Arts & Culture

Merlin in the movies

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  • The next time you're taking a carriage ride in Beaufort, you might be riding with a movie star. Or, rather, being pulled by a movie star.

    Merlin, a 9-year-old Percheron with Sea Island Carriage Co., is going to be in "Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides," scheduled to be released in May.

    Watch for Merlin, who goes by Fritz on stage, as a carriage horse in the movie, said his owner, Walter Gay of Sea Island Carriage. He won't be hard to miss, seeing how he's about 18 hands and 2,000 pounds.

    Merlin was born and bred by Disney, working for the company in a variety of capacities for about six years before arriving at Sea Island Carriage in November. The carriage company purchased the horse, but before he could start work, he had to fulfill his obligation to film the Pirates sequel for four months in Puerto Rico.

    Merlin worked as a carriage horse in Disney World, guiding newlyweds through the Magic Kingdom or, one time, serving as chauffeur to Hannah Montana during a parade. Merlin has also done commercial and other advertising work for Disney. But, as the economy soured, work for carriage horses slowed and Disney began selling off some of its stable.

    Merlin lives a bit of a charmed life in Beaufort, working about four days a week and two in the off season, giving carriage rides through the town. He spends his off time with the rest of the horses at the St. Helena Island stable overlooking the marsh, eating about a bail of hay and 25 pounds of grain a day, Gay said. He's even picked up a bit of a sweet tooth, enjoying an occasional Popsicle or handful of Corn Pops.

    Merlin hasn't copped a movie star attitude, fitting in quite nicely with the rest of the horses, Gay said. For the carriage company, he couldn't have been a better fit. He came well-trained, having been taught to stay calm in crowds of people. He also stops moving when children get around his legs, something that probably came in handy at the Magic Kingdom, Gay notes.

    "Merlin seems happy here," Gay said. "He loves people, especially children. He's very social, very lovable."