Finding long-distance transportation for your horse can be a gigantic headache, especially if you?ve never done it before. You might ask friends, your trainer or even go to an Internet chat room for suggestions. Then you can pick up the phone (or send e-mails) to ask a broad spectrum of companies what they?d charge to ship Dobbin.
We investigated a more centralized and potentially easier way to undertake a thousand-mile (or more) journey for your horse. it's a website called uShip (www.uShip.com, 800-698-7447 ext. 2) where companies that haul horses can bid for your business.
it's a clever clearinghouse, one that could allow you to get a better rate than you might by calling half a dozen different shipping companies yourself. UShip.com could be especially handy if you're moving your horses, your family and your possessions, because they offer shipping for all types of freight, including pets and livestock.
Setting up your listing takes about 15 minutes, to answer about a dozen questions about your starting point, destination, time frame, horses, budget and other requirements. To increase the chances of a shipper seeing your listing and making a bid, you can pay to be marked as a featured or urgent listing.
Across The Country.
As a test of uShip.com, we asked for bids on two types of trips, both from Northern Virginia to Northern California. The first was for one horse, with no special requirements for the horse, no date requirements and a budget of $1,500 or less. The second listing was for seven horses, with one horse requiring a box stall, with a two-week window 60 days away, and no specific budget.
To ship one horse, we received eight bids from five different companies. (The difference between the multiple bids depended on the date.) The bids ranged from a low of $985 to a high of $1,495. These prices compared rather favorably with prices We've paid in the past (which have been as high as $2,200).
We began to receive bids well within 24 hours, and we received queries requesting further information from two of these companies and from three more companies that didn't offer bids. Once you list a trip, you have 10 days to confirm your contract with a shipper, or you can re-list and ask for more bids.
With the one-horse listing, all the bids came from small horse-transportation firms ? one or two trucks, two or three drivers, all with pickup trucks pulling four-to nine-horse trailers. None of the large horse-transportation firms offered bids.
Consequently ? and this could be good or bad for you, depending on your needs ? the small size of these operations meant that two of these bidders were eager to pick the horse up within 48 hours. One even wanted to be here the next day.
Our request to haul seven horses yielded far less quantity, although the quality seemed good. After four days, we'd received only two bids, each at the excellent prices of $5,500 and $5,600. (that's roughly $800 per horse.) Both said our horses would be the only ones on the trailer, and one promised extra room for equipment and feed.
Once again, these were small firms ? one bidder had one truck and trailer (a semi-tractor pulling a nine-horse Jamco trailer), and the other had two trucks and three drivers. One firm drove straight through, without layovers, the other planned to stop once.
With a small investment of time, you can easily receive half a dozen or more bids to send Dobbin across the country or across the state. Plus, the uShip website provides a self-written profile of each hauler, ratings and comments from previous customers, and allows you to ask questions of those haulers via e-mail.
Our experience was that they responded within 24 to 48 hours, sometimes within minutes. But the bidders cannot contact you directly until you want them to, as your communication goes through the filter of the website. So you're under no obligation until you're ready.
Our primary concern with this service is about payment. None of the firms offering to ship one horse accepted credit cards, and only one of the two that bid on the seven-horse load accepted credit cards.
One hauler (the one who wanted to pick up the horse the next day) would accept only cash. One firm would accept personal checks, but the others would accept only cash, money orders or bank drafts, usually due when they picked your horse up (not at delivery). This requirement isn?t surprising given the small size of these firms.
Also, two of these firms? representatives seemed a bit pushy via our e-mailed communications with them, although this could be the result of poor communications skills. Overall, though, it's worth the initial effort to investigate potential sources of long-distance hauling.
Article by John Strassburger, our Performance Editor.