Animal Welfare & FAQ

Quality Of Care For Our Animals

In addition to the knowledgeable and professional employees, the animals at Palmetto Carriage Works are specifically trained and well equipped to handle carriage tours in the city and we pride ourselves on the quality of care given to our working animals. With over 40 horses and mules at the barn downtown and at their farm on John’s Island, Palmetto Carriage Works has an excellent animal care record and takes pride in the services provided to the animals.

No one is more concerned about animal welfare than our company. Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about our mules and horses, but if you have any other questions – please ask!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Chevron down How many animals are currently under PCW care?
  • The Palmetto Carriage “herd” is made up of 35 mules, 20 horses, two goats, and six chickens. Our barn in downtown Charleston comfortably holds up to 28 animals in large box stalls.

  • Chevron down How much hay and food is needed to properly provide for all of the animals?
  • Palmetto Carriage uses approximately 3,500 square bales, 225 round bales of hay, and 61 tons of feed each year.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down How often are the animals checked out by a medical professional or individually assessed to make sure they are healthy and happy?
  • 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.

  • Chevron down What kind of animals do you use to pull the carriages?
  • Palmetto Carriage uses mule teams or single draft horses on the larger carriages and single mules or horses on the smaller carriages.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down How long do the animals work every day?
  • The Palmetto Carriage animal’s average workday is five hours, but is limited to eight hours, six days a week.

  • Chevron down Do the animals ever leave the city and go to the country?
  • Yes, Palmetto Carriage animals all spend time at a farm on Johns Island, which is about 20 miles away. The company has a truck and trailer that can hold up to 10 animals, and regularly rotates the stock.  It is beneficial for the horses to get time and space in a green pasture, but they actually encounter less issues in the Red Barn than at the farm. The reason for this is the constant care and monitoring they receive in the controlled conditions of the barn, as opposed to the open fields where they have more time on their own.

  • Chevron down 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.

Questions About Quality Of Life & Care Of Our Animals

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down What is the average age of the carriage horses?
  • The average age of a Palmetto Carriage animal is 15.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down How often are the horses fed?
  • A horse consumes two or three meals of hay/grain per day.

  • Chevron down Does it ever get too hot for the animals to work?
  • Yes, when the temperature reaches 95 degrees or the heat index reaches 110, carriage tours are halted. Additionally, PCW rectally checks the temperature of each animal before and after every tour, year round to ensure that it stays within the normal range of 98.7 to 101.5 degrees.  If the animal’s temperature exceeds 102.9 degrees, it is pulled from service. Charleston is one of the only cities in the world where the animals are monitored individually. There has never been a heat related incident in over 30 years of business.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down 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.

  • Chevron down What happens to your animals when you retire them?
  • When an animal is retired, it is offered at a very low price or PCW will give it away. The reason is not because they aren’t worth anything, but because PCW has built a strong bond with the animal and values its years of work. Finding a good home is the only criteria used when placing retired stock.

  • Chevron down 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.