As a contributor of over $1 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy, the horse racing industry directly creates thousands of jobs and numerous small businesses that rely on the sport. Direct offshoots of the racing community include horse breeders, veterinary clinics, farriers, tack shops, and horse transportation companies.

Race horses often travel from racetrack to racetrack or farm to racetrack, and safe, dependable transportation is essential. Horse racing’s superstars are often frequent flyers as they shuttle across the country or around the world in FedEx planes or specially outfitted cargo planes. In the 1920’s and 30’s horses traveled by rail, but with the development and advancement of cars and trucks in the 1950’s and 60’s, road travel became hugely popular, and now, state-of-the-art tractor trailers transport horses throughout the United States.

One of the country’s largest horse transportation companies, Brook Ledge Horse Transportation Inc. is located in Pennsylvania’s rural Oley Valley, approximately 60 miles west of Philadelphia .Started in 1955 by Bill and Bob Gotwals as a trucking business with only one truck, the company expanded into horse transportation and offers weekly trips from the Northeast and Florida to Lexington, Kentucky, and from the East Coast to California, Arizona, and New Mexico, and from the East to Colorado and the Northwest. They transport horses throughout 48 states and Canada and ship champion racehorses as well as backyard pets. The family owned business, now in its third generation, builds its own custom 48, 50, and 52 foot trailers equipped with air ride suspensions for a soft, smooth ride and outfitted with modern technology for safety and communication ease.

Dairy farmers, looking to supplement their incomes, Bill and Bob Gotwals started their new trucking venture by moving general freight. According to Bob Gotwals’ granddaughter, Andrea Gotwals Boone, “the way they got involved with horse transportation was that one day a mutual truck dealer advised them about a horse transportation company for sale called George Hutt Horse Transportation which they eventually purchased. My grandfather Bob, who is 89, still comes in to work every day, and we share an office. I’m the third generation involved in the business, and we are a close family.”

From a single truck in 1955, the business grew into a well-run, well-known and respected company that owns a fleet of 50 trucks and employs roughly 150 people. From their home office in Oley, PA, full time fabricators build custom vans designed for a horse’s maximum comfort and safety. Specifications include air ride suspensions, wide doors, insulation, dutch doors to provide extra ventilation and fans to generate air circulation during long stops or extreme heat. Low ramps for loading from the ground are standard on the new vans, and the equipment is disinfected regularly. The stall options include 11/2 stalls which are 4 feet wide, and box stalls which are 8 feet wide and measure 10 feet by 10 feet that allow a horse to eat and drink freely. All drivers carry cell phones, and every truck has a closed circuit video system from truck to trailer that allows drivers to monitor the horses at all times.

Travel is stressful and risky for horses, and long distance travel poses potential health complications including “shipping fever”, colic, and injury. Pleuropneumonia, commonly known as “shipping fever” is a viral respiratory infection exacerbated by poor air quality and prolonged head elevation. To eliminate potential problems, Brook Ledge rigs are each operated by 2 drivers that stop every 3-5 hours to fuel and inspect the horses. During stops, hay and water is offered, and when necessary, Brook Ledge uses their lay over facilities in Lexington, KY, Ocala, FL, Oley, PA, or Summerton, SC to rest and regroup. On cross-country trips, layovers allow a horse to move around, stretch their legs, and put their heads down
to drink and eat hay which clears and expands their lungs. Horses are watered regularly to prevent dehydration which could lead to gastrointestinal problems like colic. “Safe and healthy transport is our main priority, and our professional drivers are lifelong horsemen that come from a wide background including horse trainers, riders, grooms, farm managers, and farriers. All have extensive horse experience, and they are randomly tested for drugs and alcohol,” explained Andrea. “We have long time employees, and the average length of employment at Brook Ledge is 13 years. Also, we have our own mechanics and full service maintenance shop in Oley to ensure the safety and reliability of our equipment.”

According to Andrea, “the majority of our business is derived from the horse racing industry. We specialize in shipping to race tracks, breeding farms, and the major thoroughbred horse sales. We also ship locally to horse shows and events and quarantine facilities.” Many leading horse trainers and owners trust Brook Ledge to ship their horses to major races including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, and Breeders’ Cup races.

In 2021, as a way of giving back to the horse community, Brook Ledge introduced a program called the Road Scholar award which gifts round trip travel for one horse to a full time college student who wishes to take their horse with them to college, but can’t afford it. For more information about the award, check their web site at brookledge.com.

As a contributor to Pennsylvania’s economy and an economic benefit to their community, Brook Ledge is an example of a small business that grew and created jobs and prospered along with the horse racing industry.

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Hambletonian winner Captain Corey trotted away to victory in the $300,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial Trot, tying his lifetime record of 1:51, on August 21, 2021 by two and one-quarter lengths.

With the winner’s share of the purse at $150,000, Captain Corey surpassed the $1 million mark in career earning. It was his fourth win in just six starts that. He was trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt for the S R F Stable, Knutson Trotting and the Midnight Sun Partners.

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