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Beautiful Charleston, SC

Beautiful Charleston, SC

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?

Well…not really.

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.

carriage horseThe 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.”

Horse carriage accident scene in Charleston, July 2012

Horse carriage accident scene in Charleston, July 2012

Here’s another photo from the Post & Courier from an accident that injured 6 people in downtown Charleston:

Post & Courier photo of horse carriage accident

Post & Courier photo of horse carriage accident

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!

Post & Courier photo

Post & Courier photo

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!

Nobody likes to smell the carriage horse stank.

Nobody likes to smell the carriage horse stank.

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 Charleston, SC carriage tourexpert 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

Charleston tourSee 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.