Featured Image Credit: Blake Williams
Misinformation about carriage horses is rampant in Charleston. People often talk about the issue without having any facts to back up their stances. Well, we’re here to help with that. We’re taking on common myths about carriage horses and busting them with the truth. So, educate yourself on this hot-button issue before you get into that spirited debate. Oh, and don’t forget to resist the Russian trolls!
Myth: Carriage Horses Work No Matter the Weather
Erroneous! While horses and mules have the ability to adapt to the weather, they’re not asked to perform in extreme weather conditions…and that includes extreme heat. We know it gets hot down here in the summer and the caretakers of our four-legged friends know what to look out for when it comes to an overheated horse. At Palmetto Carriage Works, they take each horse’s temperature after every tour to make sure they are within the normal range. If the horse even approaches having an above normal temperature, they are pulled from working. And if a day reaches 95 degrees or the heat index is 110, there are no tours.
Myth: Carriage Horses Work Long Hours Without Breaks
Lies! The number of hours a horse is allowed to work in a row is highly regulated by the city of Charleston. Palmetto Carriage Works’ horses and mules typically work a five hour day. Plus, the horses get at least a 15-minute break between tours to rest and drink water. And when they’re not working, they have plenty of space in their stalls to eat and relax.
Myth: Carriage Horses are Made to Carry Backbreaking Loads
Nope! Even a fully loaded carriage isn’t hard for a horse or mule to pull, especially in teams. The tourism committee recently determined that even on a full carriage ride, it would be almost impossible for a carriage to exceed the city’s weight limit due to logistical issues. In Charleston, the weight of the carriages is restricted to a maximum of three times the horse’s weight. While all carriage companies must adhere to this ordinance, it is possible for the horses to pull much more than this. But don’t get all worked up just yet. To give you an idea of just how much weight carriage horses can pull, a regular horse can easily pull a wheeled vehicle that is six times its own weight. Since the average weight of a draft horse is about 1,400-2,000 pounds, that means that one of the larger horses could easily pull up to 12,000 pounds on a wheeled vehicle. A typical carriage load is FAR less than that, and the horses, on average, work five hours per day with breaks.
Myth: Carriage Horses Are Easily Spooked and Dangerous
False! It’s true that horses are firmly in the “flight” camp when it comes to the “fight or flight” response, but Charleston carriage horses aren’t just ordinary horses. They’re highly trained animals that adapt easily to their environments. They know how to deal with pedestrians, cars, sirens, yelling, and other loud noises. Things that might make a typical horse bolt don’t ruffle these quadrupeds.