicles, then how do packages get delivered on Mackinac Island? Where do all of the horses go in the winter?
All good questions, and each one has an interesting answer. Compiled below is a list of 10 common questions about horses on Mackinac Island, with answers coming straight from the horse’s mouth:
How many horses live on Mackinac Island?
While about 500 people are year-round Mackinac Island residents, that population gets surpassed by the number of horses during the summer. As many as 600 horses live and work on Mackinac Island during peak season! All but a few depart for the mainland at the end of the travel season.
What kind of horses live on Mackinac Island?
Big ones! Mackinac Island Carriage Tours has Percheron and Belgian draft horses for carriage tours and dray services, for example. Hackney teams are used for weddings, while grade horses of a certain size are used for taxi service.
What happens to all the horse poop on Mackinac Island?
It’s scooped up and collected in a wheeled cart by full-time Mackinac Island Carriage Tours employees. The manure is then delivered to the City of Mackinac Island’s composting operation. Mackinac Island streets are cleaned continuously, with workers using water to flush the streets after hours.
Where can you go to ride horses on Mackinac Island?
There are lots of options for riding horses on Mackinac Island. A narrated horse-drawn carriage tour is just one way. You can also take the reins of your own private horse-drawn carriage, or go horseback riding through town or on some of the 70-plus miles of trails through Mackinac Island State Park. You can even get a horse-riding lesson at the Mackinac Community Equestrian Center.
Where can you see horses on Mackinac Island?
Pretty much everywhere! To get up close and personal, visit the Grand Hotel Horse Stable/Carriage Museum. To learn about the history of horses on Mackinac Island and see antique carriages, you can explore the Surrey Hills Carriage Museum.
Can you bring your own horse to Mackinac Island?
Several residents own their own horses for pleasure riding on Mackinac Island. And just as you can take your own bicycle or your own dog to Mackinac Island, you also can bring your own horse! Both Arnold Freight Co. and Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry offer horse transportation to the island. Just be sure to make arrangements in advance for overnight boarding on Mackinac Island.
Who takes care of the horses on Mackinac Island?
Just like you might have a veterinarian for your pet, horses on Mackinac Island are cared for by veterinarians. Mackinac Island Carriage Tours has a staff of five veterinarians, for example. Many other people also are involved in caring for the horses, from barn workers who feed and clean the horses to drivers who bathe their team at the end of each shift to certified farriers who are experts in hoof care.
Why are “horseless carriages” banned on Mackinac Island?
There’s an interesting history of horses on Mackinac Island, and basically the carriage men fought to protect their way of life when cars first were introduced in the late 1800s. As it has turned out, the lack of automobiles has been a big reason Mackinac Island is such an enjoyable place to visit.
Do horses make deliveries on Mackinac Island?
Yes! Because there are no delivery trucks on Mackinac Island, all packages are delivered by the Mackinac Island Service Company on horse-drawn drays. Mackinac Island Service Company employees also collect all mail at the ferry docks or at the Mackinac Island Airport, then bring it to Mackinac Island’s cute little post office. There is no door-to-door mail delivery on Mackinac Island, just P.O. boxes at the post office.
Where do the horses on Mackinac Island go in the winter?
Horses from Mackinac Island Carriage Tours spend the winter at Carriage Tours Farms in Pickford, Mich. near the eastern edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Some horses begin leaving Mackinac Island as early as mid-August, with others joining them gradually over the final two months of the travel season. The horses return to Mackinac Island shortly before the new season starts, usually in late March.