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Taking horses and ponies abroad

Do you want to take your horse abroad, either for a holiday, for training or to compete? It's not as complicated as you might think. After all, the UK's showjumpers 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 showjumpers 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 4x4 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:

Ponies - there are additional regulations for taking ponies under 147cms (14.2hh) abroad due to the ban on live exports for meat.

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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:

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. Contact your vet, DEFRA or a specialist horse shipping company for the current requirements for any specific country.

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If you want to take a pony abroad then you have to prove it is worth more than a certain value depending on its height, or that it is travelling to compete, due to the ban on live exports for meat.

Ponies 12hh to 14.2hh - 300, under 12hh - 220 and Shetlands up to 10.2hh - 145.

This can be proven by one of the following means

The proof of value must be sent with the application for an export licence (separate form available for ponies under 147cms) to DEFRA.



Export licence

Licence required to take your horse or pony out of the UK. The ferry company will ask for this at the port when you arrive to board the ferry. You can apply for this yourself from DEFRA, include the proof of value for ponies.


TRACES document

You can apply to DEFRA yourself or get your vet to apply for the health certificate for the country your horse is travelling to. The certificate will be sent directly to your vet and you will need to make an appointment with him or her for the horse to be inspected no more than 48 hours before it leaves the UK. The ferry company will ask to see this at the port but will return it to you. You will need this in your destination country. You will need a health certificate to be issued and signed in your destination country to be able to return to the UK (not applicable for France or Ireland).


Route Plan

A form which you partially complete and then send off with your application for a health certificate. DEFRA will stamp the first section and send it back with the health certificate for you to complete during the journey. Do not allow any official to keep this en route. You must take this home and keep it for 6 months in case DEFRA want to inspect it.


ATA Carnet

The Carnet is a temporary export document that eliminates the need for a Customs declaration at border points and the deposit of a guarantee, bond, or cash deposit in the country of temporary importation. It can be used for a trip covering more than one country and include numerous exits and re-entries in the country of origin during the period of validity of the document (i.e. one year). Available from the Chamber of Commerce, this is a rather expensive document!

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We hope this advice is of help to you. If you would like any further advice in shipping your horse or booking stables, visit Shelley Ashman International.

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