Carriages drawn beneath a canopy of Spanish moss past antebellum homes provide a romantic pastime for visitors and a staple of the city of Beaufort’s tourism trade.
But Southern gothic will become grotesque if a horse keels over in the street.
Such an incident could spell the end of business for any city-licensed tour operator and invite unseemly attention that damages other sectors of an important city industry.
That is why the city must move quickly to ensure that the animals hitched to carriages are in good health.
And that is why its effort to do so should meet no resistance from two rival carriage companies, which have a reputation for bickering with each other.
Reports of unexpected falls by a horse that works for one of the city’s carriage-tour operators have Beaufort officials concerned for the safety of the animal, as well as the safety of those standing nearby should the horse take another fall on a public street.
The horse, named Merlin, works for Sea Island Carriages, owned by Walter Gay.
According to incident reports and police Beaufort Police Cpl. Hope Able, who helps the city coordinate the tours, Merlin fell March 10 and again May 30 while standing in the tours’ staging area next to the Beaufort Downtown Marina. The animal was checked by Dr. Dessie Carter, an equine veterinarian, who cleared Merlin for work after both incidents, according to Able.
Gay said the horse was simply not getting enough sleep, and the company was taking steps to get Merlin more rest at night. It also has drawn blood and hair samples for testing to determine if Merlin has a more serious condition.
These measures notwithstanding, Peter White, owner of rival Southurn Rose Buggy Co., wants the city to bring in an independent veterinarian to examine Merlin.
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• Related Report: Reports of falling carriage-tour horse prompt Beaufort officials’ questions, by Erin Moody, The Beaufort Gazette »