December 2015 - Pacific Horse Coach, LLC

A trainer’s frustration brings an overdue upgrade to horse hauling options in America.

by Kim F. Miller

White-knuckled drives down the curving, tree-canopied and very narrow Lakeville Highway in Sonoma County have an honored place in my family history.

It wasn’t my knuckles that were white. That was my mom, tasked with the weekly drive to get me, a friend and our two horses to a special trainer two hours from home. My mom is a many-talented wonder, but hauling horses had always been dad’s domain until the urgent need for faraway weekday lessons arose.

Not one to let lack of experience stand in her way, she stepped up to the task and nailed it. Calmly and confidently, I always thought, until many years later when she admitted it had been one of the more nerve-wracking endeavors of her life.

That was a long time ago, but not much has changed when it comes to what’s required to transport horses in the United States. Heavy-duty pick-up trucks and big trailers are the norm here. Plus, the extra driving skills and experience required to maneuver them safely, on the road and around the barn or showgrounds.

In Europe, however, most people haul their horses with a more manageable and affordable set-up. Dressage trainer Daniel Rocks has long been annoyed that that’s not an option in the States and he recently did something about it with Pacific Horse Coach, LLC.

Modeled on the modestly horse-powered horse vans, often called “horse boxes,” common throughout Europe, Pacific Horse Coach’s vans are built specific for the American market. The single-unit vehicles combine a Ford cab chassis with the back built out to transport horses safely and comfortably, for horse and driver. In keeping with American preferences, they are sturdy and substantial, yet easy to handle.

“Anyone who’s gone horse shopping in Europe notices the lack of giant ‘duallys’ and big gooseneck trailers,” Daniel says of the catalyst behind Pacific Horse Coach.  “People who have one or two horses and go to a few shows a year, mostly local, have horse vans that drive and handle similar to a mini-van.

“I was always confused as to why we didn’t have them here,” the trainer and rider continues. Daniel wanted one for himself and had several clients for whom they would be a perfect fit. His first thought was to import a horse van from Europe. But costs were prohibitively high and the car bodies they were constructed on, mostly Fiats and Renaults, were not very familiar to American drivers and, equally important, mechanics.

Daniel works full-time-plus at his Daniel Rocks Dressage, based at Fairwinds Farm in Santa Rosa and giving a regular schedule of lessons throughout the surrounding area. As the idea guy behind Pacific Horse Coach, he has no plans to give up his day job. Instead, he assembled a team of design and engineering professionals to bring his vision to life.

Safety

“’How safe is it?’ will be Americans’ first question,” Daniel predicts. The short answer is that the Pacific Horse Coach is “over-engineered” to provide the sturdiness and stability Americans are accustomed to in their cars and trucks.

An available suspension leveling kit ensures stability for the van through turns, windy roads and when there’s just one horse in it. The suspension leveling is adjustable to suit a driver’s preferences and it has the added bonus of creating a smooth, cushioned ride for the horse.

Horses load from the side and a pivoting divider enables each horse to be secured before the van’s side door is closed. They travel facing backwards, looking out the rear windows. Many big rig haulers and at least one formal study say that horses feel more comfortable traveling that way.

Two video cameras are also available with the Horse Coach. One is a rear-view and back-up camera and the second is trained on the horses. An easy toggle switch enables the driver to flip between the two views.

Size-wise, the coach accommodates 99 percent of the horses regularly seen at shows, from Warmbloods to smaller western breeds and everything in between. Hauling capacity is not limited to horses. In between shows, it’s a great vehicle for Home Depot runs and family outings that require hauling big stuff – bikes, motorcycles, camping gear, surfboards, etc.

A diesel engine, the same as that found in the Ford F350 truck, is available for the Horse Coach, though it can be ordered with a regular gas engine. Just under $75,000 is the base price.

In its appearance and ease of handling, the Horse Coach is definitely different than what American horse owners are familiar with. Daniel knows it will take a little getting used to, but he’s confident that once people see it out and about, it will receive a warm welcome.

Appropriate insurance for the Horse Coach will likely be prospective buyers’ second question. The company has addressed that too, with an insurer that has already designed a policy specifically for the vehicle. An insurance link on PHC’s website makes that aspect of safe horse hauling easy, too.

His own hauling needs and those of his clients are Daniel’s biggest inspiration. “Most of my clients have one or two horses and they go to a few shows a year, but they have to have this big truck and trailer. It just didn’t make sense and most of my clients hate having to have a truck and trailer,” he relays. “I see a lot of moms struggling with how to hook up the trailer and figure out how everything works. The Horse Coach is like you are cruising around in a mini-van.”

Add that to the vehicle’s safety and comfortable ride, plus easy access to service when needed, and it seems Pacific Horse Coach is introducing a long overdue upgrade to horse hauling options in America.


For more information, visit www.pacifichorsecoach.com.