A horse transporter has urged owners to be aware of the potential dangers of engaging unlicensed operators from social media sites.
Sarah Whittaker, of East Sussex-based Equine Express, says she and other licensed transporters are concerned riders may be putting their horses’ safety at risk by choosing cheaper options.
“If a quote sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she said.
“There are specific Facebook groups in which people post saying they need horses moved, and every Tom, Dick and Harry can quote saying they’ll do it for £50.
“It costs a lot for professional transporters to be registered with Defra, tested for competency and insured properly, but it seems anyone with a horsebox in the yard can undercut us as they don’t have to pay for all that.”
Mrs Whittaker, who has been a transporter for 15 years, explained that there are a number of possible issues with unlicensed operators.
“The vehicle itself could be old, not maintained and potentially dangerous,” she warned.
“I’ve seen pictures of a horse who was travelled with an unlicensed transporter and ended up with injured front legs. The owner implied it was down to the way the lorry was driven but the driver just said: ‘Here’s your horse,” and went, leaving her with a bleeding horse.
“Of course, she had no comeback as it wasn’t a licensed operator.
“A professional will have a decent, well-maintained horsebox, be certified, have the right insurance and make sure the horse is ok.
“With unlicensed people, you haven’t even got a guarantee the horse will end up where it’s supposed to be – you don’t know who these people are.”
Mrs Whittaker runs a website, My Horse Transport Network, which allows owners to obtain quotes from licensed operators.
“You fill in a form and it contacts all the Defra-registered transporters for you, so you’ll only get quoted by decent professionals,” she said.
“The site’s got reviews so you know who you’re getting. People seem to be trusting social media with their horses and putting them in any old box to save money.
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“I’m sure there’s always been an issue with unlicensed transporters but social media gives anyone with a lorry an avenue to quote.
“I just want to alert riders to the fact that using the non-professionals can put their horses at risk.
“It’s a really big problem that seems not to have a lot of coverage but we want people to realise it’s not just about the best price, it’s about knowing who you’re trusting with your horse.”