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The Brexit burden: trainer reveals the full cost of getting horses to France

Free movement of horses between Britain and the EU came to an end on December 31
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The combination of Twitter and Brexit remains a heady brew but trainer Richard Hobson has no regrets after sparking a heated debate when posting an itemised breakdown of the new costs of travelling three horses to France. 

Hobson relies on being able to run horses in France from his base near Cheltenham and sending others on longer stays to his satellite operation there, and listed costs totalling almost £2,000 for sending three across at the end of the week. 

While many online sympathised with Hobson's plight, he received a string of responses which ranged from the assumption that rich racehorse trainers could easily absorb the costs, to the assertion that he deserved to be charged because of the better prize-money on offer in France. 

"With my tweet, people don't realise what I do for a business," said Hobson. "They just think I'm a trainer travelling an owner's horses around. The horses I'm taking are part of my business. They're young horses who are going to go and run in France and for which I've had the best part of three years worth of costs from when they were foals. I want to try to win a couple of races and sell them on.

"From that side of things, there are massive expenses before they even see the track and this is just extra cost on top before I can even think about selling them.

"The bottom line is [previously] I was paying for the ferry, a £50 export licence and a racecourse clearance to go to France."

Hobson's additional costs post-Brexit include: a £420 charge to clear the Calais border inspection point; £186 in vet's fees and to obtain EU health certificates; £110 export customs clearance at Dover and £230 import customs clearance on arrival in France. 

Richard Hobson: "People don't realise what I do for a business. They just think I'm a trainer travelling an owner's horses around"

Not included in his itemised bill posted online is another £1,000 per horse in VAT payments he will not recoup as they are unlikely to be returning to Britain.

Hobson added: "With a young horse you can estimate the value and if it wasn't bought at auction or led out unsold, a lot of people will just say it's worth £500. I've been realistic and said they're worth five grand. 

"With that I can't claim it back because where they are going in France is not VAT-registered. I don't know how the Irish will do it because a lot of them aren't VAT-registered so they will have to rely on the transport companies."

Hobson said, in addition to the extra costs and planning involved, he has been told to expect a time-consuming wait before even leaving Britain.

"We've got a horse, Eureu Du Boulay, who runs next week at Fontainebleau and you have to do a carnet for them," said Hobson. "That's ten trips there and back and you can put as many horses on there as you want but once the ten trips are up, that's another £700.

Richard Hobson will be charged both import fees and sizeable handling charge to take three horses through the Calais border inspection point this week

"After that we'll probably have three or four runners going back and forth, depending on what they can win. You can't go splashing out two grand every time if you're going to come back empty handed." 

Of potential delays in crossing, Hobson added: "I've got to be down there at eight o'clock on Friday morning – which means leaving home at four – because I've been warned that I might not be getting on a ferry until four in the afternoon. 

"The movement of horses in our business is massive. So many people rely on it at the smaller end. Of course you get the big consignors and the big-money people who won't think twice. They get the right people to do the paperwork and whatever it costs, they'll pay it. 

"There are a lot of people like me trying to make ends meet and have a bit of success. We’re trying to attract a few new owners, have a few winners and to make it pay."

Read more:

Members' Club: first French runner to tackle Brexit and Covid hurdles arrives in Britain

Harrington bemoans 'seriously annoying' paperwork for sending runners to Britain

Members' Club: Grangee escapade welcome but VAT costs exorbitant and Cotswolds clock is ticking

Members' Club: Brexit red tape causing 'significant difficulties' for horse transporters

Members' Club: Gay Kelleway to saddle first post-Brexit runner in France

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The movement of horses in our business is massive. So many people rely on it at the smaller end

Key data

Richard Hobson
E.W. Terms