What is the Law on the Transportation of Horses?

Owning horses involves transporting them from time to time, whether to horse riding events, to a livery business or to the vets. Horse transportation must always be done safely and in accordance with legal requirements to ensure the safety of the animal.

Which laws apply?

The transportation of horses is covered by the following legislation:

  • The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 (or the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (Wales) Order 2006)
  • The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999
  • The Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995
  • The Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order

This applies to anyone who is transporting an animal in connection with an economic activity, ie. where animals are transported as part of a business. The Order therefore applies to the transportation of horses as part of, for instance, a professional riding, livery or stabling business, and sets out detailed provisions in relation to various matters as follows.

Protection of horses during transportation

There is an obligation on anyone engaged in the handling and transportation of animals to do so in a way that does not, or is not likely to cause them undue suffering or injury.

Means of transport and transport policies

There is a requirement that transport used for the transportation of horses is designed, constructed, maintained and operated to avoid suffering and injury, and to ensure the safety of horses.

The relevant factors/requirements include:

  • anti-slip flooring
  • lighting
  • loading and unloading facilities (the Order sets out specific ramp angles required for horses)
  • sufficient floor space and height for the animals
  • cleansing and disinfecting
  • the requirement for horses older than 8 months to wear halters during the transport (there is an exception for unbroken horses)
  • the prohibition from the transportation of horses in multi-deck vehicles in certain circumstances
  • the requirement for individual stalls (except for mares travelling with their foals)
  • limits on the number of unbroken horses that can be transported

Where the journey time exceeds 8 hours, the vehicles and containers used for the transport must be inspected and approved.

Fitness of horses to travel

The horse must be fit for the journey before the journey starts, and must remain sufficiently fit throughout the journey. There are related requirements surrounding feed, water, journey times and rest periods, as well as provisions relating to the treatment of a sick horse.

Competent and/or trained handlers

There are specific requirements in relation to the handling of horses. Where a horse is transported over 65km and the journey time is up to eight hours, the person transporting the horse is required to hold a valid certificate of competence.

Transport authorisations and journey logs

Where a horse is transported up to 65km the horse must be accompanied by an Animal Transport Certificate. Furthermore, where a horse is transported over 65km and the journey time is up to eight hours, the person transporting the horse is required to hold a valid transporter authorisation. Where the journey time is over eight hours the horse or horses must be accompanied by a journey log.

There are also requirements for navigation systems for exporters.

Exemptions for registered horses

Horses that are registered with a recognised breed society, or certain organisations such as the British Horse Database at Wetherby’s, are exempt from many of these requirements.

The Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations 1995

Under these Regulations, an Operator’s licence is required to drive a horse box or lorry with a maximum authorised mass of over 3.5 tonnes, or an unladen weight of over 1525kg – if the horse box or lorry is used in connection with a business, or in connection with any form of commercial activity.

The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999

Under the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999, a category C1 driving licence is needed to tow a horse box where the maximum authorised mass exceeds 3.5 tonnes (but not 7.5 tonnes). If it does exceed 7.5 tonnes, a category C driving licence is required.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006

You must also remember the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which contains a number of general provisions relating to the welfare of animals. You have a general duty of care to ensure the horse’s well-being – including when you are transporting your horse.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.