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Horse Transport Rules and Regulations

UK horse transportation rules provide the licensing and legislative requirements for transporting horses (i.e. what you can and cannot do).

This section explains the driving licence category, operator licence rules, and documentation needed to transport a horse around Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

UK Licensing Rules for Horse Transportation

Most of these large plant-eating domesticated mammals have considerable value (e.g. those used in farming and liveries or for racing).

Hence, most owners will be aware about the importance of taking good care of their animals – especially during transportation.

But, some horseboxes and trailers get used most often during the warmer months and may stay idle for long periods of time.

Note: Horseboxes and trailers can develop mechanical defects during the winter months. Thus, you should have them inspected by a qualified mechanic before you use it.

As a rule, large horseboxes need to have an annual test (MOT) to ensure they are in a roadworthy condition for use on public roads and highways.

Furthermore, conducting regular ‘walkaround checks‘ will help to verify the box or trailer is safe and roadworthy. Doing so also helps to ensure the wellbeing of the horse during transportation.

Any time you are transporting horses in horseboxes and trailers across the United Kingdom, you must make sure that you (all):

  • Are in possession of the correct driving licence category for the weight of the vehicle or trailer and have an operator licence (where required).
  • Do not overload the vehicle and/or trailer and conduct regular safety checks.
  • Have a valid MOT for the vehicle or trailer and the correct qualification for transporting horses (if travelling for more than eight hours) and follow the relevant rules on animal welfare.

Note: The master section contains more advice and information about horse care for beginners and how to take care of horses.

UK Driving Licence Rules

There are several different driving licence categories that allow you to transport a horse. It will depend most on the size and type of vehicle – and the year you passed your driving test.

You may need to have a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (e.g. become a qualified HGV driver) to drive a horsebox with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) more than 3,500 kilograms.

Important: Another section explains how to view your driving licence information online (e.g. to determine the kind of vehicles you can drive legally in the United Kingdom).

UK Operator Licence Rules

As a rule, you will need to have an operator licence to use a horsebox (or a vehicle with a horse trailer), if you (any):

  • Are using the horseboxes for a professional activity.
  • Receive money for transporting horses (no matter whether directly or indirectly).
  • Get a payment resulting from the transportation of horses (no matter whether directly or indirectly – such as from prize money).

An operator licence is not a legal requirement to transport horses or related goods for non commercial purposes (e.g. leisure activities).

Different Types of Operator Licences

The vehicle type, where you will be using it, and who owns the horse will determine what kind of operator licence you need to have (even if only for one day).

Restricted Operator Licences

You need to have a restricted operator licence to move horses that you own yourself:

  • When using:
    • A horsebox with a MAM over 3,500 kilograms.
    • Any vehicle with a horsebox trailer combination.
Horse transport rules and regulations in the United Kingdom.
Standard National Licences

You need to have the standard national licence any time you are moving horses that you do not own yourself (within the United Kingdom):

  • When using:
    • A horsebox with a MAM over 3,500 kilograms.
    • Any vehicle with a horsebox trailer combination.
Standard International Licences

You need a standard international licence if you are moving horses that you do not own yourself outside of the United Kingdom:

  • When using:
    • A horsebox with a MAM over 3,500 kilograms.
    • Any vehicle with a horsebox trailer combination.

International Road Haulage [Updated 2022]

The rules for transporting goods to Europe (or through it) change from February and from May in 2022. It affects the use of cars with trailers, vans, and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

Warning: Not having the correct operator’s licence during Police and DVSA roadside vehicle checks can result in the vehicle being impounded.

Rules about Drivers’ Hours

UK drivers’ hours rules relate to the number of hours you can drive and how many breaks you must take if the horsebox (or vehicle and trailer) has a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of:

  • 3,500 kilograms (or more) if used for commercial purposes.
  • 7,500kg (or more).

Note: You must follow drivers’ hours rules for HGVs and tachograph regulations (unless the horsebox or vehicle and trailer has a MAM less than 7,500kg used for non-commercial purposes (e.g. general leisure activities)).

Keeping Horseboxes and Trailers Safe


The same process and rules for getting an annual test (MOT) for a lorry, bus, or trailer also apply to horseboxes. So, it is also important to check the integrity of the floor (especially those covered with metal plates or matting), and check:

  • Breast bars
  • Internal stalls
  • Loading ramps
  • Partitions
You must also follow the rules and regulations for (all):
Horse Trailers

The safety checks you should carry out when you tow a trailer or caravan with a car also apply when towing your horsebox with a car. You must not overload the vehicle or trailer, and:

  • Avoid using the right-hand lane on a motorway when it has at least three (3) lanes.
  • Comply with the correct speed limits for towing a trailer in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Note: The National Trailer and Towing Association (NTTA) offers free safety checks for trailers up to a maximum of 3,500 kilograms.

During the Journey

As part of keeping horses safe during a journey, you should not transport them in a way that may cause them harm or distress. You should also make sure:

  • The person accompanying the horse is capable of handling them.
  • Your breakdown cover will include your trailer as well as the recovery of horses.

Note: Defra has further guidance about animal welfare during transport through the protection retained in EU legislation.

Documents Needed to Transport Horses

Correct documentation required for transporting horses will depend most on where you will be taking them. You can read further guidance about:

Related Guides about Equines

Note: This short video presented by the DVSA explains the basic checks you need to do before you tow a trailer with a car.

Horse Transportation Rules in the United Kingdom