Profile of a Horse Transport Driver - Chris Mahoney

In 2011, Chris and his wife co-founded A1 Horse Transport, after more than 20 years of transporting their own horses regularly across Bass Strait. 

How long have you been transporting horses? 

The first commercial transport was well over 15 years ago but I have been transporting our own competitive horses regularly across Bass Strait ever since 1990. 

How did you get your start as a truck driver? 

Funnily enough I started by carting flowers, and then decided transporting horses was a better fit for me. In about 2011 my wife Keryn and I started up A1 horse transport with the primary idea of commercially transporting our own export horses, and the horses of contacts and friends. We never dreamed it would end up a full time commercial operation. 

Who is the best horse you’ve ever transported? 

That’s a curly question because it depends how we define “best horse.” 
Best, in relation to horses has a different meaning to all horse people. 
So I’ll hedge my bets here and say best could mean most valuable, most loved, most accomplished, a stud’s new stallion or a broodmare bred in the purple, best stakes earner or perhaps even best known. So, to answer this question I’d have to say the best horse I have ever transported remains a mystery. 

Is there anything different about transporting horses via the ferry? 

Yes, I think so. Firstly it is a long trip and there are unique challenges to consider, pre travel preparation is important because you want the horse to arrive in peak condition and not metabolically compromised. By that I mean the horses need to be appropriately fed and watered before they leave for the journey and not in a stressed state, such as straight from a hard hit out or race. 

Transporting horses on the Spirit of Tasmania is not an issue if the truck is well ventilated and care and attention to detail for optimum horse health is maintained. The TT Line do their utmost to ensure our horse crossings are managed well in the respect of making sure the trucks are parked in adequately ventilated areas and usually last on and first off which makes a difference. 

Is there any added pressure knowing you have a stakes winner on board or you’re transporting a horse to a very important race? 

Young stock, mares in foal or with foals at foot, bloodstock, Stakes winners or any other category on board gets my full attention. However, that said, transporting to a big race, or yearlings to premier sales as well as horses in work do carry a different level of pressure shall we say. I am mindful of the importance of ensuring all horses travel well. 

How does Mystic Journey handle the trip to Melbourne?

Really well, she is a true professional and she has improved on every trip. Mystic Journey travelled over from Tassie brilliantly before her win on Cox Plate day at Moonee Valley. 

What is the toughest part about your role as a driver? 

I think the fact that I am not only the driver but the joint owner with my wife. We both know what it takes to manage performance horses properly and honestly the driving is only a small part of what we do. 

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about a career in transporting horses? 

If you are passionate about horses and love driving, then it may suit you. Transporting can open some fabulous doors where you can go to great places, meet awesome horses, owners and trainers and feel a sense of achievement at the end of the day. You do need to pay serious attention to what is going on in the truck at all times though. 

Horses are a truly precious cargo and they have taken me around the world literally. I have travelled with them to the UAE and Asia. Every horse is special in its own way to either the person dispatching or the person receiving it and every horse deserves to be treated with respect and as an individual. 

So, be confidential in your dealings, be kind to the horses; treat them like they are your own, be patient with the horses and run a clean, well maintained, decent truck. 

That’s our formula. If you love horses and understand them it’s a great job.