FAQ: Transporting Horses from Spain - from Start to Finish

FAQ: Transporting Horses from Spain - from Start to Finish

Goldie in Spain Equine travel from Spain Goldie loading up A perfect vista

For many horse owners and lovers of the majestic Spanish horses 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 Spain 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 a horse abroad.

Where to start

Perhaps the thought of your new horse travelling a thousand or so miles by road fills you with dread? Perhaps 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 the process for you, not to mention translate for you if your Spanish 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. The quote will also generally state the next available dates are to collect in Spain but in general we travel to Spain every 10 to 14 days.

Shared or co-loads are obviously the most economical means of transporting your horse/s back to the UK as the overall costs to run a large 10 horse lorry to Spain are shared amongst all the owners. This is also in general a better option for your horse as he will have company on route and as they are herd animals it is simply 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.

What to Expect

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 delivered to you safe and sound.

LOC Horse Transport provides a reliable and efficient service to the UK, Europe and Worldwide with fortnightly trips to Spain 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 and are all riders and owners themselves, with experience in handling many different types, ages, sexes and temperaments. 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.

The Process

There are questions that you can ask the seller or agent when purchasing your horse 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 which is recognised by DEFRA and will generally have the micro chip number clearly visible and the silhouette drawing of the horse filled out with all of his/her identifying marks including nay marks and whorls and white hair/fur will be shaded in red. Some Spanish papers which are valid for travel within Spain and are more like registration documents are not in fact sufficient for travelling back to the UK.

Check with the seller if the horse has a passport, and if not, will they arrange this for you and how long with the process take?

If you are having your potential new horse pre purchase vetted (PPV or STV, be sure to find out how long this process 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 piece of mind. Often owners will want to send any x-rays that are taken at the vetting in Spain over to their vet in the UK for a second opinion.

When taking out insurance to cover you horse they will usually ask for a copy to the vetting certificate. Please note that PPV ARE NOT mandatory for travel but Health paper signed of 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 carries whether it is by road or Air. Its pretty much the same as in human travel – Travel insurance or Transit insurance is not an absolute must but it is encouraged where every possible. For Transit insurance contact your own equine insurer to see if they will add this to any existing policies alternatively contact Lycetts, Telephone: 01672 512 512 or Armitage Telephone 01932 856486 and email Jacinta at info@armitagelia.com who will be only to happy to provide you a quotation and help you further.

Crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s

Once you have accepted the 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 Spain will need official EU Intra Trade Animal Health Certificates (ITAHC) written in Spanish and English issued from the local State or Ministry vet in Spain. It is the responsibility of the owners/senders to contact the official vet and/or the local department of agriculture (some times called the “town Hall”, GUIA or OCA Offices) or equivalent and to have these prepared before one of our vehicles arrives for collection.

In order to issue the Health Papers, the Spanish 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 & Spanish. 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 and your horse is then ready for collection. 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. For those owners wishing to register their PRE with BAPSH this is even more important as the registrar will require evidence that the horse has indeed travelled from Spain.

In the meantime, behind the scenes, the Spanish Authorities will be notifying the UK authorities to let them know of the horses planned movements and this is logged into DEFRA / Animal Health’s systems. It is their job to carry out random spot checks, so it is possible that once your horse arrives in England (perhaps even beforehand), the AHVLA (Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency) office local to you 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!

All Systems Go!

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. Generally speaking the ground transport from Spain to the UK takes approximately 3 or 4 days depending of course on the location in Spain and the route home along with any traffic, severe whether conditions that we may encounter and the winds for our sea crossing.

Don’t forget that Spain don’t quite have the same post code system as we do here in the UK. Often address are very vague and roads don’t have names or numbers, addresses that we are given are often areas of a town so it can often be tricky to find which obviously slows our job up some what. It really is very helpful if we have satellite coordinates that we can put in to our satellite navigation systems or if we are met at a mutually decided landmark (i.e. Village Church/Filling Station/Restaurant) which is easily found and accessible so that we can follow the Spanish agent or owner the last mile or so to the yard. Our drivers really do encourage this as it obviously eliminates any wasted time driving around and reduces the already boarded horse’s journey time.

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 Spain on such a regular basis.

Our lorry was built to very high standards, it is designed as a road vehicle and not an off road tractor. Due to the sheer size and dimensions we are not always able to get right to the yard for loading/unloading. The lorry is 40' in length (12 metres) and 13’9” in Height (around 4 metres). The Fans on the lorry also sit on top protruding about 1' so we are unable to go under low trees. Depending on your delivery access then it is some times arranged that we will meet you in your smaller vehicle to Trans ship the horse on to a smaller box to the final destination.

Our office uses Auto Route Mapping systems and Google Earth to look at the delivery addresses prior to delivery 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.

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 and O, DFDS 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 is called “open bookings” and accounts with all of the biggest ferry operators so that we are never waiting for one particular operator. Its not great to have all your eggs in one basket as they say as the French can be know to strike so having the option of travelling with all of the ferry companies puts us in a great positions to keep moving. After all, we want to keep moving and not be parked up at ports waiting for one particular company.

If the weather is really bad then we have the option of travelling on the Euro Tunnel too.

We also take other ferry crossings from Dieppe to Newhaven from 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 but often with the southern coast crossings the timetables have fewer sailings and so we have to work more closely with our collection and delivery logistics so not to miss the ferry.

When planning the transport routes for shared loads, LOC always consider the shortest where ever possible and 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.

Your Horses Welfare

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.

Each day 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 thus allowing the respiratory tract to fully drain out and clear.

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 unless the weather is extremely cold. 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 to the drivers in the front the temperature of the horse area every 3 minutes. 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 warn then the windows are opened, the fans go on and the sky lights come open and on the flip side we can rug up accordingly.

At certain times of the year we can encounter some very extreme weather conditions. Horses in Spain are used to the heat and much warmer climates as opposed to us her in Blighty. Horses like humans will feel the cold more so 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 the horses will be making very small movements within its muscles as the vehicle changes direction/speed, climbs or descends hills. Here the horse is subtly moving it weight/stance to go with the movement of the lorry. This will generates warmth as the horse’s stands in his partition. It’s when we stop, off load and put the horses in their over night B and 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.

Back on UK soil

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 you 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.

On handing 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 for ever (Passports and Health papers). We will also ask for your autograph on the Animal Transport Certificate after you have checked over your horse which completes the whole operation with regards official paper work from the transport side of things.

You will no doubt have a fresh stable awaiting your arrival or a paddock ready – either way it is important to know the things to look out for in your horse to ensure he is fit and healthy.

If going into a stable the hay and water should be on the floor – after travelling on the lorry all day, it is vital that the horse’s respiratory tract clears. Look out for any signs of travel sickness or colic – the drivers will make you aware if they have noticed anything untoward while travelling. Be vigilant and monitor your horse after a long journey by road, sea and or air. Immediately before, during and after travelling, horses should be monitored closely.

A log should be made of the horses’ temperature and general well-being, whether he has had a drink before loading and the consistency of any droppings.

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.

Once your horse has been unloaded at the destination, he should be left for an hour or so before checking his temperature. This 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.

All that aside, the vast majority of horses travelling from Spain 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.

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