Friday, May 13, 2011

Horses and Mules in South Carolina...

Our recent ‘anniversary trip’ from East Tennessee over to Charleston SC and back was a lot of fun…relaxing too!  One of the most leisurely activities one can enjoy in most tourist towns is the horse and carriage tour.  On this trip, we took carriage tours twice!  Laurie really loves horses and I appreciate their character and willingness to work…

One of the first things you notice when you start exploring the historic center of Charleston are horses and carriages or horses and buggies…they’re everywhere!   Since it was our anniversary…and since it was not a matter of “if” we were doing a carriage ride…but rather “when”…I purchased dual Harbor Tour/Carriage Tour tickets.

We decided on Palmetto Carriage Works for our tour.  Not only did we like the looks of their ‘big red barn’ right in the heart of old town Charleston, we also liked the fact that they’ve been in business for over 40 years, they really stressed the care and well-being of their horses and mules…and some of their guides had been with them for more than 20 years.
The Palmetto Carriage Works folks have this operation down to a science.  There are some animals stabled in the barn…goats, chickens, donkeys, miniature donkeys, a horse or two and a mule.  More importantly, the barn serves as a sort of ‘bus station’ for the carriages.  Quite literally, the carriages roll in the door shown above, moving either to the left or the right…disgorge their load of passengers…and then load up again, rolling out the other end of the barn.  It’s a constant process all day long.


This is a typical carriage for Palmetto Carriage Works.  Note that they use teams of mules for these large ‘mini bus’ 16-passenger tour carriages.  Palmetto is the only tour company using mules.  Mules are more dependable and they won’t do anything or go anywhere where they might be injured.  If they get tired, they just stop and won’t move.  Horses will keep going until they drop.  Mules are also much easier to take care of…  Most of Palmetto’s mules come from Amish farms in mid-Tennessee.


Our guide was a nice young woman and college student from Canada named Jenny McCormick.  She had a nice sense of humor and was fairly informative as we clopped down the city streets.  She’s been doing this job in the summers and on term breaks for a couple of years now.  Prior to this, she worked for Palmetto full-time.  Our mules were named ‘Republican’ & ‘Shirley’.   Republican is usually paired with ‘Democrat’ and Shirley’s normal partner is ‘Laverne’.

As we toured the center of Charleston, it was one beautiful old church or well kept and stunning old home after another.  It’s very fortunate that the Union Army didn’t burn this beautiful city down during the Civil War…
The operation and regulation of the tour business in Charleston was interesting to observe.  The loaded carriages line up at what can be termed as a small ‘taxi starter post’.  They have to check in, provide their carriage number and the number of passengers.  Then everyone…guide and passengers alike, has to wait until they’re given one of four route numbers and told to proceed.  The city employees manning the ‘starter posts’ behave much like many other governmental employees do…officious and in no rush to move things along.
Palmetto Carriage Works is located at 8 Guignard Street in Charleston.  Phone: 800-979-3370.  Website:  Note: If you want to take your tour at a specific time, call ahead and make a reservation.  Without reservations, we waited 45 minutes for our tour… Also, it is difficult to take good photos from the carriage…too many others trying to take pictures and the carriages keep moving most of the time.  One thing for was in the high 80's and it was humid...the carriage sure beat walking!

So, from Charleston it was on to Beaufort South Carolina…


This is yours truly with our good buddy Gilbert.  Gilbert took us on our tour of Beaufort.  He’s 18 years old and semi-retired.  Like many of our friends and acquaintances, he only works a couple of days a week.  At the end of this season, he gets to completely retire to the farm where he lives when he’s not working.  Gilbert is 17.3 hands tall and he weighs about 2,000 lbs.  He’s been working for ‘Southurn Rose Buggy Tours’ for 7 years.  This is kind of a ‘step-down’ job from his last one.  In his earlier job, he worked as a draft horse on a farm for an Amish community in Ohio.  Gilbert kind of does his own thing on tour…wandering down the middle of the street…trying to head back to the tour office downtown before the end of the tour…etc., etc.


Beaufort is much smaller than Charleston…and it’s much more laid back.  While it obviously doesn’t have the resources of the bigger city, it is loaded with a great many antebellum and Victorian homes and other buildings.  We really liked the comfortable look of this little house along the tour route.

Along the way, there was this big beautiful old home and its impressive live oak tree hung with Spanish moss.  It just felt ‘southern’!


So…as the tour came to an end, we said goodbye to Gilbert and our guide.  She’s the daughter of a Marine non-commissioned officer based at nearby Parris Island.  So ended another very laid back and relaxing carriage tour… Not a bad way to spend an hour or two.  
Southurn Rose Buggy Tours operate out of a large city of Beaufort parking lot along the waterfront on the edge of downtown.   Their horses are brought in from their nearby farm every day.  Phone: 843-524-2900.  Website: 

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