City of Beaufort to hold meeting after recent horse carriage con - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

City of Beaufort to hold meeting after recent horse carriage concerns

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BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) -

The City of Beaufort may have to play referee in an upcoming meeting about horse carriage concerns. 

They will decide if the two companies in town are just playing equine rivalry games or if there is genuine health concerns.

Both companies closed Monday right after noon due to excessive heat, but it's a recent accusation that has one of the two companies concerned it may be closed for good.

Walter Gay, owner and operator of Sea Island Carriage Company, said the finger pointing and false reporting has to stop. 

"I treat my horses like royalty," Gay said. "I have an excellent veterinarian who can pick my horses out a line up, they're so well cared for."

But recently, rival carriage company Southurn Rose Buggy Tours, said Sea Island is not putting the safety of their horses first.

Peter White said Walter Gay has other priorities.

"He is more in it for the money rather than the love of the animals," White said.

Gay denies that accusation. He said he and his eight children love and take care of their horses as an extension of their family.

"They get better medical attention probably than my children," Gay said. "They see the vet and the doctor more often."

The straw that may have broken the horse's back was when Southurn Rose recently complained to the city, saying one of the Sea Island horses, Merlin, fell over while waiting for a tour. 

Merlin's owner said his horse was just sleep deprived because of his new stable mate, Barney.

"Barney likes to just snuggle up and likes to be close to Merlin all the time, so we noticed at night, he was keeping Merlin awake," said Gay. "So that day, he closed his eyes, his head would go down, and wake himself up just like someone falls asleep at work."

White said he's seen horses fall asleep, and Merlin was not sleepy.

"He was unconscious when he keeled over because he did not try and catch himself, just dead weight, boom on his side," White said.

The city is holding a meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday for the carriage company concerns and then another tourism meeting on Wednesday morning to talk about how to regulate carriage companies in the city.

White plans on presenting a 12 page list of issues on Gay and his company. Gay said if he is put out of business, then White and his wife will go down with him.

The meeting is open to the public and input is welcomed.

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