Brought to you by Brook Ledge Horse Transportation.
From Wellington to California, Live Oak International to the Kentucky Derby, Brook Ledge’s blue-striped horse vans are a common sight, rumbling into the parking areas of North America’s most famous equestrian events.
The company’s roster of superstars includes Kentucky 3-Day eventers, five-star show jumpers, and Triple Crown winners, but for every legend that steps up the ramp of a Brook Ledge trailer, there are countless other horses: less well known, perhaps, but equally priceless in the eyes of their owners. Last month, one of those horses was Zip Bama, a 15-hand, 17-year-old quarter horse from Kentucky.
At first glance, Zip may be your typical senior horse—albeit one fortunate enough to have found a new gig late in life with a family halfway across the country. But that’s just where her story begins.
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“My family & I wanted to say Thank you to you Leslie for all the advice you gave us about shipping our first horse & your very empathetic professionalism. Samara, Thank you for being so kind & reassuring. Thank you for being so professional & sweet, taking the time to go over everything with me & getting our first horse a ride from KY to NY. I know your company has shipped many High Profile horses & your company’s reputation precedes them. I know all the horses you ship are special, But that little 15h sorrel 17 year old QH mare your company is bringing to NY is our daughters first horse, Our family horse. Our daughters therapy horse, A Best Friend & my sanity. We’ve been dealt some heavy blows over the past year & Zip Bama is a shining reminder of all the good & how grateful & blessed we really are. Thank you to you & the drivers & care givers along the route. Safe travels to all & we can not wait for Zip to come home to Long Island.” All our best, The Presto Family
“Zip fits into our family like she has always been here. She is quiet, willing and forgiving. Nothing really phases her,” says Zip’s new owner, LoriAnn Presto of Long Island, New York. In March, LoriAnn and her husband purchased Zip for their 10-year-old daughter, Sammie. Zip was to be Sammie’s first horse—and so much more.
“Horses have played a huge role in shaping our daughter. She has been riding and showing since she was two years old [and we] have been with the same barn, Outlaw Acres, for eight years,” says LoriAnn, adding that Sammie took up riding, in part, to assist with a medical issue with her legs, which prevented Sammie’s muscles from growing with her in the right way. Riding, along with martial arts, helped to improve Sammie’s balance and core strength, and the family found a sense of belonging at Outlaw Acres.
“My daughter has ridden some amazing and wonderful horses there, and when her favorite horse, Cherokee, retired, she kind of fell into a limbo,” explains LoriAnn. On May 29, 2018, the family also lost LoriAnn’s mother to cancer, a central figure in their lives and a great source of support to Sammie and her riding. Nearly a year later, LoriAnn made the decision to jump-start the family’s healing process, and a new horse seemed like the medicine they all needed. She posted an ‘In Search Of’ ad on Facebook, and shortly thereafter, was contacted by a mother and daughter in Georgetown, Kentucky, Kammy and Ashlyn, who said they had the perfect horse in mind.
Zip Bama. (c) Diane Boothe
That horse was Zip Bama, and after doing their due diligence with their trainer and farm owners, the Prestos packed up their car on Sammie’s birthday in March and made the 750+ mile drive south to Kentucky. “The next day, we met Zip, and we hung out with Kammy and Ashlyn, and met their whole family,” says LoriAnn.
“Sammie and Zip connected [immediately], and we sat at the kitchen table, and made the decision all together. Sammie cried, I cried, Kammy cried, Ashlyn cried. It was bittersweet for them, and it was an amazing experience for us.”
The deal all but done, LoriAnn began the process of looking for shippers to safety transport Zip from Central Kentucky to Long Island. She weeded through a number of offers on Facebook, but landed on Brook Ledge after receiving first-hand recommendations from friends. “My concern was Zip’s age; she is 17 and [I wondered] how she would handle the journey,” says LoriAnn, adding that her first call with the staff members at Brook Ledge helped to put her mind at ease.
(c) Brook Ledge Horse Transportation
“It was door to door service—I never had to worry about Zip. [The drivers] stayed in contact with me and Zip was in a full stall and she traveled really well,” she says. “They [would] stop and take breaks, and they checked on her often. I know [Brook Ledge] has many high-profile horses, but I felt like they knew they were bringing a little girl her first horse, and that this horse was very special.
“From [the booking staff] to the driver who picked Zip up in Kentucky, who was so kind to the people we bought her from—they were crying saying goodbye and he hugged them—to the [other] drivers and the driver who delivered her to me and congratulated and hugged me, [I was so impressed by the experience],” says LoriAnn.
“I, myself, have been waiting to own a horse for a very long time, and my husband and I were so happy to be able to give this gift to our daughter.
“Sammie was diagnosed with a learning disability. She has audible processing issues [such as Dyslexia], and sometimes, the kids at school would pick her last for group projects. They made her feel like she didn't contribute, or they wouldn’t listen to her ideas. She said they made her feel like the dumbest kid in class, but when Sam is with Zip, all she thinks about is Zip.
Sammie & Zip. (c) Diane Boothe
“Zip has this calming way about her and makes Sammie feel like she can accomplish anything. [She] gives her the companionship and friendship she wanted [and] the comfort she was looking for [after her grandmother died],” LoriAnn continues.
In April, LoriAnn and her husband decided to surprise Sammie, and drove her out to Outlaw Acres one day after school. Zip had already arrived and was there waiting for Sammie at the barn, and the series of photos captured that day by the Prestos’ friends speak for themselves.
(c) All photos by Diane Boothe
“Zip is not a therapy horse [in the strictest sense], but she is our therapy,” says LoriAnn. “Zip is our everything.”