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An Inside Look at How Elite Horses Travel to Inner City Horse Shows

Last updated May 3, 2024 by Brad Heath

If you are taking a horse to compete at the Washington International Horse Show, we can make a few assumptions about you.

First, you’re probably a very talented rider with a bright future in the world of equestrian sports.

Second, you’ll likely arrive at the inner city show with your horse aboard a Johnson Horse Transportation rig.

A Closer Look at How Champions Are Horse Trailered

horse trailer in the city

The Washington International Horse show, like several other big city shows, is held in the heart of a bustling metropolitan area.  Grooms with horses share space with honking car horns, flashing traffic lights, and throngs of people packing the sidewalks.

In order to safely transport elite show horses into the middle of a city, the folks at Johnson Horse Transportation need to carefully plan their deliveries and treat their charges with the highest level of care.

We recently spoke on the phone with DJ Johnson, owner of Johnson Horse Transportation, to learn how his company plays a major role in delivering Olympic caliber athletes to top events.

Over the last 20 years, this company has established itself as the official carrier for many big name horse shows including the Washington International Horse Show and even the World Equestrian Games when it is held in the United States.

They manage to safely deliver all of these top equines with a specially designed fleet of trailer trucks that are air-ride equipped with customizable interiors.  Each rig can carry up to 15 horses depending on the stall layout with either single, double, or box stalls available.  Horses are video monitored during their journey and sometimes even enjoy a police escort on the highway! (Photo Right Facebook: Johnson Horse Transportation)

Without further ado, here is more from our conversation with DJ Johnson…

Thank you for taking with me!  First off, what kind of organization does it take for you to transport your huge horse trailer rigs into the middle of a city?  Do you need to coordinate with the police or take special routes?

In DC, the horse show shuts down several streets during the show.  That allows us to avoid traffic jams.  Since we're the only carrier going in and out of the city with the horses, we're able to plan and be very organized about not having too many trucks going in and out at the same time. There’s never a hold up.  It’s pretty smooth.

For the {New York City} horse show that we do in Central Park, we do all of the movement during the night so that the traffic is less busy.  The park is shut down during the night hours, so we use the night time to go in and out of the city.

We do some other shows that are in cities such as Miami. Because that show does have horses that are coming internationally, we do get escorted by police. It's all regulated by USDA. So they take us basically from the airports with the European horses. They shut down the road like the president’s coming to town!

They literally drive ahead of us and shut exits down. We don't ever stop at a light stop or stop sign.  We just flow right behind all of the police officers. Sometimes we have up to twelve trucks…tractor trailers… at a time on those trips.

We also just did the World Equestrian Games.  Again, we were the only carrier.  When it is European horses and International Horses and they're here under quarantine in the United States, we have police officials escorting the truck to and from the airport and venue.

You guys are located in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania. Do you have locations in other parts of the country or are you just in the Eastern United States?

Our main hub is in Shartlesville, PA and we do have another hub in Wellington, Florida. And between those two locations we hit every horse show in the United States and in Canada. We go as far as California and we go all through Canada too

About how many horses did you take in throughout the course of the Washington Horse Show?

600 in and 600 out approximately. That would be approximately 75 loads in and 75 loads out.

Can you share the types of horses that you're typically transporting?  Are there certain breeds that you see more often than others or any famous horses that you'd like to share?

Like I said, we just did the World Equestrian Games this past summer and those are the best horses in the entire world.  We did Arabians, dressage horses, vaulting horses, reiners, show jumpers.

As far as famous horses, we do all the Olympic horses. So I consider those pretty famous horses. You know… gold medalists.  McLane Ward.  We do all of his horses.

We do a lot of different horses of all the different sports. Showjumping is definitely our biggest customer.

Do you take racehorses too?

Yes!  Racehorses, minis, ponies, donkeys.  We like them all

Do you have any limitations on the horses that you'll transport? Like if the Budweiser Clydesdales needed transport, could you accommodate them?

Yes, our trailers are set up to easily haul a mini or to haul a Clydesdale.  We can do it all. Our stalls can easily be made into box stalls.

A lot of our readers are going to be people with regular horse trailers. What advice would you give to them when they're taking their trailer into an urban area?

You should make sure that your truck and trailer are being properly maintained…that your lights and brakes both work.  Just everything's in good working condition.  Take your time when you're driving into the cities. Be patient, be careful and alert.

There are some tunnels that trucks and trailers cannot go into because of high restrictions.  So, know your route and map it out, because larger trucks and trailers can’t aways go onto those roads.

If you are interested in having your horse transported by Johnson Horse Transportation, visit their website.  You can check out more photos of them in action on Facebook below! 

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7719 Market St., Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, 28404

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