By Aprille Hanson
Ask Ryan Mahony why he came to the United States from his native England and the answer will be quick — complete with a sly grin and a glint in his eyes.
“Adventure,” he told The Trucker at the Petro truck stop in North Little Rock, Ark., in mid-February.
But adventure doesn’t stop for this 39-yearold trucker behind the wheel of his big rig.
Mahony, 39, has been trucking for 14 years, both in England and the U.S. He lives in Fort Smith, Ark., with his wife, two young daughters … and eight dogs, two goats, two ponies and 12 horses. He and his wife of 10 years Karen own River Valley Equestrian Center, Van Buren, Ark. They train horses, teach between 20 to 30 clients currently and compete in equestrian competitions.
“I compete in about 10 shows a year, I have two girls that do it too,” his 8-year-old daughter Cheralyne and his “very precocious” 5- year-old Makeayla.
Mahony, who is a certified British Horse Society instructor, said, “I drive a truck to support” their horse business.
Mahony said he’s been riding horses ever since he was a little boy growing up in England.
“They’re high maintenance,” Mahony said of the horses, and the time it takes to train them “depends on how smart the horse is.”
And when a horse doesn’t want to jump, he or she doesn’t. Case in point: Penny, a four-year-old Chestnut mare who last January stopped short of a jump with Mahony on her back.
“She fell back on top of me,” Mahony said, adding he couldn’t walk for two months due to the back injury. “I had major compression fractures. … The doctor said it was like a Volkswagen Beetle hitting you at 35 miles an hour.”
But with a chipper tone, Mahony added that Penny “got better” in terms of training.
“You never stop training a horse,” Mahony said. “They are like sponges, constantly learning new things.”
If anyone is wondering how Mahony balances life out on the road, training horses and raising a family, his answer is simple, “I don’t.” At least not perfectly, but Mahony said he enjoys being able to travel, compete and be involved along with his family in several horse organizations like the Northwest Arkansas Hunter Jumper Association and the United States Equestrian Federation.
“[I enjoy] just the exercise, to get out of the truck basically. Something to go home and look forward too,” Mahony said. “I think everybody should have to do some sort of physical activity.”
While horseback riding and training was learned from a young age, trucking was a new adventure that started when he was just 18.
“Training is six months to a year … there are multiple tests,” Mahony said of driver training in England. “Over here you can just go to school” and be out on the road fairly quick in comparison.
“In England, you’re not allowed to run on Sundays,” he said. “It’s kind of a respected career … they [the general public] know everything goes by trucks and it indirectly affects you. Here, they just see a big bad truck going down the road.”
He came to the United States in the early 1990s.
“I liked to travel … it was the land of opportunity,” Mahony said. “You can make some really good money, but you have to treat it [trucking] like a business.”
An owner-operator for Landstar, Mahony drives a 2008 Kenworth T-660, and has seen too many close calls on the roadways, including a few months ago during winter weather in Texas.
“I was on I-40 and it was a sheet of ice and windy. The wind just took this driver’s trailer” and the cab sideways. Mahony checked on the driver after their trucks were safely out of traffic.
“He was just shaking,” Mahony said. “I gave him an energy drink to get his sugar up and he went up to the nearest truck stop.” While trucking rules and regulations are stricter in England, the ones here are no picnic, he said.
With the new Hours of Service rule, “the industry won’t cope with that,” he said. “It hurts the drivers bad. Less home time, less money … Before July 31, they should’ve left them alone.”
Though a solo driver, in the last two months he’s had a furry, long-eared trucking partner riding shotgun. Raider, an English Cocker Spaniel, was as calm as could be sitting up in the cab of the truck, looking down on his owner from the window.
Mahony adopted the 9-month-old pup from a shelter in Dallas after seeing a photo of him from ilovecockerspaniels.net.
“I think it’s great to have a dog on the road for exercise,” Mahony said. “He’ll just sit beside me all day long, he’s a great companion.[At home], he runs around and chases the horses.”
But he cautions truckers considering a road pet to research before adopting.
“Do your homework, it has to be the right pet,” Mahony said, adding he’s seen too many dogs abandoned at truck stops. “It is a shame.Sometimes we [truckers] are our own worst enemy … they [animals] have feelings too.”
For his trucking adventure, Mahony said he has about another 10 years left in him.
“Forever,” Mahony said. “My wife wouldn’t let me stop.”