Animal Welfare

Palmetto Carriage Works prides itself on the quality of care given to our working 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!

What kinds of animals do you use?
We use mule teams on our larger carriages and single mules or horses on our smaller carriages.

How many animals do you have?
We have approximately 30 mules and 13 horses that pull carriages. We also have two miniature donkeys, a miniature horse, several goats, and many chickens.

What are mules?
A mule is a hybrid cross of a male donkey and a female horse. We use mules because we believe they are well suited for work in our climate. The mule has been the work animal of choice in the south for centuries.

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.

How long do the animals work each day?
Their work hours and days are very limited. They are can work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, but this is the maximum. 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).

If the animals are sweating, is that bad?
No, it’s actually good. Sweating is the animal’s way of cooling itself. We add a vitamin E supplement to the animals’ feed to promote sweating and also add electrolytes to their feed to replace necessary elements lost through sweating. Animals never go more than an hour without access to water. Additionally, you’ll notice plenty of fans around the barn during the summer months, including a misting fan that sprays a fine mist over the animals to keep them cool.

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.

Who is our vet?
Our primary care is given by Edisto Equine Clinic, which is located about 30 miles from Charleston.

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 1200 pounds.

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 3 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.

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 because 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.

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%)

Palmetto Carriage Works
Phone (843) 723-8145
Map Marker

8 Guignard Street, Charleston, SC 29401


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