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Brexit & horses – implications on import & export

by Marlen Fischer
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Moving horses post-Brexit will be a huge topic in the future as costs have increased by 300%, and the process of preparing and traveling has become much more complicated since. The UK has left the EU with an agreed trade deal and third-country status. Therefore, new rules and regulations have come into effect, making the life of competition riders, breeders and anyone who wants to move a horse between Great Britain and the EU much harder.

Exporting horses and ponies

Since Great Britain has left the EU, transporting horses has become much more expensive, not only in terms of costs. You should calculate 4.000 to 5.000 £ for an export from now on. Experts recommend employing an experienced shipping agent even as a seasoned traveler. So, the first things to be done are:

  1. contact a transporter or shipping agent
  2. get in touch with an official vet (OV)

If you want to find out what an official vet is got to the website of the Animal & Plant Health Agency.

The process is similar to shipping a horse to Australia or the US. Here’s what you need to know in brief (We’ve included a checklist at the end of the article):

– ID: Check if you have the correct equine identification document

– Blood tests: Get your equines tested for certain diseases before export

– Meet pre-export isolation & residency requirements

– EHC: Apply for an export health certificate

– Check if export welfare declaration is needed

Find out if your horse is registered or unregistered

The documents you need are different depending on whether your horse is registered or not. Your horse is registered if:

– it is registered with a national branch of an international body for racing or competition. So if your horse has, e.g., the FEI recognition card wrapped around its passport, it is registered.

– it belongs to an EU-recognised UK studbook. Click the button below to find out which studbooks have been recognised by the EU.

If the equine does not belong to either of those two groups, you can still import or export your horse, but the isolation period and documents will be slightly different. In the following paragraphs, you will first read about the requirements for registered horses and then about the conditions for unregistered horses. If neither is being addressed there’s no difference between registered and unregistered.

The correct equine ID

Every horse has or should have a passport, including an identification number which is needed to recognise it at a local competition or if the horse is being sold. But what exactly is the correct equine identification document when it comes to traveling internationally? The valid equine ID for a registered horse is its passport. As you now know, a registered horse either belongs to an EU-recognised UK studbook or has been registered with a national brand of an international body for racing or competition, for example, the FEI.

For an unregistered horse, a passport is needed as well as a government-issued supplementary travel ID. If you’re living in Great Britain, this ID will be issued by APHA and send to your official vet. If you’re from Northern Ireland, you need to contact the Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs for the supplementary travel ID. It will then be sent to your OV, too. That means, if you’re the owner of an unregistered horse, you need to ask your OV not only for an EHC but also for the government-issued supplementary travel ID. The travel ID is valid for a return journey.

Export Health Certificate

Ten days before the export, you have to apply for an EHC. This document contains 30 pages and confirms that your horse meets all health requirements of the destination country.

Filling out the application form is not much of a challenge, yet understanding and meeting all of the requirements for the EHC can be.

The first step to a successful application is finding an official vet. The OV has to sign your EHC the day before your horse departs and the originally signed hard copy has to be with the horse during the entire journey as it will be checked at the border control post.


1. Disease tests

The EHC will be issued after the equine has been tested for certain diseases, particularly equine infectious anemia and equine viral arteritis (stallions only).

The test for equine infectious anemia must be done within 90 days of travel if:

  • the horse is registered with a national brand of an international body for racing or competition
  • and moved temporarily.

A horse that has not been registered as a competition horse or is moved permanently (more than 90 days) has to be tested within 30 days of travel.

Additionally, all stallions older than 180 days not meeting the vaccination requirements need to be tested for equine viral arteritis within 21 days of travel.

2. Residency Requirements

If registered competition horses are temporarily moved (less than 90 days), they have to be kept on a holding in Great Britain for 40 days or since their arrival in the UK. It means that If you’re passing Great Britain coming from a different country with similar health status, it can be less than 40 days. But, if you’re traveling from a country with lesser health status, your horse has to stay put for 40 days before it is allowed to depart again. Most EU countries and Northern Ireland, for example, have the same health status as Great Britain.

Horses that are not registered with a national branch of an international body for racing or competition or moved permanently (more than 90 days) must be kept on a holding in Great Britain for 90 days, since birth (if the horse is younger than 90 days) or since its arrival in Great Britain.

3. Isolation requirements

All hores that are not registered with a national branch of an international body for racing and competition or moved permanently have to be isolated from other horses for 30 days.

Important note: The residency and isolation requirements have to be supervised by a vet. The OV does not have to be the supervising vet, but the OV must confirm that all requirements have been fulfilled. 

Transporter and vehicle authorisation

It is recommended to employ a shipping agent or transporter as they know exactly which documentation is needed for the transport and export of horses. For example are the UK-issued transport authorisation, certificate of competence and vehicle approval certificate not accepted by the EU anymore. In some cases, you also need journey logs, which are approved by APHA and the country through which the EU will be entered and a welfare declaratio. On top, an EU-based representative is mandatory for every UK transporter wishing to export horses.

You can securely travel through the UK with Great Britain-issued transport documentation. Only if you’re leaving Great Britain, you will need special transporter and vehicle authorisation forms.

The EU border: Border control posts (BCP)

After you’ve finally got all the required documents and set off for your destination country, the EU border will contribute its bit to the adventure for sure. When your horse has finally arrived at the border control post its ID and EHC are going to be checked, and there will be a physical inspection. At the moment, the border control posts can check no more than 6 horses per hour. Delays are quite common even though BCPs require pre-booking and online submission of all documents on TRACES. So, you should plan a bit more time for this part of the road. It is crucial to know that not all BCPs are approved to inspect unregistered horses or horses at all. Click the following button to find out which border control posts are prepared for horse export.

Don’t forget to pre-notify your chosen BCP and check how much notice needs to be given. Before the equine arrives at the EU border, the customs declaration form must be completed. If you’re traveling multiple times a year, it may be helpful to apply for an ATA Carnet. It contains pre-prepared unified customs declaration forms and lasts for a year.

What happens if your horse has been rejected from a BCP?

If a horse has been rejected at an EU BCP or a point of entry to Northern Ireland, APHA decides which entry point is used to re-enter Great Britain. In case of rejection in Northern Ireland, you should email APHA’s Center for International Trade (CIT) at imports@apha.gov.uk. In this email, you must state that you wish to return your equine to Great Britain. If your horse has been rejected at an EU BCP, you will have to submit an import notification on the import of products, animals, food and feed system (IPAFFS) as well as send an e-mail to APHA.

This notification has to include the following information:

  • Original export certificate and related documentation
  • A statement from the EU BCP of the reasons why the horses were refused and how they were kept since leaving Great Britain (quarantine, isolation)
  • A declaration by the person responsible for the returned horses that the import condition relating to transport have been complied with (e.g. animal welfare requirements)
  • A declaration by the same person that the horses haven’t been in contact with other equines of a lesser health status since leaving Great Britain

Advice for the IPAFFS notification: The “country of origin” is the country where the rejecting BCP is located. Furthermore, you cannot return your horses before you’ve informed the Animal & Plant Health Agency as they will decide on the conditions of the import. To let APHA know that you have submitted an IPAFFS notification you need to send an email to the e-mail address given above. In the title, you state that you submitted an IPAFFS notification for the return of your horse(s). You also have to include the Unique Notification Number that IPAFFS generates after you’ve sent the notification. It is important to know that APHA checks this email address only during working hours, Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5 pm.

However, these regulations will change from 1 March 2022. Returned horses and other equines must then enter Great Britain at an appropriately designated BCP. So, if you read this article after 1 March 2022, you should have a look at the guidance provided by APHA.

Import (EU to GB)

To import your horse from the EU to Great Britain, you need an EHC, and the importer (you or the shipping agent) must send an import pre-notification via IPAFFS. This notification should be sent at least 24 hours before arriving at the point of entry. Until July 2021, there aren’t any British BCPs. The British BCPs are yet to be established, but from July 2021 onward, it will be the same process as entering the EU.

From 1 January 2021, blood tests must be undertaken and residency and isolation requirements have to be met. Transporters need additional UK-issued vehicle authorisation and other transport-related documents. Remember that none of the EU-issued documents are valid in Great Britain after Brexit and vice versa. However, the import process will be the same as the export process from July 2021 onward.


1. Contact shipping agent or transporter
2. Contact an official vet. Click here to find an OV near you.
Find out if your horse is registered or unregistered. Registered

Either belongs to EU-recognised UK studbooks

Or registered with a national branch of an international body of racing or competition e.g. FEI


Does not belong to any of the two given options

Correct ID Passport Passport + Government-issued supplementary travel ID
Disease testing equine infectious anaemia (within 90 days)

equine viral arteritis (within 21 days, stallions only)

Meet isolation & residency requirements 40 days residency in Great Britain

no isolation for registered competition horses

90 days residency in Great Britain

+ 30 days isolation

EHC Apply 10 days prior departure. Click here to apply. The OV hast to sign the EHC and the originally signed hard copy will be checked at BCP
EORI number (businesses/transporter) To check if you need an EORI number click here.
Vehicle and transporter authorisation (transporter) UK-issued transport authorisation, certificate of competence and vehicle approval certificate aren’t accepted by the EU anymore.

Also check if you need Journey logs and an export welfare declaration.

customs declaration form Complete the customs declaration form before the horse arrives at the BCP.

Apply for an ATA Carnet if you travel multiple times per year. Click here for the application form.

BCP Find the correct BCP here.

& notify the BCP on TRACES in advance. Don’t forget to check how much notice needs to be given!

Check your own passport and health insurance  Your passport should be valid for at least one more year. Click here to find out if you have to renew your passport.

Check the expiration date of your EHIC card. After it has expired you have to apply for a GHIC. Click here to apply.

Register for online government gateway Create a government gateway ID. Click here to register.
Register for IPAFFS submit a notification to IPAFFS to import horses from an EU country to the UK or in case your horse was rejected from a BCP. Click here to go to IPAFFS.

We hope you found this article helpful. Nevertheless, we have to remind you that this article cannot replace the help of a shipping agent and thoroughly reading the government website. It is thought to be a brief overview of what you should expect when exporting or importing a horse.

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