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Transporting your horse: do you need an operator's licence?

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Posted by Laura Heeley on 18 May 2012

Laura Heeley Solicitor Advocate

Even our leisure activities do not escape the long arm of regulation. There are many horse owners who will be caught by various regulations when they transport their horses. 

People driving horseboxes with a gross plated weight (i.e. the maximum, permitted weight on the road) of over 3.5 tonnes – or an unladen weight of over 1525kg - for commercial purposes (which includes professional riders) fall within the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Regulations and the Welfare of Animals during Transport Regulations. The following information can help you decide whether or not you will need an operator’s licence. 

In connection with trade or business

I own a horsebox and use it to transport horses or goods as part of my business / I compete at a professional level and use my horsebox to transport my horse(s) to shows with assistance of sponsorship and/or the potential to win more than nominal prize money.

Where it is clear that the horsebox is being used in connection with any form of commercial venture, it is likely that an operator’s licence will be required. The owner or user would also need to be authorised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) if transporting over 65km and will require a competence certificate. The vehicle will require a vehicle approval certificate if journeys last more than 8 hours.

I am an owner of a livery yard business and compete for pleasure only. I transport my horse(s) to shows and competitions on a regular basis. There is potential to gain trophies and rosettes, together with nominal winnings.

Where the transport of horses is purely on an amateur level and strictly outside the course of your business, and any potential winnings are nominal, an operator’s licence would not usually be required. However, you will need a licence if you use your horsebox in connection with your livery business 

Hire or reward

I own a horsebox and my friend and I attend shows on a regular basis, outside the course of our business and purely on an amateur level. We travel together and share the expenses of doing so.

It is unlikely that this arrangement would require a licence. Generally speaking, ‘hire or reward’ can include any payment for transportation, however small, which provides an income for the owner or user of the vehicle over and above covering the running costs. If only modest sums are involved it is unlikely that VOSA would require you to have a licence; however, one will be needed if you are making any money out of the arrangement.

Further considerations

Anyone using their vehicle should check that they have the correct insurance for the purpose for which they are using their vehicle. Mistakes could leave the owner of the vehicle uninsured – which would be catastrophic!

Regardless of whether or not you need an operator’s licence, it is possible that you might need a tachograph if you are driving a vehicle that is 7.5 tonnes or over.

These examples are only guidelines and should not replace specific advice. If you think you might need a licence, we suggest that you contact VOSA directly and obtain written confirmation from them whether or not you need one. 

About the author

Laura Heeley

Solicitor Advocate

Laura specialises in commercial disputes resolution, sports regulatory matters and equestrian disputes.

Laura Heeley

Laura specialises in commercial disputes resolution, sports regulatory matters and equestrian disputes.

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