Michigan | Travel

Horsin' around in Traverse City

There’s plenty of horsin’ around this summer in Traverse City.

And visitors are invited to get in on the fun each Sunday, through Aug. 13, when the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival hosts Grand Prix events featuring riders in various age groups and their sleek show horses, some of them Olympic-caliber. Whether they’re competing as “hunters” or “jumpers,” more than 3,000 horses and riders from 33 states and 13 foreign countries are expected to participate during the six-week, AA-sanctioned show.

Braiders stay up through the night braiding manes and tails on some of the competitors. (Photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

Located at Flintfields Horse Park in Williamsburg, just east of Traverse City, the festival welcomed more than 25,000 visitors last year. Spectators bring lawn chairs or blankets and may picnic on the grassy infield or settle into the covered bleachers and watch the horses competing in the Grand Prix Ring for ribbons, points and prize money totaling more than $1-million. Visitors are invited to come early and watch the action in the four warm-up rings.  There are five show-rings, counting the Grand Prix ring, plus a grass ring.

Gates open at noon at the 88-acre  park; Grand Prix competition starts at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $15 adults, and $10 for children under 12, seniors 65 and up and members of the military. Upgrades to the VIP Club are available.

Special Sunday family events are planned July 23 and Aug. 13, including a bounce house, food truck, balloon artist, music and a “horseless horse show” where little kids can practice jumping with pretend horses and ribbons as rewards.

Visitors are welcome daily, except Monday, at the festival grounds to watch the horses. Monday is the off-day when you’ll find many competitors relaxing on pontoon boats on Torch Lake. Look for the Texas contingent on the popular south end.

Before your visit to the festival, it’s good to know that jumpers are the “athletes” of the horse show. Their task is solely to jump, regardless of style or manner. Hunters represent the type of horse used in fox hunting, and are judged on manners, jumping ability, style (including braided mane and tail), pace and quality. Judges look for a horse that would be the most agreeable mount to “ride to the hounds” and provide a smooth and safe ride. Hunters at the festival may jump two to three times a day but jumpers only once.

For more information, check http://greatlakesequestrianfestival.com

Ribbons await winners of the competitions. (Photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

Riders start young at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival in Traverse City. (Photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

The Great Lakes Equestrian Festival runs through Aug. 13 in Traverse City. (Photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)



Susan R. Pollack
Globetrotting journalist and former Detroit News staff writer Susan R. Pollack has covered travel since 1985, visiting scores of countries on five continents, 49 states, six Canadian provinces and hundreds of cities, islands and outposts along the way. From Alaska, the Galapagos and New Zealand to South Africa, Thailand and Wales, she has suffered the occasional lost luggage, jetlag and Montezuma’s revenge but still delights in sharing travel adventures with readers. In addition to The Detroit News, her award-winning stories and photos have appeared in major newspapers including the Dallas News, Toronto Star, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Chicago Sun Times; and magazines including Delta Sky, Midwest Living, Long Weekends, Experience Michigan, Jetsetter, Home & Away, Lakeland Boating, Hour Detroit, Prevue Meetings and Group Tour. She has contributed to several books including "Rand McNally 2008 Ultimate NASCAR Road Trip Guide." She also writes for websites including cruisecritic.com, gardendestinations.com and travelingmom.com.