Horses are part of an ever growing industry, with over 600,000 horses in the UK, 1.4 million riders and 5 million people with an active interest in the equine industry*. Most people acquire a horse out of choice, so if you make this decision you should think carefully before going ahead. A horse needs lots of love and care, including regular worming, vaccinations and dental care. Owning a horse is time consuming and can be costly; not only will you will need to consider where you will keep your horse, you must also consider the ongoing costs of owning a horse which include accommodation, bedding, feed and healthcare.

In the unlikely event that your horse goes missing it is going to be very difficult for anyone to know who it belongs to, unless your horse carries some form of permanent identification. It is wise to get your horse microchipped or freezemarked, this will avoid heartache in the long run, should your horse go missing or is stolen.

Horses are herd animals, and thrive on being together with other horses. Don’t forget that your horse will need somewhere to graze, a stable for warmth in the winter time, a constant supply of water, feeding daily and regular exercise. It can cost hundreds of pounds a month to care for a horse, including accommodation, food, veterinary care and insurance; there will be other costs, including buying tack and rugs and extra livery charges when you go on holiday.

Horses can live into their thirties, over this time your horse will need lots of care and attention. Being able to provide all of this will ensure you and your horse make the most of your time together.

* Research conducted in 2004 by the Henley Centre for DEFRA and the British Horse Industry Confederation.

Taking your horse abroad

Transport of horses is a common practice, involving groups of horses over long distances. Transporting your horse abroad is a very complicated and sometimes very traumatic experience. Advanced preparation is vital for a smooth and stress-free journey. The most important thing is that you both arrive safely at your destination.

What options are there for travelling abroad?

  • Rail travel is a possibility, but a rare choice. This mode of transport is considered old fashioned.
  • Transportation by water could also be considered.
  • Air travel, the most popular mode of transport, is commonly used by race and competition owners alike.

These days, air travel, is just like getting on a bus. It is considered to be one of the safest modes of transport, so why shouldn't our horses travel by air too? Planes can carry up to four horses on a passenger 747 and in excess of 80 on a specially designed 747 freight plane.

Make sure you can answer YES to the following before considering taking your horse abroad. There are details to help you answer these statements below:

  • My horse has some form of permanent identification.
  • My horse is fit for travelling.
  • My horse's vaccinations and worming are up-to-date.
  • My horse has had a Coggins Test to establish that it does not have Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA).
  • The necessary shipping documents have been prepared to accompany my horse, including passport, registration, identification, insurance, health certificate, vaccination and any other documents the country of destination requires.
  • I have consulted my vet with any queries (they will always be able to point you in the right direction if they are unable to help you themselves).
  • I have all the details of the transportation.

Does your horse have some form of permanent identification?

If your horse is travelling abroad, they will need to have a form of permanent identification. Microchipping is the most popular and secure form. A microchip is a small implant that your vet will insert under your horse's skin which carries a permanent identification number.

Is your horse fit for travel?

If your horse is not fit for travelling, he will not be allowed on board any form of transport. There are various reasons why a horse will not be allowed to travel including:

  • Not being physically fit.
  • Signs of respiratory illness.
  • Incomplete documentation.
  • Pregnancy.

You will need to ask your vet to complete a health certificate, declaring that your horse is fit to travel. You will also need to check with your vet if there are any additional certificates/tests required or recommended.

Is your horse fully vaccinated and wormed?

You must make an appointment with your vet if your horse is not up-to-date with his vaccinations or worming. Your horse will not be allowed to travel if you don't have his vaccination and worming certificates handy.

Has your horse had the relevant tests needed for overseas travel?

Your horse must have a Coggins Test to check that he is free of Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA). It is vital that you also ask your vet what other tests are required by the country you are travelling to, eg piroplasmosis, dourine, glanders - you will need to allow the necessary time for the results to come through before your horse travels. Check with your vet that additional certificates and tests are not required by the country you plan to visit.

Do you have all the necessary shipping documents?

The following documents must be ready to accompany your horse:

  • Passport.
  • Registration.
  • Identification.
  • Insurance.
  • Health.
  • Vaccination.
  • Any other documents required by the country of destination.

Have you consulted your vet with any queries?

Your vet will always be able to point you in the right direction with any queries you may have if he is unable to answer them himself.

What else should I do?

Make sure you have all the details of the journey and the company that is transporting your horse. Ensure that the company has all the relevant instructions and your contact details in case of problems or emergencies.

How will my horse travel?

There are two types of accommodation for horses travelling by air:

  • Jet stalls - these are partitioned structures that carry up to four horses. There is usually access and space for groom(s) at the front of the stalls. Access for veterinary attention is restricted. Jet stalls are found on passenger aircraft in the cargo section at the back of the plane. The stalls are purpose-built which enables transport on scheduled flights and reduces transport and lengthy waiting times at airports. Environmental conditions can be regulated and controlled effectively.
  • Open stalls - these are used on planes designed specifically for cargo and/or the accommodation of horses. Smaller jets can carry about three horses across the width of the plane, whereas larger jets can carry up to seven horses across their width. You will need to make a chartered booking if you require this sort of transport. Veterinary personnel are also provided for these flights.

Is there anything else I should know?

For more information on horse transportation, rules and regulations in the UK you can refer to the following:

  • Horserace Betting Levy Board - Guidelines on the transport of horses. Outlines regulations on hygiene, disease transmission and general health.
  • The Horses (Sea Transport) Order 1952 - amended 1958. Details stall dimensions, when horses can be carried on an open deck and regulations on the positioning of horses on a vessel.
  • Transit of Animals (Road and Rail) Order 1975 - amended 1979 and 1988. This specifies vehicle construction and horse management during transit. Prevention of transportation of pregnant mares and details regarding record keeping.
  • The Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997 - the legislation includes maximum journey times, rest periods, journey plans and qualifications of transporters. Guidelines on ethical transport of any horse.

For more information on horse transportation, rules and regulations in the USA you can refer to the following:

  • The Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA) - www.usda.gov 
  • The Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) - www.aphis.usda.gov 
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - www.cdc.gov