Frequently Asked Questions
- What kind of animals do you use to pull the carriages?
We use mule teams on our larger carriages and single mules or horses on our smaller carriages.
- How many animals do you have?
The Palmetto Carriage “herd” is made up of 35 mules, 20 horses that pull carriages, two goats, two miniature donkeys, a miniature horse, and six chickens. Our barn in downtown Charleston comfortably holds up to 28 animals in large box stalls.
- What are mules?
A mule is a hybrid of a male donkey and a female horse. Palmetto Carriage uses mules because, like draft horses, they are bred for “pulling” and also have a very calm temperament that enables them to work well in an urban setting. The mule has been the work animal of choice for centuries in the South as they are well suited to work in our climate.
- Where do the animals come from?
Most of them come from a farm in middle Tennessee. Prior to that, about 80% were working for the Amish. The average age of our animals is about 13 to 14, but we have them anywhere from 5 years old to 20+. They cost approximately $1,500 each, although some are much more expensive.
- What were they doing before pulling carriages?
Most of the animals were line mules for the Amish. The Amish replace them with younger, quicker mules.
- How much do they eat?
They eat approximately 10-12 pounds of feed and about 1/3 of a bale of hay each day. Palmetto Carriage uses approximately 3,500 square bales, 225 round bales of hay, and 61 tons of feed each year.
- How long do the animals work each day?
Their work hours and days are very limited. They can work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, but this is the maximum, as the average workday is 5 hours.
In 2010, our animals worked an average of 4.6 hours a day and only about 4 days a week. On average, our animals work only 188 days in the year (51.5% of the year).
- Does it ever get too hot for the animals to work?
When the temperature reaches 98 degrees or the heat index reaches 125 degrees, we stop our carriage tours. Additionally, the animals’ temperatures are taken after every tour, regardless of the temperature outside. If an animal’s temperature reaches 103 degrees, it is pulled from service and cooled down. Charleston is the only city in the world where the animals are monitored individually. Palmetto Carriage Works has not had one case of heat stroke in over 30 years of business.
- Do your animals ever leave the city and go to the country?
Our farm is about 20 miles away. We have a truck and trailer that can hold up to 10 animals and we regularly rotate our stock. On average, our animals spend 33.5% of the year at the farm, which is about 10 days each month.
- How often does the vet check the animals?
Our animals are seen by a vet a minimum of three times a year, and as needed. An equine dentist is brought in from out of town once a year to do a thorough exam on all the animals. This is part of our commitment to animal welfare.
- Are visitors allowed to pet the animals?
In most cases, yes. Each animal is different, so always ask the driver or staff first before touching an animal.
- Who is your vet?
Our primary care is given by Edisto Equine Clinic, which is located about 30 miles from Charleston.
Palmetto Carriage animals see a veterinarian a minimum of three times a year. There is also a strict system in place to ensure that each animal’s temperature is taken after every tour, all year long.
- How long is the average work life of the animal?
That depends on the individual animal. Some animals we buy never pull a carriage, and others work for many years. There has been a book published based on our horse Ashby, who worked for over 20 years.
- How much do the animals weigh?
The average weight of our animals is 1,200 pounds.
- How often do the animals go to the farm, and how much time do they spend there?
Palmetto Carriage animals on average spend 19 weeks out of the year at the Doyle’s farm on John’s Island, far beyond the city’s minimum requirement of six weeks.
- What kinds of shoes do the animals wear and how often are they put on?
The shoes are called Remuda shoes. They are a steel shoe with a rubber coating. The shoes last approximately three weeks. Our farrier comes once a week on Friday. We also have a farrier on staff to take care of shoes that need adjustment during the rest of the week.
- Are visitors allowed to drop by and check on the animals outside of the carriage tours?
Palmetto Carriage’s barn is always open to the public, though we urge respect for the animals and follow strict safety guidelines to keep the animals and our guests safe.
- What happens after they leave Palmetto Carriage Works?
When we retire an animal, we sell it very cheap or give it away. The reason we do this is not that they aren’t worth anything, but because of the bond we have built with them. Finding a good home is the only criteria we use when we place retired stock.
- Why is Palmetto Carriage Works’ animal welfare program seen as helpful to these animals, and has it met all of the qualifications for properly raising these animals?
Palmetto Carriage Works’ animal welfare program offers a second career to animals that would often end up as another “unwanted horse statistic.” Palmetto Carriage follows a comprehensive carriage animal welfare program. They have a 100 percent success rate with their heat-related animal welfare program, as measured by city veterinarians and the City of Charleston.
- What is used to keep the animals safe from things like insects and worms and to ensure comfortable living conditions?
Palmetto Carriage uses approximately 275 tubes of de-wormer each year and approximately 12,000 bags of shavings for stall bedding each year, which helps to provide the animals with comfortable living conditions.
- Below, our animals’ work schedule is compared to a City of Charleston employee
2010 City of Charleston Holidays
- January 1: New Year’s Day
- January 18: Martin Luther King, Jr., Birthday
- February 15: President’s Day
- May 31: Memorial Day
- July 5: Independence Day (observed)
- September 6: Labor Day
- November 11: Veteran’s Day
- November 25: Thanksgiving
- November 26: Thanksgiving
- December 23: Christmas
- December 24: Christmas
- December 27: Christmas
- December 31: New Year’s Day (observed)
Number of Days a Federal Employee Works:
- 52 Weeks per year = 365 Days
- Five workdays per week: 5 days/week x 52 weeks = 260 days
- Two weeks (vacation) off per year: 260 days-10 days = 250 days
- Thirteen City Holidays per year: 250 days – 13 days = 237 days
- 237 days of work/365 days a year: 64.9%
*A City of Charleston Employee will work 237 days a year, or 64.9% of the year.
Palmetto Carriage Works Animals
In 2010, animals working for Palmetto Carriage Works averaged the following:
- 66.5% of their days at the barn
- 33.5% of their days at the farm
*However, barn time reflects days off in the city as well as days working. So, if days off include time at the barn as well as time at the farm, then Palmetto Carriage Works animals averaged the following:
- 51.5% of their days working
- 48.5% of their days not working
City of Charleston Employee:
Works 237 days a year (64.9%)
Average Palmetto Carriage Works Animal:
Works 188 days a year (51.5%)
Questions About Quality Of Life & Care Of Our Animals
- Do the horses like this job?
Carriage horses are bred to work in harness, and the exercise keeps them healthy. Horses recognize, respond to, and develop an affection for their drivers.
- Does the pavement hurt their hooves?
No, because they wear protective shoes that prevent any pain or injuries to their hooves. Palmetto Carriage uses almost 2000 shoes a year.
- How much weight can a horse pull?
A horse can easily pull a wheeled vehicle that is six times his own weight. However, the City of Charleston only allows carriage horses to pull loads that are less than three times their own weight.
- What is the average age of the carriage horses?
The average age of a Palmetto Carriage animal is 15.
- What is the average life expectancy of a horse?
25 to 30 years is the average life expectancy. However, many horses have been known to live well into their forties.
- Is it normal and safe for a horse to sweat?
Yes, it’s actually a good thing for horses to sweat. It is a natural cooling process, just as it is with humans. PCW also adds a vitamin E supplement to the animals’ feed to promote sweating and electrolytes to the water they drink to replace necessary elements lost through sweating. Additionally, visitors will notice plenty of fans around the barn, including a fan that sprays a gentle mist over the animals to keep them cool.
- How do horses rest?
Horses usually sleep while standing up to rest and often stand with one hind foot cocked. Sometimes horses will actually lie down during the day to rest their legs or nap.
- How often are the horses fed?
A horse consumes two or three meals of hay/grain per day.
- If an animal looks skinny, does that mean he is not getting enough to eat?
PCW’s mules and horses are real athletes and in top working condition. Showing a little rib is not an indication that they are underfed.
- If a mule is bending his leg while standing, does that mean he is hurt?
No, when a mule bends his hind leg, he is just resting, not hurting. This is similar to what humans do when distributing weight from one hip to another while standing.
- Do the carriage animals get breaks between tours?
Palmetto Carriage animals are given a minimum of 15 minutes to rest and to drink water between each tour.
- How many years do you typically keep the animals working?
The number of years the animals work depends on the individual animal. Some animals we buy never pull a carriage, while others work for many years.
- How many accidents in a year, on average, does the carriage industry in Charleston see?
Based on the number of carriage rides offered each year in downtown Charleston, the chance of an accident occurring during a ride is less than one in 12,000. This is based on statistics from The City of Charleston, who is “partnered” with and closely monitors the welfare of the animals, alongside PCW and other caring, concerned horse carriage companies and partners.