Thursday, March 5, 2009
Horse transport companies: Proceed with caution!
When our friend, Ariel, sent her horse. River. to us in December, I was very nervous about how the 9-year-old gelding would fare during the week-long trip from New Hampshire to California. With a few minor glitches, River arrived cheerful and, most importantly, safe.
But not everyone is so lucky. My morning email brought a warning letter from a horse owner who had recently been burned. Bad.
Here's her letter:
I arranged to have my OTTB shipped from California to Colorado with the company 'Total Equine Services Inc' (www.wehaulhorses.net). This is the first time I have shipped a horse long distance so I am new to this, which is what is partially to blame for my mistake.
I thought this company's website looked professional and legitimate. I "googled" their name and didn't see anything bad about them. I contacted them about transport and they were quick to call me back, to e-mail me, to answer any questions I had.
The second they received money from me, they disappeared.
ON the day my horse was scheduled to be picked up, they never showed. After several phone calls and e-mails, I get an e-mail from them late in the evening saying the clutch in their truck went out (which doesn't give you a warm, fuzzy feeling either). Pick up was rescheduled for the end of the week.
The week came and went, they are nowhere to be found. Their voicemail box is full, I can't leave a message if I tried. Another week has gone by. They have disappeared.
In my frustration, I have been doing a lot more research and have looked up their DOT and MC numbers online. Not only are there several company names under one number (Total Equine Services, We Haul Horses, Double S Transport), but a lot of very recently unhappy people. They have pulled a fast one on several people in the past few weeks, I am not alone.
Through the help of friends, I have now become familiar with several helpful websites that post reviews on horse haulers. During this process, my two favorite websites have become
They both list customer reviews of transport companies.
This is a sad story, and just a sign of that there are some people out there who don't mind taking your hard earned cash and anything else they can get their mitts on.
The other night, my 75-year-old mother went to a friend's house for dinner. While there, her car was broken into, and her garage door opener stolen. While she enjoyed a relaxing evening, the thieves easily drove into her garage, closed the door, and quickly ripped off thousands of dollars worth of valuables. I can guess that our horse owner feels much the same as my mom--angry, frightened, and violated.
My mother learned that we now live in a world where you cannot leave your garage door opener in your car.
Our horse shipping friend learned that when it comes to turning your money--and your cherished four-legged friend--over to a horse hauler, check them out thoroughly.
In addition to the two sites she recommends, I have some other adice.
DO check with the DOT (Department of Transportation) to see if they are up to date on all licensing and permits. You can also ask the transport compnay to fax their permits and registration to you.
---CHECK with the Better Business Bureau.
---MAKE SUREyou have a physical address where the business sits.
--NEVER HAND OVER A CENT until they show up to pick up your horse. Most horse haulers will ask for a deposit for half the transport fee when picking up the horse...NOT BEFORE. The remainder of the fee is due when the horse arrives at its destination safely and in good health.
--ASK IF THEY HAVE OTHER TRUCKS IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY. In the last leg of River's journey from New Hampshire (and just an hour from our house), the truck's engine developed problems. Fortunately for River, we were only minutes away and able to come pick him up ourselves. As for the remaining 11 horses headed to Los Angeles, the company immediately dispatched another truck from Oregon to come get them. It arrived just five hours later and the trip finished as planned. If the horse hauler you have chosen says, "Oh sure, we have tons of trucks," get proof in the form of registrations that you can check against DOT records.
--DO NOT BELIEVE THE TESTIMONIALS ON THE WEBSITE. Anyone can write up a testimonial. For real reviews, check in with the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and the websites our horse owner mentioned above.
--GET THE DRIVERS' CELL PHONE NUMBERS. I made sure I had the cell phone numbers of both the drivers for River's trip. This way, I could track their progress and, as they got closer to California, get a better idea of their exact arrival time. It was good that we had exchanged numbers, because, as mentioned above, the semi hauling the horses could not negotiate the narrow highway to our house. We ended up having to go pick the horse up for the last leg of the journey.
--GET THE COMPANY'S PHYSICAL ADDRESS. Verrify it with the Better Busines Bureau and DOT. This can help greatly if you have to follow up due to problems, such as your horse being injured en route.
Anyone can put together a fairly snazzy, impressive website for under $500. So do your research before handing over your money and horse to a horse hauling company.