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Registering competition horses in France

A family's experience of registering horses in France

Moving to France with your horse?

Are you thinking of re-locating to France and taking your horse with you? If you are and you are wanting to compete, then you will need to register your horse. An account of Angela Allen's experiences in attempting to do this follows. It is something she thought would be relatively simple, as all horses in the UK now need passports anyway and France is only a hop, skip and a jump away... but French horse bureaucracy was something Angela wasn't quite prepared for!

Registering Horses in the UK

As horse owners will know, horses in the UK can be registered with a specific breed society, depending on the breed of the horse (usually non-thoroughbreds), with an affiliation such as Ponies UK or the National Pony Society who register native or mountain & moorland ponies (such as Exmoor or New Forest), or with a well-known establishment such as Weatherbys, who register all thoroughbreds and registered non-thoroughbreds. The latter must be over 14.2h and have at least 50% thoroughbred blood in them. (Weatherbys is a UK company which has been involved in all things to with racing and horses since the 18th century. It not only registers horses but is also able to provide export licences and horse passports.)

Registering Horses in France

Meanwhile, in order to register a horse in France, you need to have obtained a passport for the horse (now mandatory in the UK anyway), a sketch of the horse done by a French Vet, and an export licence. The horse also needs to have been micro-chipped.

Micro-chipping, sketching and export licences

All the Allen's horses were micro-chipped in France except one which was done in England by their vet as the horse in question was, in Angela's words 'likely to cause trouble!' They had a French vet put all the sketches together with lots of other forms, and they sent them all to Weatherbys to issue export licences. (These were free as the horses were not going to be used for racing.)

Thoroughbred procedures

Once the export licences where issued for the thoroughbred horses, Wetherbys sent all the necessary papers to France's equivalent of Weatherbys, France Galop, in order for them to confirm that the Allen's pure thoroughbreds were actually pure thoroughbreds. (France Galop do not charge for this service.) France Galop was to subsequently send them onto Haras Nationaux to be registered on the French database. (Haras Nationaux is France's equestrian body which has to register all horses in France.)

Non-thoroughbred procedures

The particulars of the Allen's other horses which were not pure thoroughbreds, Weatherbys sent straight to Haras Nationaux for registering, this time a charge was involved of 110€. It sounds simple enough but they found it far from simple! It seems the passports Angela had issued in the UK for her non-thoroughbred horses were not acceptable. Angela writes:

'Before leaving Britain we applied for Pleasure Horse Society Passports for some of the horses that were not registered with a breed society. A couple of weeks before leaving we were told that the French authorities do not recognise these passports - panic stations! We had to get letters from the vet to say the horses concerned were fit and healthy to travel. Fortunately John Parker, the transporter, arranged for a vet to examine the horses while they stayed at his yard over night. Our old pony of 36 years caused a problem as our vet didn't think we should take the risk and take her with us, but there was no way we were leaving her so we persuaded him to sign the papers. Another of our horses was only registered as non-thoroughbred, but we managed to get Wetherbys to do a quick up-date so all was well… or so we thought!'

French bureaucracy

When Angela checked the Haras Nationaux website several months ago she found only three of the five horses were registered. Since then one more has been registered, but one non-thoroughbred is still missing from the database. And this horse, although not a pure thoroughbred, had excellent pedigree as it could be traced back to the famous Seabiscuit. Still, they had registered two unknown horses with Angela who she didn't know anything about! So Weatherbys were contacted, who said they had sent all the papers to France Galop. Yet Haras Nationaux said they never received any papers... so where had they gone? The Allens asked Haras Nationaux to take it up with France Galop rather than them being a go-between, which they are currently doing.

The chances of competing

The long and short of it is that the Allens cannot compete with this last horse until it is registered. Their only hope now is to send photocopies to Haras Nationaux and hope for the best. Angela feels that although the Haras Nationaux website states that horses don't have to be thoroughbreds to compete, English horses do. So although they've been in France just over a year now, with the time its taken for their horses to be registered, they'll be lucky if they do one show this year (Angela's daughters competed nearly every weekend in England). Not a perfect situation - but it's wise to expect teething problems like this when moving over to France. That way if things work out smoothly it'll be a pleasant surprise.

Addtional articles which may be of interest:

Taking Pets to France - New Rules from 2012
Travelling to France with Pets
Horses in France

your questions...

1. Some questions about registering, competing and teaching (added 20/5/11)...

I came aross the above article when "googling" for information. We are contemplating a move to France with our horses and wanted to know how easy/difficult it would be to register and compete in France. It would seem from this that we have to possibly contact France Galop and the Haras Nationaux to register the Thoroughbred horses with Weatherby's passports but not clear about the others. One is homebred and registered with the Anglo-European studbook. Her pedigree is known - she was homebred out of a Thoroughbred mare by an AES registered stallion. The other horse is registered and has his passport issued by Sport Horse GB but we know absolutely nothing about his parentage at all. He has competed up to Intermediate level BE eventing, the others are younger and are variously competing at BE100 up to Novice level. We would like to continue competing so is the secondary registration mentioned, either "Club or Sport" register the equivalent of our affiliated disciplines i.e. British Dressage, British Showjumping and BE (British Eventing)?

Another question we would like to ask is about teaching riding in France. My son-in-law teaches very successfully in this country and was short-listed for the Olympic Games so a very experienced competition rider but has no paper qualifications. Would this preclude him teaching in France?

I know these questions are very specific but maybe you could advise us whom we need to speak to as it may well affect our decision.

Jo Rhodes, editor of French Property Links replies...

Thanks for contacting us. I apologise for the delay in response but I have been in contact with my colleague Joanna in France who in turn has been in contact with others to try to get you the right information. A colleague of hers has the following to say:

"I run a livery yard and riding school in the Deux-Sevres, we have lived here for eight years. To compete at any level above club level (riding school) the horse needs to have full papers (i.e. breeding history) and needs to be registered with the Haras Nationaux. It would be sport not club you are wanting. Competitions are few and far between here, unless you want to show jump, so I would advise you to research your area very carefully to make sure you have ample events near enough to you.

As for teaching in France, it is highly unlikely with no qualifications your son-in-law will be able to teach here, other than under the supervision of a French qualified instructor. The French are extremely hot on paper qualifications. I have BHS qualifications and twenty years experience and it has taken eight years to finally gain the right to teach in France. It is not impossible, just very, very difficult. Also, you will need to have an extremely strong command of the French language to even get off the starting post. Sorry it is not more straightforward, it is very different here and it is best you know what you are likely to be facing."

I hope this information is of use.

2. Questions regarding club jumping, registration and micro chips (added 19/9/13)...

Can you tell me if you still need to register your horse with the Haras Nationaux if you only do club jumping and if they need to be micro chipped for just club jumping?

Jo Rhodes, editor of French Property Links replies...

Thanks for contacting us. I was under the impression that you would not have to register your horse, unless you were doing more than club jumping, but I cannot say for certain. I would check with Haras Nationaux about this (, or search on Google for an equestrian establishment in France, as they should know.

As regards micro chipping, I believe it is now mandatory for all horses to be micro chipped in France. For confirmation of this I would suggest you go and see your Vet, as they should be able to advise you. You could also check with DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) who have issued clear and concise guidelines for taking animals to France. Contact details are as follows:
Defra Helpline -
08459 33 55 77 - Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

You could also check with the French equivalent of DEFRA and the French Embassy: (the French Ministry for Agriculture site) (French Embassy site)

your comments...

1. Update on the registration process required for competition horses...

An update from the Allens which will be of interest to those wanting to compete in France, says that they have since discovered that you must register your horses twice in order to compete. Firstly with Haras Nationaux, and secondly with either a Club or Sport Register, depending on your level of competition. For the second registration, you must provide your horse's sire number which you can obtain from Haras Nationaux.

2. Further update on the process involved in obtaining sire numbers...

The Allens say:

Hi - things are finally coming to an end. We sent the passports back to the Haras Nationaux so they could give us the sire numbers. This was in June. We heard nothing from them for some time except to say that Candles For Pelly would have to have her name registered to be a brood mare. She wasn't going to be a brood mare, and after finally getting this point over, they said her name wasn't registered at all so we'd need to do that. Meanwhile they had sent our passports on to France Galop.

By the time August came we still had got no further, still no sire numbers and still no returned passports. France Galop and Haras Nationaux were chased a number of times. A slight concern was that we were aware that horse owners must have their horse passports with them at all times. If the horse passports aren't available during a routine inspection, the horses can taken away.

Last week the three passports came back with the sire numbers in them! We have sent a cheque for 101€ to have Candys name registered, so let's see how long that takes.

3. Invaluable comments about competing in France (added 15/1/14)...

Just a quick pointer - I have started to compete in France in Endurance at club level. All was going nicely until I was told last week, that as I am English, I am competing illegally in France despite having a French club licence. A quick phone call to the FFE later and my worst fears were conformed. Despite the fact I have lived here for over ten years, I have to buy two licences every year in order to compete - even at club level. It's the same for pro and amateur levels too. If you are English you must be a member of your sports organisation in the UK (in my case Endurance GB - cost of licence £55 + £22 fee as I am resident in France). Then you have to get a written authorisation from said association to state you are able to compete in France, then on top of that you also need to pay for a French licence (36 Euros every year), and then you can compete. But unless you change your nationality to French you can not ever participate in a championnat de France. Hope this info is useful to anyone wanting to compete at any level out here. This information is correct as of December 2013.

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