The City and the Carriage Wagon Industry tell tourists and locals that horses foam at the mouth when they are hydrated. We don’t agree and expert opinion doesn’t confirm the City’s and Industry’s explanation. 

So…..what IS the explanation? Here are our thoughts and those of experts….First, the “Equine Officer” for the City who supposedly monitors the health and welfare of the carriage animals came to her position with no formal training. We are told she has since had online courses and maybe a few days at seminars but apparently NO VET SCHOOL or VET TECH Science training.  We are not sure what the City’s “Equine Officer” means by “hydrated”  and we question if her explanation is an accurate measurement of whether a horse is okay. 

Horses and mules need electrolytes and water to handle heat and humidity and should not be out at arbitrary temperature limits set by the City (with the approval of the for-profit carriage wagon Industry). 

Foaming at the mouth…some possible explanations:
Horses can foam at the mouth and be healthy. But there’s more; Horses can foam in the mouth if their bit doesn’t fit properly. Or if their teeth need dental care (yes; they need dental care at least once a year!). Think about how awful it is to have an issue with one of your teeth. Well, it’s just as bad for your horse, and it can be the cause of excess foam buildup around the mouth. It doesn’t even have to be a major injury. Even excess plaque can result in foaming at the mouth. Common dental issues that can result in excessive mouth foaming include:

  • Excess plaque buildup

  • Too much tartar

  • Missing teeth

  • Misaligned bite

  • Bleeding gums

  • Loose teeth

  • Gingivitis

  • Bone spurs

Certain bacterial infections that horses are susceptible to can cause excessive drooling, which can then become foam around the mouth. Horses are prone to injuries in the mouth just like we are. Similar to how you can’t leave a canker sore or a cut on your lip alone, your horse will likely be playing with any ulcers or sores with their tongue. This can cause excess saliva, which will in turn produce extra foam at the mouth. When a horse is being ridden correctly, swallowing excess saliva is easy. But if the horse’s head is held too high or the driver is pulling too hard on the reins, the horse might not be able to close its mouth and swallow the excess saliva. – Oliver Jones Wildlife Biologist. 

Horses like people, do sweat to cool their bodies but if it is too hot and humid their bodies cannot sweat enough to cool down to a safe level. ALSO, anytime after a horse is hosed down (something the carriage Industry likes to announce to tourists and locals as justification for working them in extreme heat) they are supposed to have the water scraped off their bodies…kind of hard when fully harnessed!

The carriage Industry keeps them in to cool off for a limited period only to send them back out into the extreme heat and humidity….over and over and over.  

According to Michael Lindinger, Ph.D., an animal and exercise physiologist at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, who explains, “It only takes 17 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse’s temperature to dangerous levels. That’s 3 to 10 times faster than in humans.  Horses feel the heat much worse than we do.” (June 21, 2010)(“When the Rider is Hot, the Horse is Hotter” – University of Guelph Ontario, Canada)

So if it is too hot for humans to be walking the streets of Charleston, then it is waaay too hot for the horses to be out!!

In responsible barns around Charleston, horses and mules are kept INDOORS DURING THE DAY and are let out AT NIGHT. Equines cared for responsibly and kept inside during the day are cooled by fans while inside. 


Next time you see a horse foaming at the mouth or not sweating and struggling as they pull 17 very large passengers on steamy asphalt, consider giving the wagon a thumbs down, take a video or photo and call Mayor Tecklenberg at 843-724-3737

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