The advice sheets below have the latest information on animal health and welfare. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Regulatory Services option).
In the guide
Horses' fitness for, and welfare during, journeys by road; plus other requirements, including the suitability of vehicles
This guidance is for England
It is an offence to transport any horse in a way that causes or is likely to cause it unnecessary suffering. Horses must not be transported unless they are fit for the intended journey.
Vehicles used for the transport of horses must be designed, constructed, maintained and operated so as to avoid injury and suffering, and to ensure the safety of the animals. For example, vehicles must have non-slip floors, no sharp projections, and have adequate space to allow the horses to stand in their normal position. During transport, a competent person must accompany horses, and a valid passport must accompany each horse.
For the purposes of this guidance, 'horse' includes pony, donkey, ass, mule and hinny.
Horses must be accompanied by their horse passport at all times during transportation (except in emergency situations). The person with primary responsibility for the horse must have the passport made available to them if they are not the owner.
During transport, horses must be accompanied by a competent person.
It is an offence to move a horse without its passport.
For more information please see 'Horse passports'.
All registered horses must be registered with a recognised breed society or company such as Weatherbys.
Registered horses that are not going to market or slaughter are exempt from the requirement for journey logs, watering and feeding intervals, journey times and rest periods, and animal transport certificates (ATCs).
Fitness of horses for transportation in connection with an economic activity
Although 'economic activity' (in other words, a business or trade) is not specifically defined in EU Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations it is clear that transport for commercial purposes is not limited to those occasions where an immediate exchange of money, goods or services takes place; it also includes transport that directly or indirectly involves or aims at a financial gain.
However, it is unlikely that attendance at a show or competition with a horse - even where a financial prize might be offered or gambling takes place - would be covered by the Regulation if the financial gain does not outweigh the expenses incurred, or if the purpose of the journey is for riding, showing or competing for pleasure.
A horse that is to be transported in connection with an economic activity must not be transported unless it is fit for the intended journey. A horse is not considered fit if it is:
Note: registered horses are exempt from the Regulation prohibiting the transport of pregnant females beyond 90% of their gestation period and transporting mares with their newly born foals, if the journey is to improve the health and welfare conditions of the birth, and if permanently accompanied throughout the journey by a dedicated attendant.
A horse may not be dragged or pushed by any means, or lifted by a mechanical device, unless under the supervision and in the presence of a veterinary surgeon who is arranging for it to be transported with all practicable speed to a place for veterinary treatment.
Where horses are not led into or out of a vehicle, the loading ramp must be provided with protection on each side, sufficient to prevent them from falling off or escaping. Ramps must not have an angle exceeding 20°, and must be fitted with foot battens or similar to prevent slipping. Precautions in the form of partitions must be fitted to support the horses and prevent them being thrown about by the motion of the vehicle.
It is prohibited to:
Domestic equidae older than eight months, except unbroken horses, must wear halters during transport. For animals that need to be tied, the rope, tethers or other means used must:
Anyone transporting horses in connection with an economic activity on journeys over 65 km and under eight hours must:
For journeys over 65 km and over eight hours transporters must:
Note: in all cases, a journey starts from a place where animals are first loaded and have been accommodated for at least 48 hours.
See also 'Transporting livestock by road: paperwork'.
For further details of the legal requirements relating to the transportation of animals please contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) on 03000 200 301.
Construction of vehicles
Vehicles used for the transport of horses must be designed, constructed, maintained and operated so as to:
Vehicles must also have anti-slip flooring, partitions strong enough to withstand the weight of the animals, and fittings designed for quick and easy operation.
Vehicles in which horses are transported must be clearly and visibly marked indicating the presence of live animals.
All vehicles must be constructed, maintained and operated so as to allow appropriate cleansing and disinfection.
Vehicles used for the transport of horses for over eight hours must be inspected and approved by an authorised body.
No horse may be transported on a journey in excess of eight hours, except in an approved vehicle. In an approved vehicle horses may be transported for 24 hours, as long as they are given liquid and (if necessary) fed at eight-hour intervals. At the end of the 24-hour period of transport, horses must be rested for at least 24 hours.
Cleansing & disinfection of vehicles
This is covered by the Transport of Animals (Cleansing and Disinfection) (England) (No 3) Order 2003.
Any person transporting horses must ensure that:
This applies to pet and non-commercial equidae as well as commercial equidae.
Cleansing and disinfection of means of transport:
DISPOSAL OF MATERIAL AFTER CLEANSING
All material removed from vehicles after cleansing has been carried out must have one of the following done to it:
Other general information
Protective boots, bandages, poll and tail guards, and rugs may be useful to protect those areas of the horse that are most likely to suffer bruising or rubbing during transport, or in the case of rugs, to keep the horse warm or to prevent chilling due to sweating. All equipment must fit correctly, be suitable for the purpose for which it is intended, and be securely fastened to prevent slipping or risk of injury.
At an appropriate time before the journey begins, horses must be offered liquid and food.
There must be appropriate ventilation and sufficient air space above the horses to allow air to circulate properly.
Horses may not be transported in a vehicle with more than one deck in operation. Minimum internal height must be 75 cm higher than the height of the withers of the highest animal.
When transported in groups, horses older than eight months must wear halters (unless they are unbroken).
Unbroken horses must not be transported in groups of more than four individual horses.
Tied animals must be transported separately from untied animals.
A stallion or a mare with a foal at foot may not be transported in the same undivided vehicle as any other horse (unless the horses were raised in compatible groups, are accustomed to each other or where separation will cause distress).
During transport, horses must be accompanied by an ATC, giving details of the journey and the horses being transported. Persons transporting their own horses by their own means of transport and for a distance of less than 50 km from their holding are exempt from this requirement.
Additional information is available in the Defra document Welfare of Animals During Transport: Advice for Transporters of Horses, Ponies and Other Domestic Equines.
It is an offence to fail to comply with requirements relating to welfare in transport and cleansing and disinfection of livestock vehicles. The maximum penalty is a fine and six months' imprisonment.
Last reviewed / updated: April 2018
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.