Transport and the law

WATOs? Driver CPCs? Tachographs?! Laws relating to transporting horses are thoroughly confusing!

However, if you only transport horses as part of a hobby, the laws are simpler than you might imagine. Here we explore what laws you need to abide by to transport horses legally and safely. 

Please also refer to our Travel and Transportation leaflet, which gives comprehensive welfare advice on travelling your horse. 

I passed my driving test before 1st January 1997…

Horseboxes

  • You can legally drive a horse box with a laden weight under 7.5 tonnes. 
  • You must have a category C license to drive a horsebox with a laden weight over 7.5 tonnes 

Car and trailer

  • You can drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes. However, the average car and horse trailer combination will weigh nowhere near 8.25 tonnes! For example, below the car weighs just under two tonnes, and the trailer (including a 16hh horse that weighs 600kg) weighs around 1.5 tonnes. 

Even though you can legally tow a trailer or drive a horsebox, we still recommend that you seek professional training. Remember that horses have good memories. A bad travelling experience could affect his attitude towards travelling in the future.  

I passed my driving test after 1st January 1997…

Horse boxes

  • You can legally drive a rigid horsebox with a laden weight up to 3.5 tonnes. 
  • However, once your horse, tack, and passengers are on board, the weight of your vehicle is likely to be over 3.5 tonnes and you can no longer drive it legally or safely. 
  • You must hold a category C1 license to drive a horsebox with a laden weight between 3.5 tonnes and 7.5 tonnes.
  • You must hold a category C license to drive a horsebox with a laden weight over 7.5 tonnes.

Some horses will not be happy travelling in a 3.5 tonne horsebox. Please take your horse’s welfare into account when choosing a horsebox. Base your decision on your his happiness, and not what you can legally drive. 

Car and trailer 

  • With a category B license, you can pull a car and trailer combination with a maximum laden weight of 3.5 tonnes. However, the trailer and horse must not weigh more than the unladen weight of the car. 

At Redwings, we recommend that you do not tow a trailer without passing a test under any circumstances. Ignorance of skills needed to successfully tow a trailer may compromise the welfare of your horse. 

My horsebox weighs over 7.5 tonnes. What laws affect me? 

  • You must have a category C license regardless of when you passed your driving test.
  • You must abide by EU rules on driving hours. For example, if you have worked a six day week, whatever your profession, you cannot drive a 7.5 tonne lorry for at least 24 hours. The rules are too detailed to list here but you can find them here on the Department of Transport website.  
  • Your horsebox must be fitted with a tachograph. This is a device that records a vehicle’s speed over time and helps to implement EU rules on driving hours. It can be inspected by a VOSA official at any time and must be fitted at a VOSA-approved centre. Tachographs must be inspected at an approved centre every two years. Look at the VOSA website for more information.

The laden weight
Remember to include your horse, passengers, and tack, when assessing the laden weight of your transport. Take your transport to a weighbridge, with a full tank of fuel, if you are unsure.

Car and trailer advice
Refer to your car’s manual to see the maximum laden weight it can tow. It is advised that a laden trailer does not weigh more than 85% of the unladen weight of the car towing it. You may find that some cars can tow significantly more than its own weight; however, your insurance may not cover you in these situations, so check your policy, or call VOSA for more information. You will be breaking the law and putting your passengers and horses’ lives at risk if you exceed the towing weight stated in your car’s manual. 

The website Towinghorsetrailers.co.uk has lots of guidance on weights, towing tips and maintaining your trailer. 

Qualifications 
You may have heard of qualifications such as the Welfare of Animals In Transport Certificate of Competence, and the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence. You do not legally need these qualifications if you are only travelling one horse, unless you are making your main income from transporting horses, or you win significant amounts of prize money. 

Asking a friend for petrol money when transporting their horse does not constitute income. Prize money that does not significantly exceed your travel expenses does not constitute income either. 

If you are unsure about anything, call the VOSA helpline before travelling! 0300 123 9000.
 
For welfare advice on travelling your horse, click here to read our Travel and Transportation Guidance

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