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Horse transport in the UK is probably more complicated than it needs to be from a licencing perspective. However, it is what it is. We want to make it as easy as possible to understand what your requirements are if you regularly transport horses. In this easy guide to horse transport, we will discuss licencing, training and some of the practical aspects of towing horsebox trailers. If you have any further questions after reading this guide, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The place to begin is to discuss the difference between horsebox trailers and HGV horseboxes. The horsebox trailer is simply a large utility trailer with a roof on top and a built-in stall in the interior. In the eyes of the DVLA, if it is no different in practical terms than your standard utility trailer used for hauling equipment or furniture. The HGV horsebox is entirely different.

The HGV horsebox is a self-contained unit with both the engine and horse transport areas built on the same chassis. For purposes of clarification, consider it similar to a box lorry that has been modified to transport horses rather than static cargo. This difference dictates that most HGV horsebox operators need a special licence to account for the size and weight of their vehicles.

As a horse owner, the kind of vehicle you use for horse transport is entirely up to you. Most recreational horse owners are content with a horsebox trailer towed by an SUV or pickup truck.

Horsebox Driver

Horse Transport Licencing Requirements

The most confusing thing for horse owners to understand are the licencing requirements. Unfortunately, we do not make things easy here in the UK. There are two different licences pertaining to horse transport activities: the operator’s licence and the driving licence.

The operator’s licence is similar to the kind of licence a logistics company would need to legally operate commercial vehicles on the road.

Horse owners DO NOT need an operator's licence if they transport horses
under the following conditions:

  • Horse transport is for recreational or hobby purposes only
  • The owner/driver does not derive a significant portion of his or her income from transport
  • Horse transport does not involve qualifying business operations
  • The equipment owner does not hire himself or herself out to other hobbyists in need of horse transport.

Simply put, the government has created a distinction between recreational and commercial transport of horses. If what you do qualifies as a commercial enterprise, you will need both an operator's licence and appropriate CPC certification. And operator’s licence is not required for hobbyists. As for the driving licence, it is dependent entirely on vehicle weight and class.

The current standards taken directly from the GOV.UK website are as follows:

Category C1

For use if driving any goods vehicle that is above 3.5t and below 7.5t in weight. If you gained your driving licence before 1997, you will automatically have this category on your licence. If you gained your driving licence after 1997, you will have to take a test. Note – if you gain your Cat 'C' you automatically get given your Cat 'C1', so it is advisable to take a full Cat 'C' course and get both categories for the price of one.

Category B+E

This licence allows you to tow a trailer with a maximum authorised mass greater than 750 kg and a combined trailer/tow vehicle weight in excess of 3.5 tonnes. The combined weight cannot exceed 7.5 tonnes under this licence category. Your average horsebox trailer qualifies.

Category C Licences

There are four different Category C licences that apply to heavier vehicles. They are normally not needed when towing a horsebox trailer with a typical passenger vehicle. However, a Category C or C1 will probably be necessary for operating an HGV horsebox. Like Category B licences, the exact licence needed to operate an HGV horsebox will depend on vehicle weight.

It should be obvious that the average horse owner will need at least a Category B+E to tow a horsebox trailer. We provide the training necessary to pass the B+E test. Continue reading to learn more about our training programme.

Training for Horse Transport

Towing any kind of trailer behind a passenger vehicle is not as easy as it might appear. This is one of the primary reasons for requiring a special licence for such activities. Regulators know that without proper training and licencing, drivers may not be fully prepared for what it takes to tow a trailer safely.

Our horsebox trailer training covers three elements:

  • Trailer Theory – Although drivers do not need to pass an additional theory exam to earn a Category B+E licence, there is still some theory training involved. This classroom training exposes the student to the knowledge needed for a basic understanding of the physics of towing. It also includes the basic trailer safety knowledge.
  • Horse Safety – The third component of our training deals directly with horse safety. Bear in mind that horse transport is a unique exercise that must be as concerned with the horses as it is for general road safety. We teach our students the basics of transporting horses safely.
  • Driving Skills – The majority of trailer training involves the hands-on skills that make for a safe and competent driver. We cover things such as proper turning techniques, manoeuvring trailers in tight spaces, and using breaks correctly. We include the required vehicle inspections in this portion of the training as well.

Upon completion of our training, students are ready to book and take their practical skills exams. While we do not conduct those exams ourselves, we do send a trainer with each student to the examination location on the day of the test. This enables the student to ask any remaining questions or receive further guidance from the instructor.

“Alicia Scott has dealt with my application from the start And she's has been brill, all theory side of things ..."


Practical Aspects of Horse Transport

  • It is clear that those engaged in horse transport of any kind will likely need some sort of special licence to do so legally. Our training covers those needs. But above and beyond licencing, there are practical aspects of horse transport that you need to know as a horse owner. Some of those things we cover in our training, others are learned from fellow horse owners and your own experience.
  • As just one example, there are different types of horsebox trailers you can purchase. You may purchase a rear facing trailer while one of your friends has a front facing trailer. Or you may buy a larger horsebox with several stables and a side facing configuration. The thing to understand is that the horsebox trailer you choose will have an impact on how you transport your horses. So it pays to understand the different configurations and how these apply in your circumstances.
  • Another important practical aspect of horse transport is knowing how stressful transport can be to horses. Some animals just do not do well no matter how much care you take in transporting them. Experience and your fellow horse owners will help you understand the personality of your animals so that you can become better at horse transport.
  • Horse transport is unique exercise very few people experience in their lifetimes. As a horse owner, you do what you do because you love everything about owning and enjoying your animals. When it comes to transport, we want to see you do it safely for both your benefit and theirs. The HGV Training Centre is here to provide industry-leading training that will enable you to earn your horsebox licence and do your horses proud every time you take them somewhere. Our training is convenient, fast, reliable, and affordable.

Additional Information on Horse Transportation

To help you learn more about transporting horses on UK roads we have listed below a
number of our other articles related to driving and towing equestrian vehicles:

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