As the saying goes – “If you got it, a truck brought it,” – and the same goes for Kentucky Derby race horses.
The Kentucky Derby will be held this upcoming weekend, May 1st, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and will feature some of the nation’s fastest horses, but they didn’t run there themselves – it takes special truck drivers like Bart Stark to get these animals where they need to be.
Stark says he never intended to haul horses, let alone valuable race horses, but when he set out to buy a rig and a cattle trailer, a friend suggested he haul horses instead, and the position stuck.
“It’s [hauling horses is] literally 365 days a year, 4 o’clock in the morning, 10 o’clock at night,” Stark said to WDRB News. “If your phone rings, you must be willing to answer it.”
Stark Equine Services transports more than 2,000 horses a year and helps the horses, their grooms, and all their gear get from racetrack to racetrack. Stark even has special stall setups for these horses that he compares to flying first class.
“A box stall is like flying a plane in first class,” Stark explained. “The horse is in a stall like you would see in a barn. They can eat, and very seldom lie down or sit down. But they can have their head. It is very important to have their head.”
In addition to transporting the horses safely, Stark also takes care of the cleaning and disinfecting of stalls between each transport to ensure these prized horses stay healthy and happy.
“It’s one of the important things that we do. I guess not to transfer disease. Illnesses, different types of ways we could get another horse sick through sneezing, coughing, saliva.”
Though traveling with Stark may be like first class for horses, they animals typically do not travel alone, as Stark has room for 15 horses in his trailer and hauling just one doesn’t make much sense financially.
“There are times when there’s a request to haul one horse in an 18-wheeler,” Stark said. “This will haul 15 horses. Most of the time we do not do that. We have done that one time when we were going a short distance.”
Stark says he loves his job, and feels a special connection to horse racing now that he is “part of the team.”
“We are very appreciative, and it never gets old,” Stark said. “It has been 21 years and it feels like it has been 21 days. I still get nervous and still get excited. It’s a lot of fun. It’s definitely a blessing.”
“It’s pretty special to know that you are a little part of the team,” Stark said. “It is very special.”
To check out the filmed interview with Stark, click here.