As Marco Island considers allowing a horse drawn carriage business, we decided to get the perspective of a source as close as we could get to being straight from the horse's mouth.
We talked with Charlene Casey, whose 13-year-old enterprise, "Charlene's Classic Carriages," has been a staple of equine-based pleasure presence on the streets of Naples, Fort Myers and, yes, on Marco Island.
We asked Charlene about her clients and events on Marco and about the pros and cons of having regular horse drawn carriage tours on the island.
"We've been on Marco many times to be part of weddings and prom-related carriage rides. We trailer the horse there and back. We work with wedding planners and stay in touch with the Chamber of Commerce and the hotel concierges."
"Such events are great there, but I have never thought that Marco was a good place to do scheduled, regular horse and carriage, because it doesn't have the right atmosphere. It's a fast-paced place. People are driving fast.
"One time we had to go by carriage from a residential area where the prom party was held over to the Hilton. Cars were just flying past us. Marco drivers are not used to seeing a horse and carriage moving at three miles an hour.
"The only way I felt safe doing that on that road was to have somebody behind us with flashers and maybe someone in front with flashers. Other times we've had a police escort when we were on a busy Marco road.
"When I've been on the main road, people sometimes come around a corner, over that small, hump bridge and they don't see you until they get right up on you. "In old Naples we have quaint little streets, where there is mostly foot traffic. And when we're on Fifth Avenue or Third Street the traffic always is slow."
Charlene also told us that, to our surprise, "Horses and carriages have the right of way in Florida, so all of them are required to have 'slow moving' signs."s
She also says that in many places, horses are being replaced by mules for carriage rides.
"We'll eventually switch to mules because of the heat. Mules can withstand our hot and humid summers a lot longer than horses can and they have fewer hoof and leg issues.
"But for weddings, on Marco and elsewhere, we'll keep our white horses; they're very popular."
Most of us amateurs know little about the horse drawn carriage business, other than having seen that priceless episode of "Seinfeld" in 1996.
Kramer took over a friend's carriage ride service in New York City and fed the horse a huge can of Beef-a-Reeno. That resulted in a Clydesdale-sized flatulence problem. "Turn this thing around," one suffering passenger said, "We can't breathe back here" (behind the horse.)
Charlene once had a similar experience when a diaper-clad horse made such a horrendously smelly deposit that the passengers had to get out of the carriage and out of aroma range.
"The passengers were great and never complained," she says. "In my 13 years in business I've never had any major complaints, just a couple of negative people who say, 'Oh, it backs up traffic.' But never a complaint about horse flies or manure. My horses always wear diaper bags."
Seems just good horse sense.
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. E-mail: email@example.com.