05 Oct Ride, Sallee Ride
Sallee Horse Vans has been carrying racing’s stars for over 50 years. The key word is “commitment.”
The deep black of midsummer pre-dawn envelops the knights as gingerly they move up the mountain highway. Navigating their enormous white steeds past tall pines and foraging deer, their convoy intimidates onlooking wildlife. They share a mission, that of delivering precious cargo safely to the appointed destination, with as little stress as possible. Their passengers shift and nicker as they rouse: they know that the long trip is at its end. The knights line up their white steeds the entire length of the famous thoroughfare. They are at the end of a trip that took them from rolling hills to ancient mountains, traversing hundreds of miles in an overnight. Perhaps the most compelling part of their story is that they took this roadtrip in record time, the silence broken only by the occasional tune wafting from the radio and the low “Hmmm, Hmmm, Hmmm” of their revered packages.
These knights are the horsemen-drivers of Salle Horse Vans, and this is their annual trek to Saratoga from Lexington to deliver the 900-pound yearlings to be sold at the Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling Sale in August. Every year they make this same trip, the same route in identical, reliable vehicles: only the horses inside change with each time. The steadfastness of the team-drivers, dispatchers, owner, mechanics-assures that every yearling will arrive in Saratoga with not a scratch on a sacred limb. No angst nor upset: these horsemen-drivers are professionals, men whose vocations meld two very different and yet complimentary skill sets. They drive big rigs with dexterity and insight, but they also know horses, intimately. They are chosen for their unique combination of talents, and for their passion for what they do.
They, along with the owner and staff of Sallee Horse Vans treat every horse as if s/he is their own: The pre-Saratoga Sale trip is an annual ritual that is absolutely magnificent to behold: the long, clean, white tractor-trailers festooned with the comforting Sallee Horse Vans logo course up the Northway toward Exit 14 in pitch-black, the Friday before the first night of the Sales. Carefully maneuvering around the curved exit and onto Union Avenue, they line up the entire length of the boulevard, from where they will thread their way down East and onto George and Case.
There’s something beautiful about the relative silence with which the horsemen-drivers control their trucks. Neighbours’ on Union and the environs aren’t awakened by the downshifting of gears, unless they’d already set their clocks to witness this annual delivery by the industry’s most-careful couriers.
Sallee Horse Vans makes its homebase in Lexington, Kentucky-but the highway is its turf. No one knows the fastest and most efficient way to truck horses across country like these contemporary cowboys and their seasoned leaders. For more than half-a-century, Sallee Horse Vans has transported hundreds of thousands of horses every year, criss-crossing the United States and Canada. It’s one of the largest equine transportation companies in the world, with ample reasons. Nicolle Pieratt, third-generation owner of Sallee Horse Vans, is one key reason, but she graciously gives full credit to her drivers and staff. There are many similarities between a semi and a Thoroughbred: both must be finessed, not handled carelessly or with malice. The team is aware of this, from the first phone call to the signing off upon delivery.
The overall comfort, safety and emotional well-being of both horses and clients are of primary concern for Ms. Pieratt and the team of so many who make Sallee Horse Vans the will-respected company that we see today. Humans and horses are considered equally by the concerned, conscientious team that occupies the space at Buck Lane in Lexington – that is, when they’re not on the road. And they’re on the road a lot, because service, safety and accessibility make this one of the best-run and most ethically-centered companies in the United States today. Sallee Horse Vans is built for comfort, safety and, ultimately, the well-being of every horse whom it serves. The very foundation of the industry is in good hands, with Sallee Horse Vans at the driving wheel.