What Does Brexit Mean for UK Riders and Horses? A British Show Jumper’s Perspective

Photo by Anthony Rousseau – Pegasus Photo Creations.

Brexit–the departure of the UK from the European Union– began the transition in January of 2020 but only officially took full effect in January 2021. This historic change affects trade, travel, immigration, and business. It also complicates the shipping of horses between the UK and Europe for competition and sales, making it much more expensive and time-consuming, which is a concern for horse welfare.

For more details on how Brexit is impacting UK-based horses and riders, we are republishing a blog on the subject from Sarah Lewis. Sarah is an international show jumper from the UK. She has a small yard producing horses to jump Young Horse Classes and CSI2*. She loves jumping at the European Shows as they not only provide a very valuable education for the horses, but are also vital for the marketing of horses to the worldwide market. You can find out more about her at her website.


I am writing as an International Show Jumping Rider representing Great Britain.  I have a business training horses for the international competition market in show jumping.  A necessary part of the production of these horses for sale in both the British and European and wider markets is competing them at International Shows in Europe, where they are not only seen by a wider audience, but also prove their ability to compete in this forum. Competing against some of the best producers and riders in Europe is a somewhat higher level of competition.

The international competition circuit is also pivotal to the ongoing training of horses that are being viewed and prepared for British Team selection, and is a crucial foundation for younger horses that are being produced with British Team competition in mind for their future careers.  Ours is a sport that has brought home Gold Medals at the last two Olympic games.

At this time of year many international riders from Northern Europe head for Spain and Portugal to get a head start in both horse preparation and in sales opportunities in the warmer climate.  This year, setting COVID aside, competitors from Britain are being placed at a considerable financial and logistical disadvantage due to the large raft of additional paperwork, costs, and logistical problems introduced by Brexit. Competitions in Europe continue all year and are absolutely vital to the production and market of horses bred and produced in the UK.  British Breeding has recently started to really make its mark on the World Stage and it is a pity that many years of establishing such an important industry will be squandered by the logistical and financial burdens of Brexit.

Since 1st January I have been forced to withdraw from the competitions I had entered in Spain, and this would be the case regardless of COVID because the timescale of jumping through all these logistical hoops is too pressurised to be completed before the commencement of these competitions.

a)      The new regulations currently present a problem for horse welfare, because of the additional hours that horses will spend in lorries while drivers  undertake

  • a customs check just before the ferry (approximately 45 minutes)
  • a normal wait for the ferry (approx. 1.5 to 2 hours)
  • a vet check at Calais which is currently taking 2.5 – 9 hours, this is when there is absolutely no queue.  This is putting the welfare of horses at considerable risks, even now when traffic is light and the weather is cool.

These new checks are adding up to 12 hours onto a journey which really should take a maximum of four hours, which taking into account drivers hours, and working hours probably means drivers only can drive about 2/3 hours in France, thus necessitating extra overnight stays and more delays on horses reaching their ultimate destinations.

b)      The extra costs involved for competitors and owners are currently huge:

  • In addition to the Type 2 Animal Transporter license in the UK (which is rarely needed in the UK for people such as myself who don’t travel over 8 hours in the UK) which we now need to cross the border, we also need a Type 2 Animal Transporter license issued by a EU nation which costs €195.
  • Even a private individual such as myself now needs a DEFRA inspection of their lorry in the UK once every 5 years which is just under £400. We need this to leave the UK, and to enter back into the UK.  In addition to this the empty lorry must also be inspected in the EU. This will necessitate two ferry crossings with an empty lorry at a total cost of £500/£800 and an inspection at European Horse Services in Belgium costing approximately £150 and then an annual contract with European Horse Services to act as my agent in the EU which is £500 per annum.
  • So before I can even come back to the UK and put my horses on the lorry I will have incurred extra costs of approximately £2,000, plus two entirely unnecessary ferry crossings which can hardly be considered either “green” or helpful to the current traffic situation around Dover.
  • The further costs are as follows (on top of the ferry fare):
    • Dover customs check per truck E135
    • BCP (Customs) per horse E140
    • DCSE (inspection number) per horse E30
    • Vets per horse E32
    • A total cost of E202 per horse and E135 for the truck.
    • At weekends these costs will be x 2, and on bank holidays x 2.25.
  • On top of the Eurotunnel fare:
    • Customs check per truck E135
    • Eurotunnel surcharge per truck E490
    • BCP per horse (charged by Eurotunnel) E325
    • DSCE per horse E30
    • Vets per horse E31
    • A total cost of E386 per horse and E625 per truck
    • At weekends these costs will be x 2 and on bank holidays x 2.25.
    • On reaching Calais there is a vet check:
    • Veterinary entry per horse E50
    • Writing or updating DSCE per horse E30
    • Health Port Charges per horse E50
    • Customs per horse E30.49
    • Total of E160.49 per horse
    • No extra charges for weekends and bank holidays.
  • For a lorry with three horses on the ferry this would raise the charge, on top of the £200 ferry fare, by £1,070.76 (at today’s exchange rate) to £1,270.76. A 635% rise. On the train on top of the fare of £500 the rise would be £1,983.45 making a total of £2,483.45 which is a 489% rise. There is also the annual fee of E500 to European Horse Services to act as your agent in the EU and an annual Carnet charge of £800.

c) The vets and shipping agents that I have spoken to are also raising their admin charges in line with the hugely increased amount of work.

  • We also need to pay for extra veterinary services in Britain.  In 2020 Health Papers were £55/75 per horse, depending on the vet, now the horses need additional checks and blood tests for diseases that we don’t even have in the UK, currently vets are tentatively quoting £120 but are reviewing this as the time taken is considerable.

d)              Sports Horse breeding, production and export is actually a considerable contributor to the UK economy, it generates several £ billions in revenue, and needs show centres, yards and hundreds of thousands of employees. In the main it is not a luxury occupation, but like any occupation centred on the welfare and production of animals, it involves hard work for gains that are not huge.

Brexit is causing hardship and distress in our industry by causing huge amounts of unnecessary costs and logistical challenges and is placing both our businesses and our ability to compete effectively on the world stage at a considerable disadvantage compared to our European neighbours.

I, of course, understand that there will be teething problems with Brexit, but this has been a long transition period, and my understanding is that there has been a working party of vets and other experts throughout, so these problems were foreseeable and yet remain unresolved and apart from anything else appear to have little to do with animal welfare.

Sarah Lewis