Nation-Wide Horse Transportation has been moving horses cross-country for nearly 50 years. Brenda and David Steele, who bought the business in August 2002, are the third owners of the Colorado Springs-based operation. They transport about 1,500 horses a year.
Brenda is no stranger to horses, having been around the animals her whole life. Consequently, she knows that extra care is called for when transporting them. The transportation fleet currently consists of three Kenworth T600 and two Freightliner tractors, as well as two straight trucks, all owned by the Steeles. Brenda Steele says for the past year she's also been trying out leasing a Kenworth T600 through MHC Truck Leasing, the PacLease location in Colorado Springs.
Eric Temmert, maintenance manager for NWHT, says all of the trucks are equipped with full air-ride suspensions to reduce stress and trip fatigue for both the horses and the drivers. He notes the spaciousness of the trailers also make the horses more comfortable, as does good ventilation. “Our 70-ft. semi-tractors pull 15-horse trailers, manufactured by Pegasus. The 37-ft. box trucks can carry up to 8 horses.”
Stall sizes onboard the vehicles vary by truck and position but are generally about 33-in. wide, with depths adjustable to provide up to 9 ft. of space.
Horses can be shipped in a single stall, stall-and-a-half, or a box stall, Temmert explains, depending on the individual horse's requirement and/or the customer's wishes. For example, he says NWHT would suggest a box stall-which is the equivalent of three stalls-for a foal whose legs are not fully developed yet and needs the extra room to lay down during the journey.
Temmert notes the trucks are all spec'd for off-road operations with 475-hp. Cummins or Detroit diesel engines, heavy-duty rear ends for versatility and wheelbases of 245 in. so they can be maneuvered in tight city driving situations more easily.
“Also, the longhaul trucks are equipped with sleeper cabs, to ensure drivers get plenty of rest,” Temmert advises. There are always two drivers assigned to each rig to keep the horses moving, he explains. The drivers do, however, make regular stops every three to five hours to rest the horses and check their water buckets and hay bags.
Trips are broken up into East Coast or West Coast runs, with layovers in Colorado Springs, where drivers and horses rest before moving on to the opposite coast. “From April through October we almost always run full,” Temmert says. “Things slow down a bit in November, picking up again for the holidays, then slowing down from January through April.”
During the slower months, Temmert says major repairs on transportation equipment can be made. All maintenance is done by local, third-party maintenance shops.
NWHT transports horses anywhere in the lower 48 states. “We have a good base of clients who keep coming back to us,” Temmert says. “A major portion of our transportation business comes from people who relocate around the country, as well as those who show their animals. We also get called to move horses that are being sent for training and, of course, those sold over the Internet.”
The horses' well-being and comfort is always NWHT's main objective. According to Temmert, drivers all carry cell phones and the trucks are outfitted with Magellan GPS Systems. “There is somebody on-call 24 hours a day, so drivers can always reach us if they have a problem. We've also equipped each truck with GPS. These units make routing easier and help drivers find the most efficient way to get to a customer's address.”