TAILS FROM THE TRAILS
Wouldn’t life be easy if horses fit into cars? We’d hold open the door, perhaps flip the front seat forward, and the horse could step gingerly into the back seat, hang his head out the window, and off we’d go. Yes, well, maybe for a miniature horse, but the usual-sized ones need trailers, and if you’re moving lots of horses, or sending the horse on alone, a van. That’s where Mike Young comes in.
“I’ve been in the horse transportation business since 1976,” Young said. “We’re based here in Wellington. When I was a kid, my parents had Standardbred race horses, and I helped train them. Then I grew up, went to school, got married, had kids and needed a job that provided more money, so I started hauling Standardbreds from the track to the farm or training center.”
It was steady work. “Every day I’d pick the horses up, bring them to the track, then haul them back home that evening after they finished racing, many from the Trotting Center on State Road 7 to the Pompano Race Track,” Young said. “I also pick up yearlings from the auction sales and bring them down. Living in Wellington, eventually I got involved with hauling show horses to the show grounds, or shipping them down or back from up north. I’d say my business is split 50/50 between the Standardbreds and the show horses.”
At one point, Young had five big vans running, but times got tougher and good help was hard to find. Currently, he runs one big Air Ride tractor-trailer van, which is a lot easier, and moves about 20 horses a week. Typically, customers share rides on the van, some moving one horse, some a few. Young can plan a route so horses get picked up and dropped off along the way, especially if it’s a long interstate haul, which helps keep the customers’ costs down.
“Some customers will rent every space on the van, even if they don’t have that many horses, which is always an option,” Young said. “During show season, I have one customer who does this every day, bringing horses to and from the show.”
Young’s main concern is keeping the horses he is shipping safe. He said most seasoned race and show horses are used to shipping and travel quietly, but when he’s picking up a group of Standardbred yearlings, which may have been shipped only once or twice, things can get dicey.
“When you have 10, 12 or 14 youngsters on the truck, they can get into trouble,” he said. “They can hang a leg in a hay net, get into a dispute with the horse next to them, get a leg over the breast bar, break a halter. They’re horses; they do dumb stuff. That’s why, in addition to the cameras in the van, I always have an experienced attendant riding back there with the horses to keep an eye on things and stop a bad situation from developing. Like the old American Express commercials used to say: I don’t leave home without him.”
During each haul, Young stops every three to four hours to offer each horse water, and if it’s July or August, he leaves about 5 or 6 p.m. and travels during the cooler nights. If it’s a long haul and the horses are standing in straight stalls, Young always stops for a layover of at least 12 hours. The horses get off the van and have box stalls in a barn so they can rest and relax.
“That’s really important,” he explained. “When horses stand with their heads tied for too long, they can get sick. They need to be able to get their heads down at times and clear their lungs.”
If the horses are in box stalls, Young can go straight through, because the horses are free to move around and even lie down.
If someone will be shipping a horse, Young said that they need a current Coggins and health certificate. He prefers leather halters with fuzzy protectors.
“Leather breaks if a horse pulls back or gets hung up,” he explained. “Nylon never breaks and also can rub or burn a horse’s head. I don’t like the cowboy rope halters at all. I also hate shipping boots. They’re hot and uncomfortable for the horse, and cause more problems than they prevent.”
If a horse is going cross-country, Young encourages owners to send along a bale of hay that the horse is used to and likes. They can also send tack and equipment, as long as he knows about it in advance and leaves room.
Victoria McCullough is an enthusiastic, loyal customer.
“I’ve been using Mike since 1997, and he’s the best,” she said. “I absolutely adore him. I’m always very careful how I ship my horses. I have show horses, and I also help a lot of rescue horses. Once I started using Mike, I never used anyone else. He’s a treasure. You know your horses are safe with him. He treats all my horses the same, whether their expensive show horses or rescues. When a horse walks up the ramp into his van, you never have to worry. I can’t say enough good things about Mike.”
You can contact Mike Young Horse Transportation at (561) 346-5847.