accident, carriage accidents, carriage horse welfare, carriage mules, carriage tour Charleston, carriage tours, Charleston, Charleston carriage tour, Charleston heat, downtown Charleston, heat, heavy load, Holy City, horse and buggy tour, horse carriage, horses treated poorly, inspection of carriage industry, safety, temperature, tourists, vegan
I live in Charleston, SC, a beautiful city famed for its history, culture, and charm.
It’s a fabulous place to live.
I love to show visiting friends and family the Holy City’s iconic landmarks and do the “Charleston musts” with them.
Seeing Rainbow Row, splashing in the Pineapple fountain, walking the sleek Ravenel Bridge, and sun bathing on Folly Beach are always on the list.
Inevitably though, visitors will ask about taking a horse carriage ride through the historic downtown streets. Sounds like a great idea, right?
I don’t like animal cruelty, and this is why I share the following with everyone who comes to visit our amazing city:
5 Reasons NOT to Go on a Carriage Ride
1. Poor Treatment
One look at the carriage horses, and you can tell they’re not happy. But don’t take my word for it. Take a veterinarian’s, who did a comprehensive inspection of Charleston’s industry in 2009.
The vet found the following problems and more:
- Stalls so small the horses couldn’t turn around
- Ill-fitting equipment causing muscle dysfunction
- Horses eating shavings because they lacked enough hay
- Owners’ complete lack of knowledge of weight limits for carriages
- Poor air flow in the stalls with high levels of ammonia and dust
- Horses suffering from open wounds
Despite carriage companies’ claims of “we ensure our horses are happy and healthy,” the conditions discovered unfortunately say otherwise.
Click here and here for full news stories from our local papers, and here’s a link to the Carriage Company Inspection 2009 Overview.
Even if none of the above problems ever existed (which they did and probably still do), the following reasons are enough to make me want to skip a ride.
2. It’s Not Safe
Having horse-drawn carriages on city streets with traffic is dangerous for the animals and for the public.
Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM, states in a piece about carriage horses in urban settings, “Unequivocally, horse-drawn carriages and motor vehicles should not share the same roadways, as doing so puts the animals and public at risk…”
Multiple incidents of horses getting spooked and accidents resulting have happened over the years, as documented in this Post & Courier article.
In fact, just in April 2014, a spooked carriage horse dashing down the street right before an accident was caught on video:
And then on June 19, 2014, a horse bolted and crashed the carriage into a house on Tradd Street. The horse and a passenger were injured. Here’s the Post & Courier report on this incident.
Here’s a picture a friend of mine snapped and posted on Facebook in July 2012. He wrote, “I wish I could say no animal was hurt in the capturing of this photo.”
Here’s another photo from the Post & Courier from an accident that injured 6 people in downtown Charleston:
It’s simply not safe for people or horses for carriages to be on the roads.
3. The HEAT!
Y’all. I’m an acclimated Southerner, but Charleston summers are INTENSE!
I would not want to be pulling a heavy carriage full of tourists on hot asphalt all day in the heat we have here.
According to City ordinance, companies are supposed to stop working the horses if the ambient temperature reaches 98 degrees (which is stifling here in Charleston with our humidity) or the heat index reaches 125 degrees(!), but that regulation doesn’t seem to be enforced.
If it’s too hot for us to want to walk around downtown, it’s certainly too hot for horses to be pulling carriages full of people.
4. Heavy Loads
Most of the carriages can and do hold between a dozen and 16 tourists.
The combined weight of the carriage, passengers, and driver is not supposed to exceed more than three times the weight of the animal pulling them (according to City ordinances), but…
As noted above, the inspection found none of the carriage company owners knew what the weight limit was.
And I’ve never seen them weigh each tourist to make sure the load they were about to put on the carriage was within regulation. (I don’t think the tourists would appreciate that!)
5. The Smell and Delays!
Last and least, a couple of my pet peeves that I’m sure other locals and tourists alike share:
- Horse poop. No one likes to smell (or step in) it. Enough said about that.
- The uber frustrating stuck-behind-a-carriage-while-driving experiences. Murphy’s law: it always happens when you’re running late for an event downtown.
Of course these are trivial frustrations compared to the sad life of a carriage horse.
At least one carriage company uses mules instead of horses, claiming that mules are better for carriage-pulling because “their health record is much more successful than that of draft horses.”
But these carriage mules suffer in many of the same ways as horses, as the vet inspection report for Palmetto Carriage Co. showed. Best to skip the carriage riding altogether.
Now that we know the many compelling reasons not to take a carriage tour, let’s find better ways to see the city!
Why not try:
– A Walking Tour!
They have historical tours with expert guides, and there are even ghost walking tours, which are spooky and way fun!
Plan to go in the morning or evening to skip the hottest part of the day.
– A Trolley or Bus Tour
Enjoy the sights of Charleston in air-conditioned comfort!
This is a great option, especially if anyone in your party is particularly young or old.
– Charleston Harbor Tours
See the city from the water! Getting to be out on the harbor is such an exhilarating activity.
You might even spot some dolphins in the wild (which is much better than spotting them at marine parks; click here to find out why)!
For links to walking, bus, and harbor tours of Charleston, click here.
Please do come visit the Holy City and enjoy its many charms and stories. You will absolutely fall in love with it!
Just be sure to skip that carriage tour for a more compassionate view of this marvelous place.
To Cruelty-Free Sight Seeing!
P.S. Carriage horses in other cities don’t fare much better. Check out this video by The Humane Society of the United States on carriage horse cruelty that focuses on NYC:
Some cities, like London, Paris, and Las Vegas, have bans on horse carriages, and NYC’s new mayor is working to enact a ban there.
We can be compassionate tourists anywhere we go by opting not to take carriage rides. Thank you for caring about all animals!
Note: This post was originally published in June 2013, but it was updated in May and June 2014 to add information about two new carriage accidents.
Sally Rowles said:
I totally agree!
Emily Phillips said:
Amy Lauren said:
Thanks Sarah. I especially feel bad for the horses in the heat. I know they run them even when it’s over 85 degrees because that’s pretty much every day in the Summer here and this is the busy tourist season. As far as treatment goes, it would be great if they were treated better and surely they could feed the horses and make bigger stalls- but considering the animals are used to make a living, I don’t see them stopping running the tours in the hot weather.
You are 100% right on horses getting spooked too. It happens… Considering how scary it can be sometimes to walk downtown with crazy drivers, imagine what it’s like for a horse pulling all those people.
Thanks for your comment, Amy. You’re right about profit being the reason they treat and use the horses the way they do. Animal user industries say they have to take care of their animals because that’s their source of income, but they do not say they have to take care of their animals just enough to keep them alive and working, which is very different. Thanks again!
Thank you for posting this!! I saw it in the Charleston veggies/vegans facebook group and clicked to read the link. Sad to say, I have gone on two since I moved here a few years ago and I always remarked how bad I felt for the horses and how uncomfortable it must be. I will be protesting any more rides on them for sure!!
Stacy Shepanek said:
Thanks for this article! I appreciate the timing too.. I have family coming in town, and I heard the carriage ride suggestion from someone this morning. I’m happy to have some facts to back up my aversion to the thought. I appreciate all you do, Sarah
Thanks so much, Stacy! Summer is prime time for visits, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to write about it. Enjoy your carriage-ride-free family time!
Thanks for your comment, Catherine! Many of us have taken carriage rides before finding out the facts, so don’t feel bad. Thanks for speaking up for the horses in the future, and happy summer!
Elizabeth Forel / Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages said:
Very nice blog. Sarah — especially to recommend other things to do – this is key since the “officials” will say it is a big tourist attraction. The defenders try to say that in NYC but it is just BS. I wish you Charlestonites would seriously consider organizing to end this business. I have been following Charleston for years and you have certainly had your share of accidents. I see it as one of the worst cities with horse-drawn carriages in the US. Also – some of the carriages can hold at least 14 people and to allow a horse to work in such hot and humid weather is cruel and abusive.
It has been an issue in NYC since the 1980s but we have been at it consistently since 2006 when we founded Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages. Please visit our web site http://www.banhdc.org and subscribe to our newsletter and join us on Facebook – No Walk in the Park. We love supporters. And also http://www.horseswithoutcarriages.org – a coalition of groups/cities around the world – that also has a FB page – Horses Without Carriages International. We started it in 2008.
In the time that we started this campaign, others have created their own organizations and we are closer than we have ever been to victory. We have a mayoral election in November – so please support efforts in NYC to end this misery for horses. It takes tenacity, time and hope to continue.
My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to contact me.
Thank you so much for all of this great, information, Elizabeth! I am watching what happens in NYC and the mayoral election with a lot of interest, and I’ve signed my name to petitions, etc. to ban horse carriages there. We have a very active “Veggies & Vegans” group here in Charleston that just might be able to tackle this together. I think one of the best ways is to have enough people boycott the industry that it closes, but I’ll definitely look up the resources you provided to see what all we can learn! Thank you again for you comment and for all your work on behalf of horses!
I agree, I did this once when friends visiting really wanted to go but I was kind of appalled and won’t do it again. In the future I’ll steer my visiting guests to other more humane options. Thanks for this post!
Thanks for sharing your story, Heather! It’s great you’ll encourage out-of-towners to avoid the carriages.
Lisa Kurr said:
I am headed down to Charleston tomorrow…needless to say, I will NOT be subsidizing the poor treatment of the city’s carriage horses. As a horse owner and lover (and volunteer at a horse rescue) I can tell you NO horse should be made to pull that much weight, on hard a hard surface in that heat. The respiratory system of equines is simply not designed to function at a healthy level in heat and humidity. Thanks for your posts!! Let’s keep on raising awareness of this archaic tradition. With so many over weight and unhealthy Americans, why not walk????
Lisa, thank you so much for adding your expertise to the conversation! I agree; the horses and people would both be much better off with walking tours! Protecting these horses should be a priority for the city of Charleston and its citizens. I hope you have a lovely visit to the Holy City tomorrow!
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Did you see this? http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150717/PC16/150719456
We need to lobby the city for change! This is ridiculous.