Do you want to take your horse abroad, either for a holiday, for training or to compete? international and European shipping of horses and ponies is not as complicated as you might think. After all, the UK’s show jumpers and dressage horses travel abroad every week to train and compete in Europe, and even further afield.
It is easy to take your horse abroad in your own trailer or lorry across to Ireland or Europe on a ferry (horses and cattle are not allowed in the Eurotunnel). Or you could use a reputable International Horse Transport firm such as John Parker International. Top show jumpers may cross the channel several times a month.
If you are travelling some distance, there are stables you can book for a rest stop for your horse or pony. There are specialised stables for this at Dover and near Calais. Other stable yards and equestrian centres throughout the UK and across Europe will offer the same service. You can either phone around yourself or contact an equestrian travel, horse shipping or transport company who will be able to advise you.
Ferry companies will charge by vehicle length, so it is often cheaper to take a small lorry rather than a 4×4 and trailer. Ensure your chosen ferry route will take horses. Inform the ferry company that you will be transporting a horse when you book your ticket. Don’t forget to phone the ferry company before you leave to check for any delays or rough weather. They will not allow horses on the ferries in very rough seas. Always make sure you take your horse or pony’s passport with you when travelling.
The most common ferry crossings used for horses:
• Dover to Calais
• Newhaven to Dieppe
• Harwich to the Hook of Holland
• Hull to Rotterdam
• Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire
• Pembroke to Rosslare
• Stranraer to Belfast
Ponies – there are additional regulations for taking ponies under 147cms (14.2hh) abroad due to the ban on live exports for meat.
Taking your horse into Northern Ireland is simple – just book your lorry on a ferry and off you go. Travelling to the Republic of Ireland, make sure you inform the ferry company that there will be a horse on your lorry as they will inform the vet in the port. Your horse will be quickly inspected to ensure it is fit for travel. Make sure there is no loose hay or straw on your lorry when you board the ferry to the Republic of Ireland. If there is they will make you unload your horse at the dock and thoroughly clean out your lorry. Loose shavings and sealed bags of haylage and feed are acceptable.
All you need to ship your horse to France is an export licence, easily obtained from DEFRA. Registered horses do not require a TRACES document and as all horses must now have passports, health certificates are no longer required at all.
The rest of Europe
Horses travelling to the rest of Europe (Spain, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy etc.) will require an export licence and a TRACES document. It is also advisable to have a Route Plan to show that the horse is being transported under the terms of the Welfare of Animals Transport Order 1997. Horses exempt from requiring Route Plans are:
• entered on the main stud book/register of a recognised breed society; or
• have a Horse Passport issued by the International Federation of Equestrian Sports (FEI) or other organisations arranging international competitions; or
• do not meet the previous two exemptions but are travelling to or from a competition and have proof of participation (e.g. a letter of invitation).
Horses travelling to or through Switzerland or Norway are subject to customs clearance and will need to travel on an ATA Carnet. This allows them to travel free of taxes or duties.
Some countries outside Europe have specific quarantine and blood test requirements. For example, shipping horses to the USA will require blood tests for infectious anaemia (via Coggins Test), glanders, dourine and piroplasmosis, also a test for CEM for mares and stallions, and a period of quarantine before they leave the UK.