Nearly-impossible vet appointments for horses arriving in France are giving the UK racing sector a hard time. Trainers who make business with horses from abroad are finding it particularly hard to cope.
A UK trainer who wants to run a horse in France needs to secure an appointment with a French inspection vet in Calais or Caen before embarking on the ferry.
Without an appointment, the lorry transporting the horse is not allowed on. But the hours offered by vets, Charlie Brooks has written in The Telegraph, “are unsuitable as far as giving a horse a smooth passage”.
Further, even with an appointment trainers face hour-long waiting times in Calais.
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Horse-racing trainer John Gosden told Mr Brooks: “I’ve hardly had any runners in France this year.
“Just not fair on the horses.”
The words of Nick Skelton, an Olympic gold medal-winning rider, echo Mr Gosden’s: “It’s been catastrophic as far as the movement of horses to and from Europe is concerned.”
The horses’ trips from the bloc to the UK aren’t easy either.
Mr Skelton, who used to train 60 horses from around Europe in Warwickshire, has moved his work to the Netherlands, as bringing the horses over became too difficult and expensive for his clients.
Mr Brooks wrote: “Unsurprisingly the European authorities are much better at taking the tax than they are at repaying it.”
Horse racing and breeding are worth £4.1bn annually to the UK and support tens of thousands of jobs.
That contribution to the economy was possible thanks to an agreement established between Ireland, France and Britain in the 1960s that allowed horses to move smoothly between the countries for breeding and racing.
With Brexit, however, the process changed.
In June, Ross Hamilton, of the British Horseracing Authority, told a House of Commons committee: “In terms of quantification of the impacts we have seen, overall, British runners in EU countries are down 51 percent for the first four months of this year, compared with the equivalent period in 2019.
“Runners from the EU in Great Britain are down around 40 percent.”
Mr Brooks suggests that while the UK’s equine businesses are struggling to stay alive, France is taking advantage of the situation to cash in more.
He wrote: “Of course, the French authorities know exactly what they are doing, and are using this as an opportunity to create a commercial advantage.”