Taking the reins with a Drive-It-Yourself Carriage Tour

Published on August 19th, 2020

Last updated on November 29th, 2022

Whether you’re a horse aficionado, desire adventure, or are a backseat driver type who yearns for control, you can satisfy your penchants on Mackinac Island through a Drive-It-Yourself Carriage tour.Mackinac Island’s drive-it-yourself horse drawn carriage rides don’t require any experience or familiarity with horses.

Most know that Mackinac Island is fairly dependent on horses. With no cars allowed on the island, horses are a main form of transportation. Upon docking on the island, one of the first sounds you’ll hear is bound to be the clip-clop of the horses pulling a carriage. However, perhaps one of the more under-the-radar activities on the island is how YOU can “drive” your own carriage.

While there are numerous popular carriage ride and tours to participate in, you can opt to drive rather than ride. Jack’s Livery Stable offers Drive Your Own Buggies for two, four, or six passengers.

“This is something probably for people with prior experience,” you may be thinking. But no! No matter your familiarity with horse-riding, you can participate in this activity.

Before you begin your ride, you’ll fill out a short questionnaire to assess your driving skills. It’s important to remain honest answering – remember, you won’t be turned away due to lack of experience. This questionnaire helps staff match you with the right horse. Additionally, you’ll receive a brief rundown and instruction before you’re off and away exploring the island on your own.

First-timers will feel plenty of comfort driving their own buggy. Not only does the quick lesson help, but it will be a well-trained, knowledgeable horse pulling the buggy – they know the route and the commands. For example, saying “giddy up” with a slap of the lines instructs the horse to move forward; pulling the right line tells them go right (and left line for left); pulling back on both lines while saying “whoa” will get the horse to stop. The driving instructions are easy to follow and always shared by the stable hands prior to your ride. Your quick lesson ensures you have them mastered before you are off on your own.

Just like driving a car, there are also rules of the roadBefore you depart on a Mackinac Island drive-it-yourself carriage ride, livery guides will give you a quick lesson. to follow. Rules are provided for your safety, pedestrians’ safety, and of course, the horse’s safety. These rules include no U-turns, steering wide around corners, never leaving the horse unattended, all passengers remaining seated while in motion, and more. All the rules are clearly covered before your ride.

As for where you’ll explore, there are designated routes to choose from based on ride duration. Besides the downtown area, driving your own buggy can bring you to many popular island spots such as Mackinac Island State Park’s Arch Rock and British Landing.

It should also be noted that reservations are only taken one day in advance, and you can stop in in any time during hours of operation for same-day rentals.

Take the reins and put the fun, relaxing experience of a Mackinac Island carriage ride in your own hands. It adds a new layer to what is such a memorable experience. Many visitors afterward feel connected to their horse and will always remember them as part of the experience itself. It gives you a first-hand glimpse of the bond Mackinac stable hands have with the horses, and what makes them such special animals.

Click here to learn more about all horse-related activities on Mackinac Island.