Meet the Mackinac State Historic Parks Dray Team

One of the most magical noises on Mackinac Island is the morning *clip* *clop* of horse hooves on the pavement as the busy days come to life. Horses are a huge part of the island’s allure. Something a lot of people may not think about is the fact that the horses aren’t only here for show or tourist charm. In reality, a lot of what these horses do, specifically dray teams, is what allows the island to function as well as it does.

Mackinac State Historic Parks' dray horses, Holiday on the left and Dex on the right.

 Dex on the left, and Holiday.

 Mackinac State Historic Parks is no exception. The organization is a machine with many parts, and each position allows the park to function season to season. You have your interpreters, park operations, and even some interns in the mix, among others. But one position that can be overlooked is that of the “dray horse.” A dray is a four-wheeled flat cart that is pulled by a horse, sometimes multiple, depending on the load. The state park has its own dray team that works 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, just like the rest of the park employees.

The Mackinac State Historic Parks Dray horses in their pasture.

The team in their pasture.

 Meet Dex and Holiday. These two strong boys do a LOT for the parks. This is their first season working for MSHP, but they already know their way around the island, having been here in previous seasons. They are both Belgian Draught Horses, and as one of the most muscle-y breeds out there, they were built to work. They’re fueled by three cans of oats a day, and lots of treats (of course!).

 Just like people, the two of them have their own personalities. Holiday is a wise old man. He keeps the team calm. Dex is younger, and has a little bit more fire. Dex is the get-up-and-go type, while Holiday likes to take things a little easier. This was hard for them at first, but they have figured out how to balance each other out at the perfect pace to do their job.

Holiday with his human helper, Eric.

Holiday and Eric.

 Our brave steeds don’t work alone. Every team needs a coach, and this is where dray driver Luis comes in. Luis also has an assistant, Eric. These two men have a deep love and respect for Dex and Holiday. They spend hours a day not only driving the horses and doing their own jobs, but also caring for them, feeding them, and just giving them attention. Basically, Dex and Holiday are like their 1500 pound dogs.

Dex the horse with a special July 4 hat on his head.

Dex celebrating the Fourth of July.

 Dex and Holiday’s main job, along with their drivers, is to keep the park in top shape. This means picking up trash, delivering supplies, and other maintenance. On an island with no cars, this job becomes that much harder. The dray team makes it much more manageable for their human counterparts.

 They have day-to-day surprises, and have even survived a dray crash! Don’t worry, they handled it like champs, and weren’t even spooked. Luckily, there was no damage done to either dray. They are also natural models, as Luis and Eric explained that tourists take pictures of them throughout the day. The team is up for the challenge though, and they know how to pose for a camera. They have even been featured as special guests in some staff pictures at one of the Mackinac Island inns!

A picture of Doug the horse.

The third horse team member, Doug.

 We also can’t forget about Doug and his driver Juan. These two cover the off days for Dex and Holiday, because horses are human too! Wait…but anyways, these two contribute a lot to the park’s quality, doing the same job as Dex and Holiday.

The Mackinac State Historic Parks Dray team walking on M-185.

The Dray team at work.

 While the dray horses aren’t at the forefront of MSHP’s operation, they are so crucial to its upkeep. So next time you’re around, Dex, Holiday or Doug would never say no to an apple or carrot as a thank you for everything that they do for the parks and the island! They can be found in the pasture on their off-days, as long as it isn’t rainy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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