Horse Transport FAQ: Transporting horses from Portugal

FAQ: Horse Transport from Portugal
- Everything you need to know

For many horse owners and lovers of the majestic Lusitano horse it is a lifelong dream to import a beauty of their own to nurture and train and even to breed from; but where do you begin with the process of getting your new horse from Portugal to home and what’s involved?

We’ve put together some useful information on the process and what to expect to help you make the important decision of buying an Iberian horse abroad.

But what about if you’re relocating to the UK from Portugal and can’t bear the thought of leaving your horses behind? No matter what your equine transport requirements are, if you need to move horses to or from Portugal – LOC will be there every step of the way. If you are moving to or from The Algarve with your horses, or need your herd picking up from Santarem or Lisbon, we can provide a service to suit your needs.

Whether you are looking for a cost-effective way to move one or two horses from Portugal to GB or if you have a lorry load of horses to relocate to Portugal, we can quote you on a private, dedicated VIP service or offer a shared, co-load to suit your budget.

Transporting horses from Portugal to the UK:
Where to start

Perhaps the thought of your new horse travelling a thousand or so miles by road fills you with dread? Maybe this is commonplace for you and not your first time. You will no doubt have done lots of research and internet searches to find not only the perfect horse for you but also the right agent that can assist with streamlining the process for you, not to mention translate for you if your Portuguese leaves a lot to be desired!

Most agents will have a transporter or transporters that they prefer to work with and will recommend them to you – some may even include the transport costs in the overall price. Whichever way you and your agent work, you should be very clear on the costs involved and of any extras that may be payable over and above the price. Among others, some of the costs to consider would be Vets fees; Health papers (discussed in more detail below); transport costs and is it door to door or will you need to arrange collection from a central point and does the quote include VAT or do you need to add it on top?

With LOC International Horse Transport, you will receive a detailed quote in writing within 24 hours once either you or your agent has been in touch with us. The quote will also generally state the next available dates for collecting in Portugal - in general we travel to Portugal every month. The most common areas we transport horses from in Portugal is the Santarem region, Lisbon and Faro.

Shared or co-loads are obviously the most economical means of transporting your horse/s to the UK as the overall costs to run a large 10 horse lorry to Spain & Portugal are shared amongst all the owners. This is often a better option for your horse as he will have company on route and as they are herd animals it is a natural instinct to have other horses around (even if it is on the other side of a partition or stable wall!) Private or individual charter load are also available on request.

Transporting horses from Portugal to the UK:
What to Expect

Transporting horses from The Algarve may seem like quite a process and you will no doubt be spending a fair bit of money on your perfect horse and as such, you want to be sure that he or she will be receiving the right care during transport and be delivered to you safe and sound.

LOC Horse Transport provides a reliable and efficient service to the UK, Europe and Worldwide with regular trips to France, Spain and Portugal so will work with you to find the dates that best suit your needs and the logistics of all the horses on boards collection and delivery addresses. The team have been certified by DEFRA as competent grooms and drivers, and hold advanced certification in equine transport (ACET) - they are all riders and owners themselves, with experience in handling many different types, ages, sexes and temperaments. Whether your horse is a Champion Lusitano Stallion or a much loved family pet Shetland pony - when speaking with your transporter it is important to know that they understand and sympathise with your concerns or worries as an owner, and that they are best suited to provide the service level that you demand for your horse. LOC International have been in business for over 10 years and we are an experienced, knowledgeable and professional team that will look after your horse as if it were our own.

Transporting horses from Portugal to the UK:
The Process

There are a number of questions that you should go through before moving a horse from Portugal to the UK to help you understand the process better and get an idea of the sort of timeframes you can expect.

All horses must travel with a valid passport. This is an official passport (not a registration or travel document) which is recognised by DEFRA and will generally have the microchip number clearly visible and/or the silhouette drawing of the horse filled out with all of his/her identifying marks including any marks and whorls - white hair/fur will be shaded in red. Some breed papers which are valid for travel within Portugal & Spain and are more like registration documents are not in fact sufficient for travelling back to the UK. Check if the horse has a valid passport, and if not, will they arrange this for you and how long with the process take?

Pre-Purchase Vetting (PPV) - If you are buying a new horse and having him/her undergo a pre-purchase vetting, be sure to find out how long this process is likely to take and what the costs involved will be. The pre purchase vetting is very different to the Health paper vetting that is required prior to travelling. The PPV is for your peace of mind having veterinary proof that your horses is fit and healthy and up for the job you have purchased him for. Often owners will want to send any x-rays that are taken at the vetting in Portugal over to their vet in the UK for a second opinion. These processes can take some time and it is often unrealistic to think that you will have your horse home within a week of purchasing him. That said, generally speaking, once the sale has gone through the agent or seller will be keen to move things along too.

Insurance - When taking out insurance to cover your horse they will usually ask for a copy to the vetting certificate. Please note that PPV’s are NOT mandatory for travel but Health papers (TRACES) signed off by the vet prior to travelling are most definitely required.

As with all Horse transport companies “horses travel at the owner’s risk”. This is very much standard across the board and business as usual for all horse carriers whether it is by road or air. It’s pretty much the same as in human travel – Travel insurance or Transit insurance is not an absolute must but it is encouraged wherever possible.

For Transit insurance contact your own equine insurer to see if they will add this to any existing policies, alternatively contact Lycetts ( or Telephone 01672 512 512. Also try Armitage Insurance on telephone number 01932 856486 or send an email to Jacinta: who will be only too happy to provide you a quotation and help you further.

Transporting horses from Portugal to the UK:
What Paperwork does my horse need for Transport from Portugal to the UK?

Crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s

Once you have accepted our quotation and transport dates have been arranged, LOC will work with you and your agent or seller to ensure the required paperwork is in place to avoid any delays in the collection of your horse.

All horses travelling from Portugal will need official EU Intra Trade Animal Health Certificates (ITAHC) written in Portuguese and English issued from the local State or Ministry vet in Portugal. The Portuguese equivalent of APHA or DEFRA in the UK is the DGAV (Direcção-Geral de Alimentação e Veterinária).

It is the responsibility of the owners/senders to contact the official vet and/or the local department of agriculture (or equivalent), to have these Health Certificates prepared before one of our vehicles arrives for collection. In order to issue the Health Papers, the Portuguese vet will need additional transporter information from us such as company registration numbers, vehicle license plates, driver certificate references, disinfectant certificate and a route plan for the trip in both English & Portuguese*. LOC Transport will forward all of this information by email directly to the agent and or the sending yard or vet as required.

These Health papers must be stamped and signed by the local Official state vet up to 48 hours prior to collection to declare that your horses if fit to travel and free of any obvious disease – once this has been done your horse is ready for collection. The health papers and passports will travel with your horse, and LOC will provide a durable waterproof, plastic wallet with your horses name on to keep all the important documentation together. Owners should note that under DEFRA and SVS regulations, the health papers must be kept with the horse and passport for one year once the horse has arrived back in the UK*. If your horse does not have a passport that has been issued by a recognised Breed Society (i.e. APSL, BAPSH, ANCCE, Weatherbys, for example) – he or she will be classed as Unregistered. This means that under current guidelines there are additional requirements for travel, including scheduled 24 hour stops and route planning - all of which LOC is authorised to do and can help you with.

In order for a Pure Bred Lusitano to travel they must have with them their ‘Livro de Nascimentos’ – this acts as their passport. Also know a the ‘Blue Book’, only pure-bred Lusitanos that have both parents approved for breeding in the Book of Adults (Livro de Afultos) will have this and it is registered with the APSL (ssociação Portuguesa de Criadores do Cavalo Puro Sangue Lusitano).

Back to the issuing of the ITAHC, when you have applied for the health certificates, behind the scenes, the Portuguese Authorities will be notifying the UK authorities to let them know of the horses planned movements and this is logged into the TRACES systems which Animal Health/DEFRA/APHA have access to. It is their job to carry out random spot checks, so it is possible that once your horse arrives in England (perhaps even beforehand), your local AHVLA office (Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency) or (APHA – Animal and Plant Health Agency) may contact you to book an appointment for one of their team to visit the premises. Please do not be alarmed in this eventuality, it is nothing personal or untoward and is a completely normal part of the process. When they arrive they will want to see the horse and also the Health papers and passport so make sure you have these to hand. Remember these are completely at random so you may or may not be the lucky one to be chosen!

Transporting horses from Portugal to the UK:
All Systems Go – It’s time to transport your horse from The Algarve to the UK

With the paperwork taken care of, it’s full steam ahead for the transport to take place, and once your transport is booked with LOC you can rest assured that you will be kept informed about your horse’s journey. You will be given the mobile telephone number for the lorry and the names of the drivers so that you can keep in touch whilst your horse is their care from collection to delivery. This is great way to put your mind at rest and they can give you daily updates on your horses’ progress.

Generally speaking the ground transport from Portugal to the UK takes approximately 3-5 days depending of course on the location in Portugal and the route home, along with any traffic, severe weather conditions that may be encountered and the winds for our sea crossing. It’s important to note that Portugal doesn’t quite have the same post code system as we do here in the UK. Often addresses are very vague and roads don’t have names or numbers, locations that we are given are often areas of a town so they can be tricky to find – this will slow us down and make our job that much harder.

It really is very helpful if we have satellite coordinates that we can put in to our satellite navigation systems or if we can meet at a mutually decided landmark (i.e. Village Church/Petrol Station/Restaurant) which is easily found and accessible so that we can follow the agent, seller or owner the last mile or so to the yard. Our drivers really do encourage this as it eliminates any wasted time driving around and reduces the journey time for the horses already on board.

In saying this, our drivers our pretty familiar with many of the roads, big studs, training centres, and show grounds as we carry out the transport to Portugal on such a regular basis.

Our lorry was built to very high standards, it is designed as a road vehicle for transporting horses safely and not an off road tractor. Due to the sheer size and dimensions we are not always able to get directly to the yard for loading/unloading. The lorry is 40 ft in length (12 metres) and 13’9” in Height (4 metres). The fans on the lorry also sit on top protruding by about 1ft so we are unable to go under low trees. Low hanging branches and narrow lanes with trees bashing the side of the truck will not only damage the bodywork and paint work but more importantly it spooks the horses on board causing unnecessary stress. Depending on your delivery access then it is sometimes arranged that we will meet you in your smaller vehicle to trans-ship the horse from one box to another – or if it is a short distance, and is safe to do so, horses can be walked or ridden down a track or hill to meet us. In one instance a horse was bought to us by a man on a motorbike leading the horse in-hand! Certainly not the most conventional way but a testament to how bomb-proof the horse in question was!

Our office uses Auto Route Mapping systems and Google Earth to look at the Portuguese collection and delivery addresses and we will contact you if we believe that there could be access concerns.

We need your help too. You are the best traffic reporters to let us know about any local road works/closures/low bridges/sharp bends/steep hills. Please help us to help you by letting us know as many details about your local area. Satellite navigations systems are brilliant BUT they will take you on the shortest routes so it is advisable that you send our office some pointers/directions of the best route to access your stables. You really can’t beat local knowledge.

For our transport to and from Portugal and the rest of Europe we use the Calais to Dover crossing quite often because of the regularity and frequency of the sheer numbers of ferries running. Between the ferry operators P&O, DFDS, Brittany and Myferry link (formally Sea France) we are pretty much able to hop on any ferry at any time of the day or night. We have what are called “open bookings” and accounts with all of the biggest ferry operators so that we are never waiting for one particular operator. It’s not great to have all your eggs in one basket as they say (and the French can be known to strike) so having the option of travelling with all of the ferry companies puts us in a great position to keep moving. After all, we want to keep travelling time to a minimum for your horse and not be parked up at ports waiting for one particular company. If the weather is particularly bad and The Captain of the ship is not permitting horse transporters on board, then all of our vehicles are approved to travel on the Euro Tunnel too. You may not know that horses are classed as ‘hazardous cargo’ on the Eurotunnel and as such, any vehicle wishing to make this crossing must have Container Certificate or approval. When horses travel on the Eurotunnel, no other vehicle is permitted in the same carriage (regardless of whether the horse box is 6metres long or 12metres – this make it quite an expensive crossing to take and in the instance that we need to do so, owners will be contacted regarding any additional costs that would be involved.

Travelling horses from Portugal, we also take other ferry crossings from Dieppe to Newhaven; Le Havre to Portsmouth and from Roscoff to Plymouth. We work towards keeping journeys to a minimum where ever possible hence taking different ferry crossings. Generally speaking, the southern coast crossings have fewer sailings and so we have to plan very specifically with our collection and delivery logistics so as not to miss the ferry.

When planning the transport routes for shared loads, LOC always consider the shortest - and wherever possible – the most direct route for each horse travelling so that they are not taking the scenic route around Spain and France on their way home, even if there are other collections to make on route.

Due to the nature of the transport business, things don’t always happen in ‘office hours’ and collections and deliveries can sometimes be early morning or late at night. Please don’t worry if our lorry is arriving after dark, we are equipped with loading lights, internal lights and infrared lights for travelling.

Transporting horses from Portugal to the UK:
Your Horses Welfare on the Journey from Portugal

To maintain healthy gut and bowel movements, ad-lib hay or haylage is provided for the duration of international journeys and the horses are watered every 3-4 hours. The drivers are monitoring the horses constantly for water intake, droppings and any changes in behaviour and the lorry is fitted with on board CCTV for constant monitoring.

How long does it take to bring my horse from Portugal to England? This is a questions we are asked all the time – often it is perceived that horses will stay on the lorry for the whole journey and make the trip in a very short space of time. Here at LOC we believe that slow and steady wins the race. Not only does your horse need to be allowed to rest up, but the drivers need their sleep too!

Whilst the lorry is in motion, it is the equivalent of a slow walk for your horse while they adjust their body weight to the motion of the truck and redistribute their weight around corners and up and down hills. It is tiring for any horse – especially if they are not seasoned travellers, and just as we would not sit behind the wheel for days on end – we would not expect your horse to stand on the lorry for longer than necessary.

Each day (or night) all of the horses on board are stabled at Lairage yards on route – these are like horse B&B’s and will allow your horse to rest and refresh himself for the following day’s journey.

In order to reduce the risk of travel sickness, it is very important for the horses to get their heads down and to allow the respiratory tract to drain. Being stood on a lorry and eating hay at head height for longer than periods than normal is unnatural for a horse, he has limited space to be able to lower the head to snort and cough and clear the throat and lungs. This is why, upon arrival at the overnight stables, the drivers ensure that hay and water are fed from the floor (not from hay nets tied up at head height) thus allowing the respiratory tract to fully drain out and clear. (Read our Horse Transport FAQs for more details).

How do we reduce the risk of Travel Sickness in horses travelling from Portugal? Travel sickness is a respiratory disease, so it is essential to keep the environment dust free. Hay and feed must be of good quality and dampened to avoid dust and the vehicle must be kept as clean as possible to avoid a build-up of dust particles. Ventilation is essential at all times. Clean, fresh air is very important so the lorry is equipped with windows front and back, opening sky lights and has fan assisted ventilation to keep your horse at optimum temperature. We have a few computerised recorders in the back of the lorry that transmit the temperature of the horse area every 3 minutes to the drivers in the front. So while the drivers are going along they can see the temperature in the back continuously and can act accordingly. Obviously if it’s getting warm then the windows are opened, the fans go on and the sky lights come open and on the flip side, if it’s cold we can rug up accordingly.

Does my horse need a rug when travelling from Portugal? At certain times of the year we can encounter some very extreme weather conditions. Horses in Portugal are used to the heat and much warmer climates than us here in Blighty. Horses, like humans, will feel the cold more when they are tired, therefore it is advisable that in the winter months a rug is sent with your horse so that we can apply extra layers when we stop and stable up.

All the time the lorry is moving, travelling horses will be making very small movements within the muscles as the vehicle changes direction/speed, climbs or descends hills – here the horse is subtly moving its weight/stance to compensate for the movement of the lorry. This will generate warmth as the horse stands in his partition. It’s when we stop, off load and put the horses in their overnight B&B that you may want to send a rug for us to use.

Your horse’s health and welfare is the main priority at LOC, and the team take care of each horse as if it were their own.

Transporting horses from Portugal to the UK:
Your Lusitano has arrived in the UK!

The most exciting moment has arrived, you have received a call from the drivers and they are on their way to you – only a short while until your horse steps foot in his new home! When the lorry arrives, the drivers will offload your horse for you, we always recommend that owners are there to see their horses off the lorry and to check them over, you get to see first-hand how your horse has travelled and how well behaved he or she is when coming off the lorry.

Once LOC hand over your new equine you will also receive a smart LOC waterproof folder with your horses name on the front – in here will be all of your horses’ paper work to keep safe forever (Passports and Health papers). We will also ask for your autograph on the Animal Transport Certificate (ATC) after you have checked over your horse which completes the whole operation with regards official paper work from the transport side of things.

What you can do in preparation – whether your horse is going straight out into a paddock or you have a lovely stable ready, always remember to put any hay, feed and water on the floor. It is important to let their respiratory tracts clear after travelling. Also remember that in a lot of cases, your horse may not be used to the lush green grass we have here so either may not know what to do with it, or may gorge himself on it – keep grazing to a sensible level whilst your horse adjusts to the new diet. Keep an eye on your horse for a minimum of 24 hours after travel, checking for any signs of sickness or colic, lack of appetite, discharge or temperature (bear in mind that when you are checking your horses temperature it will be slightly raised directly after travelling anyway so this may not be an accurate reading. Waiting an hour or so will give his body temperature time to recover and return to normal. Normally, the temperature of your horse is between 37.5 - 38.5 degrees C. If it is higher than normal then you should consult your vet. Droppings, water intake, temperature and general well-being should be monitored for at least 24 hours after the journey.

Horses should be monitored closely. A log should be made of the horses’ temperature and general well-being, whether he has had a drink and the consistency of any droppings. Our professional driver grooms will make you aware if they have noticed anything untoward while travelling and if there were any concerns during travel you will have been notified.

Some horses travel better than others so it’s vital to be able to pick up on early signs of travel sickness and notify your vet if you have any concerns. Some of the symptoms to look out for can include (but are not limited to): Dull eye, Raised temperature, Coughing fits, Dehydration, Lack of interest in food, Discharge from the nostrils, Change in dropping consistency, Rapid breathing, Pawing the ground, unwillingness to move around.

All that aside, the vast majority of horses travelling from the rest of Europe do so comfortably, safely and arrive fit and well with their new owners if given the right care aboard their ‘bus’, remember to always use a transporter you can trust and who comes recommended, if you would like to read more about the service LOC provides and the feedback received from clients, please do take a look at our website and Facebook page to see what our clients say.

Last but not least, let us know how we did. If you were happy with the service that LOC provided to bring your horse from Portugal – let us know, send us pictures and tell your friends about us! The best part of our job is knowing that every horse in our care has had a good travelling experience – especially on as long a journey as it is between Portugal and England.

Contact LOC International today to get your free quote for your horse transport from Portugal to the UK.

* Information pertaining to ITAHC regulations and requirements is correct as at the time of writing this article- Jan 2016.

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