Horses have been used for centuries as a means of transportation.
But sometimes people need to move their horses over long distances: from state
to state or between countries.
Enter Kathy McCabe and John Poirier. They move all kinds of horses, for
all kinds of reasons.
McCabe estimates that 65 to 70 percent of their business is in transporting
race horses to various tracks.
People also call on horse transporters to move horses for breeding purposes.
Some horse transporters haul horses to horse shows. But McCabe and Poirier
find that it isn't viable when they have to sit in a city for days while the
horses compete. Most rodeo people haul their own horses, says McCabe.
McCabe and Poirier started their business in 1993 with a one-ton truck
and a trailer that could accommodate five horses. Poirier was already involved
in the horse industry as a trainer before he and McCabe recognized a need
for more horse transporters.
The business mushroomed. They realized that to be profitable in the business,
they needed big equipment. So they invested in a trailer big enough for 11
horses. They cover western North America.
"You have to be a horse person to haul horses," says McCabe. Anyone can
learn to drive a truck safely. But when you transport horses for several days
over long distances, you need to be receptive and know how to handle horses.
It's not for an inexperienced person.
"They can get sick really, really fast. And they can colic, twist a bowel,
those kinds of things, just from nervousness and standing still too long,"
"Sometimes, if they're very nervous horses, they can sweat out a lot. And
there's always the possibility that one kicks the trailer and hurts itself,
or throws its head up in the air and cuts its head."
McCabe and Poirier factor these possibilities into their trips. They let
the horses out of the trailer to move around, and do layovers in various cities.
They make sure the horses get the right amount of water, feed, air and rest
to stay healthy.
"In all the shipping we've done, we've only had one shipping colic," McCabe
They aren't in this business for the money. They do it out of love of horses
and the lifestyle.
"You can go out and haul television sets if you're in it for the dollar
and they won't complain at all, no matter how much rest time you give them,"
Being a self-employed horse transporter can have its drawbacks. McCabe
mainly stays behind to do the books and the dispatching. Poirier does most
of the driving.
"You have to absolutely love it," says McCabe. Your back gets sore from
driving. You get dirty from handling the horses. And you're either alone for
long periods of time or spending every waking moment with someone else in
McCabe says that unfortunately, they've also run into mistreated animals.
"Sometimes you go and pick up an animal and you think, my gosh, how long has
this animal not been getting enough to eat or when did it last get its feet
But for McCabe and Poirier, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. It's
a commitment, says McCabe, just like owning any small business. But for her,
the best part is being self-employed.
"You've got your choices. You decide who you're going to haul for, where
you're going to go, what date you're going to go, if you're leaving at 6 in
the morning or 10 in the morning. You make your own decisions," she says.
"Working with animals is satisfying, and working with people who love animals
Starting a horse transporting business can be expensive, even starting
at the low end. "One truck and one trailer -- you're probably looking at $50,000
to start," estimates McCabe.
The truck and trailer they use now would probably cost $125,000 to $130,000
to replace. That doesn't include insurance on one truck and trailer, which
costs them about $20,000 per year. They also pay about $1,500 for license
plates on one truck.
When doing layovers, you need to rent stalls. You also need to pay for
feed, fuel, oil, tires and any employees.
"It's expensive to get into. It's a major time commitment," says McCabe.
"But at the same time, there's the benefits of self-employment."
McCabe says the Internet is opening up a lot of business for transporters.
Breeders who need certain horses can now buy them over the Internet, anywhere
in North America, and hire a transporter to bring the horse to its new home.
"The industry directly employs more people than railroads, radio and television
broadcasting, petroleum and coal products manufacturing and tobacco product
manufacturing," says the AHC.
These statistics don't show the precise picture for horse transporters.
But as the industry in general grows, so does the need for transporters.
Heather Ferguson believes there is a growing need for horse transport people.
She is the fund-raising and special events coordinator for an equine research
"The racing industry is growing. With the added slot machines at racetracks,
increased purse money is available," says Ferguson. "This opens up a whole
new client base for horse transport companies. Increased racing, breeding,
training and vet trips will all be surfacing soon."
Horse transport services
American Horse Council
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A national association representing the industry