🐴 Is it legal to ride horses in Austin?
Source: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc / Getty Images
- 6 min read

🐴 Is it legal to ride horses in Austin?

Plus, why H-E-Bs in Austin don't give you single-use plastic bags.


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☀️ Well hey there, Austin.

Today, we're answering a very, very important question: Is it legal to ride horses through the streets of Austin?

Then, find out why H-E-B doesn't give you single-use plastic bags for your groceries. And see which chipmaker in Austin just got $6.4 billion from the U.S. government to expand in the area.

Before the pickup truck, there was the horse

Long before Tesla Cybertrucks were the novelty vehicle of Austin roadways (see examples A, B and C), there were horses. And long after we reach the self-driving-car future the lords of tech are dreaming up for us, there will be horses (or, at least one can hope). 

If you’ve been here for any length of time, you’ve probably at least seen Santa riding a horse downtown. (Fun fact: his name is Sam Grey Horse and he actually is riding a mule.) Depending on how long you’ve been here, you may also remember having seen horse-drawn carriages along Congress Avenue (and no, I'm not talking about in the 1800s). 

If you're truly a lucky Austinite, you may have seen Willie Nelson (above) riding a horse in downtown Austin while filming a music video in 2001. Source: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc / Getty Images

But what the heck are the rules of the road when it comes to four-legged creatures? 

Is the come-and-take-it attitude of Texans just inspiring these riders to take their trusty steeds out on roads that are clearly not designed for them, rules be damned? 

No. As much as Texas likes a story about an outlaw cowboy, these urban riders are operating fully under the law. 

So what is the law? 

Under state law, a person riding an animal (so far I’ve only seen horses and mules, but I am waiting for the day I see an elephant ridden downtown) or operating a vehicle drawn by an animal on a road is considered a vehicle and subject to all the “rights and duties” applied to cars ... and Cybertrucks. (See section 542.003.)

City code gets a little more specific, categorizing a horse rider or a horse-driven vehicle as a “vulnerable road user,” the same term given to pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and scooter-riders. This means they’re perfectly legal on Austin roads, but motorists must exhibit more caution around them. 

So what happened to the downtown horse-drawn carriages? 

Ah, yes. If you’ve been here long enough, you may remember the days of being able to hail a horse-drawn carriage during a big night out downtown. Or if you’ve only recently arrived in Texas, you may be wondering why our neighbor to the south offers them but we don’t. 

A horse-drawn carriage in downtown San Antonio. credit: Anadolu / Getty Images

They are allowed as long as you acquire a permit from the city. However, currently only one business has that permit — Fantasia Carriages

I spoke with Robin Donahe, owner of Fantasia Carriages, but she said she's never offered walk-up street rides downtown and doesn't plan to. Her horses and carriages are hired for private events, mostly weddings, which occasionally occur downtown — hence the permit. She said she's heard from others in the business — long before Covid disrupted nearly every business — that operating downtown just wasn't profitable.

Years ago, Donahe would occasionally drive carriages at a walk-up stand downtown for Angeli Carriages. As she remembers it, there were three companies that used to operate street ride carriages in downtown Austin — Angeli Carriages, Die Gelbe Rose Carriages and Austin Carriage. Angeli Carriages closed when the owner moved to New Orleans, and Die Gelbe Rose's owner died, according to Donahe. Austin Carriage still operates in Austin, but no longer operates a stand downtown. Austin Carriage did not respond to requests for comment. 

— Cat DeLaura, Reporter

Temperature: 86 degrees | Sun:  Behind a blanket | What to Expect: Spotty showers

“Cloudy, warm and humid” can summarize the day with maybe a few spotty showers before lunch. Winds will be light. Enjoy it now 'cause the heat is turning up to 11 tomorrow.

Mary’s Tip: A refreshing Strawberry Blonde CBD Iced Latte from the Radix Coffee is what the doctor ordered on a day like today.

Sustainable Austin: Why don't Austin's H-E-Bs have single-use plastic bags?

We're all familiar with the "did I really forget my bags" panic upon arrival at H-E-B. But why and when did this become the norm in Austin's favorite grocery store? 

A history lesson: The Austin City Council passed the Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance in 2012. It went into effect in March of 2013 and banned businesses from providing single-use carryout bags. 

But in 2018 the Texas Supreme Court ruled that bag bans violate state law — a shocking conclusion for Texas. (Yes, that's sarcasm.) What was perhaps actually shocking is that the ruling was made in response to a bag ban in Laredo, not Austin.

So why are there still no single-use plastic bags? 

Once left up to the businesses, many went back to providing the bags, but H-E-B seems to have come to the conclusion that selling reusable plastic bags, instead of offering free single-use plastic bags, was the best decision. 

H-E-B has not responded to multiple requests to comment on their decision. However, in 2021, they responded to a tweet with the following: “We continue to look for options that could serve all customers, and maintain the environmental progress expected of us. Due to customer requests, we do not offer single-use plastic bags in our Austin stores.”

But as a Freedonia Group study in New Jersey suggested, selling reusable plastic bags can be more lucrative for retailers. And in Dallas, a 5-cent fee temporarily imposed raised $500,000 in five months.

And all of this doesn't even start to get into the question of whether current plastic bag bans are even successful at reducing the amount of plastic in our landfills.

Cat DeLaura, Reporter

3 things to know about Uncle Sam's $6.4 billion for Samsung's Austin area expansion

Samsung and the semiconductor industry both have a long history in the Austin area. And their presence here is about to get a lot bigger.

On Monday, The White House announced that Samsung is the recipient of a new round of funding.

Samsung said Monday morning that it will receive $6.4 billion in grants so its chip business can keep growing and flourishing in Central Texas.

Here are the fast facts:

  1. The money will fund new sites in Taylor, a town about a 40-minute drive northeast of the city, but also an existing North Austin facility. The expansion is expected to create thousands of new jobs.
  2. Samsung has had expansion plans for Taylor and Austin for a while now, but the funding means the chipmaker can move forward with them.
  3. This is part of a U.S. goal to wean chip dependence off of overseas markets like China. That's why there's a $53 billion CHIPS Act for this kind of funding, a bipartisan initiative that President Biden signed in 2022.

Big things are happening deep in our little heart of Texas.

🎶 Where are my marching band friends at?

Today's clue is for 13 Down: the sound we're all making right now with our allergies kicking us in the ass.

Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Cat DeLaura and Mary Wasson.