FAQ: Horse Transport from the UK to Portugal
- Everything you need to know
The process of transporting a horse from the UK to Europe sounds complicated but if you find an experienced horse transport company who are well versed with dealing with the specific requirements for transporting horses, it makes the whole process a lot simpler!
The same process will apply to all horse movements from the UK to Portugal, so whether you are relocating to the sunnier climes of the Algarve with your herd or favourite pet; If you are heading to Portugal to compete – for example at the Vilamoura Tour; or even if you are taking your horse to Portugal on holiday. All horses will require specific health papers which are to be arranged through the APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) (DEFRA) and LOC are approved, regulated transporters that can take care of the arrangements for you.
In Great Britain the export of horse and ponies is regulated by the provisions of the following legislations: The Animal Health Act 1981; The Export of Horses (Veterinary Examination) Order 1966; The Export of Horses (Excepted Cases) Order 1969; The Export of Horses (Protected Cases) Order 1969.
If you are exporting your horses or ponies to Portugal (or indeed anywhere within the EU), they must be accompanied by an Intra Trade Animal Health Certificate (ITAHC), which are issued by DEFRA/APHA via the TRACES system. LOC’s team will handle every aspect of this paperwork for you so that you are not caught up in the red tape and lots of forms to fill in, making it one less thing to add to that ever growing ‘To-Do’ list.
In order for any horse to be transported (regardless of the distance), it is law that horses must travel with a valid passport. In addition, your horse/s will need a set of official health certificates (or an ITAHC) to travel which must be signed off by an Official Veterinarian (OV) within 48 hours prior to travel.
The OV must be a registered vet who has been officially authorised to sign trade documents and able to do the necessary checks to make sure that your horse or pony is fit to travel. It is worth double checking with your local veterinary practice that they have an LVI vet as not all practices do. Once again, to ease the stress of planning everything yourself, LOC can arrange this for you with our local OV (LVI) which will take place after we have collected your horse – thus ensuring that the required timescales are adhered to and the paperwork is signed and finalised correctly.
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*.
In addition, all horses and ponies require an Export Welfare Declaration (EWD - previously known as an Export license) - LOC will complete this on your behalf.
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 from the UK. Check if the horse has a valid passport, and if not, how much time do you need to arrange it – each passport issuing Authority will have their own timescales and requirements. If you simply need a basic Pet ID Equine Passport, contact the LOC team for further details on how we can arrange this for you.
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.
Transporting horses from the UK to Portugal:
How does the transport from England to Portugal work?
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 the UK to The Algarve area of Portugal will take approximately 3-5 days depending of course on the location in Portugal and the route, 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 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.
Transporting horses from the UK to Portugal:
What ferry crossing s do you use? Do you travel horses by the Eurotunnel?
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’ n 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. We also have stabling facilities at both sides of the Channel in case of delays so that we can stable the horses up and wait out the weather.
Travelling horses to 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 the UK to Portugal:
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 transport my horse The United Kingdom to Portugal? - This is a question 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.
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 the UK to Portugal:
Your pony has arrived in Portual!
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 to 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.
So as you can see, when arranging the transport of your horse or pony to Portugal, it is worth finding an experienced horse transport company. The team at LOC International Horse Transport have a wealth of knowledge and experience in transporting horses across Europe and indeed Worldwide.
* Information pertaining to ITAHC regulations and requirements is correct as at the time of writing this article- Jan 2016