Let's Talk About Weight


Recently, opponents of the carriage industry have made false and unsubstantiated allegations against our companies. Not only do our opponents claim that we do not follow the city ordinance in regards to the maximum weight of our carriage loads, they also claim (as seen above) that Charleston can and should do better. They’re wrong. And we can prove it.

Let us explain.

In Charleston, the weight of our carriages is restricted to a maximum of three times the horse’s weight. While we do adhere to this ordinance, it is possible for our horses to pull much more than this.

To give you an idea of just how much weight our animals can pull, a regular horse can easily pull a wheeled vehicle that is six times its own weight. Since the average weight of a draft horse is about 1,400-2,000 pounds, that means that one of our larger horses could easily pull up to 12,000 pounds on a wheeled vehicle.

A typical carriage load is far less than that, and our horses, on average, work five hours per day with breaks.There are multiple considerations that come into play with the discussion of weight in regards to our operations. Here are some important factors we always account for.


The average large carriage weight is in the neighborhood of 1800 lbs. However, the wheels and design make the load on the horse lighter. Imagine trying to lift a bag of heavy mulch and walk with it. Then imagine placing that heavy mulch in a wheelbarrow and pushing it. The wheel makes it a lot easier, doesn’t it? It’s a similar concept with the design of our carriages.

A study conducted by the Department of Animal Science and Cornell University shows the draft necessary to pull wheeled implements, such as wagons and carts is influenced by axle friction, grade, and rolling resistance. This means it is much easier for a horse to pull a carriage than is perceived by the eye. Tractive effort is how much force the horse has to apply to the load in order to pull it. Part of the study conducted on draft horses weighing from 1500 pounds to 1900 pounds showed that a horse could generate a tractive effort equivalent to 10% its body weight walking at a speed of 2.5 MPH for about 20 miles per day over a period of 2 years, without showing any sign of physical stress. This DOES NOT mean a horse can only pull 10% of its body weight, this does mean that a 2,000-pound horse can readily pull with a continuous force equal to 200 pounds, making it extremely easy for a horse to pull one of our full carriages. When you do the math on our carriages it shows that it takes just under 100 pounds of force to pull a carriage when the weight is compliant with current city ordinances.

Want to be reminded of a physics or math class you used to hate? Click here for the data.


How do we weigh our passengers? Just as airlines don’t make every single person step on a scale before hopping on a plane, we don’t make our customers step on a scale before hopping on a carriage. We employ the same method that commercial airlines use to ensure a safe flying experience. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the US Coast Guard conduct surveys to determine the weight of the average person. Right now, the average adult weighs 185 lbs. The maximum capacity of our largest carriages is 16 riders, plus the driver, which equates to four riders of average weight per row. This would result in a maximum passenger weight of 3,145 pounds.

It is also important to take into account that most of our carriage rides carry women and children who weigh substantially less than 185 pounds. Certainly, there are riders that are heavier than 185 lbs. But larger riders make it very difficult to overload the carriage, decreasing the number of overall riders who can fit on a carriage at one time. Just as any company, restaurant, or hotel wants to give their customers the best experience possible, we want our riders to have the most enjoyable experience possible, so overloading our carriages truly is not in our best interest as companies.

So what happens when you combine the weight of the carriage, horse, and riders?

Based on tractive effort studies, a horse can safely pull up to six times its weight in a carriage for eight hours a day. If a 1,900 lb horse is pulling 3,145 lbs, it is not even pulling double its weight in passengers on a carriage ride. If you include the weight of the carriage, it is not even pulling three times its weight.

The way our carriages are built, right down to the size of the wheels, is all part of this equation.

Let’s make one thing clear, our companies are fully compliant with existing laws and ordinances for Charleston as it pertains to weight. Not only are we compliant, but our horses have the ability to pull equipment and plows that are much heavier than a carriage ride.

As an organization, C.A.R.E.S. is dedicated to providing you with transparent and accurate information as it relates to our industry and practices. The safety and well-being of our horses and passengers continue to be our top priority.


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