On the outskirts of Toowoomba is an area populated with plenty of horse breeders and trainers, and nestled just off the Gore Highway between Toowoomba and Goondiwindi is a small yard with a few trucks parked up, the home of Dippy’s Horse Transport, with the goal of getting horse logistics just right.
The business was started by Dippy, real name, Darryl Brusnahan, Dippy and his wife Zelda have developed a strong reputation in the world of horse transport in and out of Queensland.
There are a number of regular runs the trucks in Dippy’s fleet need to handle. Most weeks a truck will head west from Toowoomba into the Northern Territory, a second will head North to Charters Towers and a third will make its way to Melbourne and back. The rest of the fleet is involved in bringing in the horses heading out on the long distance loads and delivering the horses which arrive in the yard to and from clients around South East Queensland.
The Toowoomba yard acts as a hub for the operation enabling the team to consolidate and build loads, as and when the horses arrive and are due to be delivered. All of the transport tasks are on paper work sheets, the job and information is too complicated to do any other way.
Sometimes the yard can have over forty horses in it, all bound for different destinations. The system Dippy has developed includes attaching a label to the mane of every horse as it is collected so that it can be checked every time it is moved.
“We try and run mainly inland,” says Dippy. “Going north we go via Emerald and for Melbourne we use the Newell Highway. But we do have to go wherever the load takes us.”
At the moment, Dippy is on the road himself, most of the time. In the past, he has been able to stay home more often, but the shortage of skilled drivers, especially those with an MC license, means he has to do the work himself.
With Dippy out on the highway most of the time, Zelda handles all of the tasks in the Toowoomba area. This includes a lot of loading and unloading of horses, both in the yard and for clients in the area. All of the horses in the yard also need to be looked after, at the same time as she is running the office, answering the phone and sending instructions out to the drivers on the road.
“The business has been good to us, but it’s been a lot of hard work to get here,” says Dippy. “There is more growth in it if you want it, but we have gone back the other way, because I want horsemen and not truck drivers. We don’t want the horses to just become a number.
“We want to provide a more personal service. Time and time again it gets proven. People phone up and we give them a quote, and they use someone else because they are cheaper. Then, a few weeks later, they phone up and say there’s been some problem. You only get what you pay for, it’s the oldest story in the book.
“We just try to be a professional transporter. Don’t get me wrong, animals are animals and sometimes they will get hurt. Touch wood, we have been very very lucky over the years. Word of mouth is everything in this industry.”
The operation has to be available seven days a week and 24 hours a day to fit in with customer needs and animal welfare. However, over the years, Dippy and Zelda have trained clients to refrain from phoning over the weekend, and to simply text if it is genuinely urgent.
“We are running a business, so we are not here to talk shit to you on the telephone,” says Dippy. “I’m not going to tell you how good your horse is or how well-bred it is. We just need the basic information. We get so many horses put on the truck and the owners tell us how valuable it is, and the horse in the next stall on the truck is probably worth ten times as much.
“All of the horses get treated the same, with the same level of care. They are all the same value to the customer. If we get a client who wants us to prioritise the care of their horse, we just answer that we aren’t good enough to transport their horse. It goes dead quiet at the other end of the line when you say that.
“The best example of what has got us our work, to a certain degree, is when we have pulled horses out of Melbourne, in transit from there to Toowoomba and then on up to Julia Creek, near Cloncurry. Then they have raced them within four days of dropping them off, and won races. That’s where you get your reputation.”
For Dippy and Zelda it is all about providing the right level of service. Sometimes, if a horse doesn’t seem to be travelling well, they will stop, phone the client and not take them any further. If they are not sure, they call a vet to take a look at them. This kind of policy has further enhanced the business’ reputation.
For this operation the welfare of the animal is paramount and it is incumbent on the driver to be able to do the right thing in any situation. This operation is unlike the high capacity racehorse transport game, which has a strapper specifically on board to look after the horses, with the driver’s main job being getting the truck from A to B safely. Dippy’s drivers have to be able to handle the horses and drop them on and off at different points as they travel across the country.