Compulsory microchipping in horses

Unfortunately, many horses are abandoned and left to fend for themselves due to old age, illness, or unexpected costs. To help ensure that horses are given the life they deserve, the government introduced compulsory microchipping in horses.

Here’s what it means for you and your equine... 

What is a horse microchip? 

Your horse’s microchip contains a code that connects to their unique identification information. Their microchip details can then be:

  • Recorded on their passport. 
  • Registered on a database.
  • Linked to their Animal Friends insurance account

It is a legal requirement to have your horse microchipped if you’re located in England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.

The owner (or ‘keeper’) of a horse who isn’t microchipped could face sanctions – including a hefty fine!

So, it’s essential to keep your horse’s microchip details up-to-date (more about this later!), and inform the relevant PIO (passport issuing organisation) straight away if you notice any mistakes. 

A PIO is the organisation with which your horse’s passport is registered. Some examples of equine passport issuing organisations include:  

Check out the UK Government website for full lists of horse passport issuing organisations.

Why is it a legal requirement to microchip horses?

Microchipping is important because it significantly improves the chances of being reunited with your horse or pony if:

  • They’ve escaped.
  • Become lost.
  • They’re stolen.

Through microchipping, authorities may be able to trace an owner if ahorse has been abandoned, mistreated, or they’re found fly-grazing (illegally grazing on land without the landowner’s permission).

Where are equine microchip records stored?

The Central Equine Database (CED) contains records of microchip and passport information for horses. By law, your horse must be registered on the CED; to find out whether your horse is registered, you can use their Chipchecker feature.

It’s free to create an account with the CED! 

Your horse’s microchip records are stored on an online database, which can either be managed by a PIO or through your own account. 

Did you know? Equine Register, the organisation that runs CED, is a trusted partner of Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs).

Does microchipping hurt horses?

Since your vet will use a needle to implant the microchip into your horse’s neck, it’s likely to cause discomfort for a very short time (like a vaccination!). 

Once the microchip has been implanted, your vet should scan your horse’s neck to check the microchip is activated. The use of a microchip scanner won’t harm your horse.

However, if your horse has a negative reaction to the microchip at any time in the few days following implantation, you’ll need to contact your vet immediately. 

Here are some signs that may indicate your horse has had a negative reaction to the microchip:

  • Bruising or bleeding under the skin (haematoma).
  • Abscess near the microchip site.
  • An inflammatory response as their body rejects the microchip (swelling, pain, etc.). 

In the event your horse reacts negatively to a microchip, you and your vet will need to complete this Microchip Adverse Event Reporting Form. When you have completed the form, it should be sent to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) – which you can do online.

Microchipping a horse

Is a microchip proof of ownership?

No, a microchip is not proof of ownership.

As an ‘owner’, you can be recognised as your horse’s registered ‘keeper’. But, if you loan your horse from an ‘owner’, you are your horse’s ‘keeper’ and your details will be registered on their passport. In that situation, since you are your horse’s ‘keeper’, both you and the ‘owner’ hold the legal responsibility for keeping your horse’s microchip and passport information up to date. 

Examples of evidence typically used as proof of ownership for horses:

  • Purchase receipt.
  • Veterinary records.
  • Vet bills.
  • Farrier bills.
  • Past insurance documents.
  • Contract of sale (dated and signed, by both the buyer and seller).

What to do if your new horse doesn’t have a microchip

It is illegal for horses to be sold without a microchip and passport. So, if you view a horse whose current owner has no record of their microchip or passport, ask them the reason and consider walking away from the sale. 

All passports issued after July 2009 should already contain microchip details. 

If you discover that your new horse doesn’t have a microchip, book an appointment with a vet to have them microchipped as soon as possible

You’ll also need to contact the PIO with which your horse’s passport is registered, and update your horse’s record on the CED website within 30 days of purchase.

The cost of microchipping your horse will depend on the veterinary practice you choose and where you are located. Typically, to microchip a horse could cost upwards of £25 – before any additional fees are added (e.g. ‘call out’ as well as the cost of a passport).

For even more equine advice, check out our horse owner checklist and horse health guides – to help keep your horse happy and healthy!

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Your horse's details can be added to your policy in our Customer Hub so that you have them to hand should you ever need them. 

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