Compulsory Microchipping – What Horse Owners Need to Know

Shockingly regular reports of horses being dumped and mistreated have prompted a new law on microchipping to be introduced. All horse, pony and donkey owners will need to act to ensure they comply with the latest regulations. To make it easy for you, we’ve gathered everything you need to know about microchipping your horse in this handy guide.

Why has compulsory microchipping for all horses been introduced?

In 2017, the RSPCA reported rescuing nearly 1,000 horses. With increased costs in care, the shocking reality is that more and more horses are ‘fly-tipped’ or dumped when their owners feel they can no longer look after them. Unfortunately, many of these rescued animals were not microchipped. And that means the irresponsible owners were not brought to justice for their cruel actions. It’s hoped that the new rules, which states all horses must be microchipped, will “prevent abuse and improve welfare.”

How does microchipping horses help the situation?

Each microchip contains a unique number that identifies the animal and its owner. It’s a permanent, non-removable marker. It enables the police and local authorities to trace owners of animals, and fine or punish them if they have not cared for their horse or pony appropriately.

What’s the difference between a horse passport and microchipping my horse?

All horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules in the UK must have a horse passport even if they never leave their field. (Unless they are considered wild or semi-wild – e.g. they are not under your control).

The passport is a booklet or smart card that records your horse’s height and species as well as indicating if it can be used for human food when it dies. Failing to be able to show a valid passport for your horse when requested is an offence. It could result in an unlimited fine.

Getting your horse microchipped is now an essential requirement for the horse passport to be issued, although it hasn’t always been. If your horse was issued with a passport before 2009, you’ll need to double check that it has been microchipped.

Microchipping horses is not a new idea

The rules on horse passports have already demanded that all horses born after July 2009 are microchipped. The new law will now ensure that older horses are also microchipped.

It’s also very like the rules that require all dogs are microchipped. This was introduced for similar reasons, to help ensure that irresponsible owners could be held to task for their actions.

Microchipping to reduce horse theft

Microchipping is not just a good idea to reduce the number of horses being dumped or mistreated. It’s hoped microchipping will also discourage thieves from stealing horses too. If your horse is stolen, the microchip makes it much easier to reunite horse and owner again.

Theft is not the only reason why you may be parted from your horse. While they are less likely to ‘roam’ than dogs, natural disasters or a careless walker simply forgetting to close the gate on your field, can mean your horse can get loose. As soon as your horse is picked up, they will be scanned as a matter of course, so you’ll be reunited quickly.

Do I have to get my horse microchipped now?

The new law on microchipping horses was put forward for parliamentary approval on 25 June 2018. It is expected to come into force in October 2018. But horse, pony and donkey owners will have two years to comply with the regulations. That means it won’t be mandatory for your horse, pony or donkey to be microchipped until October 2020 (unless it was born after July 2009). However, most responsible horse owners will ensure their horses are microchipped now rather than wait.

What is the Central Equine Database?

The Central Equine Database is a centrally managed database for the whole UK. It will use the microchip details to store information, such as who owns the horse, pony or donkey. It will be used by the police and local authorities to trace owners of horses that are found running wild or suffering abuse. And it can also be used to trace rightful owners if a horse is believed to be stolen.

How do I get my horse or pony microchipped?

Microchipping your horse is a straightforward technique that can be carried out by your vet. First, the chip will be scanned to ensure it is working. In most cases, your vet will use a large needle to inject the chip into the nuchal ligament. This is below the mane on the left side of the neck, roughly halfway between the poll and the withers.

Your vet will then scan the microchip again to make sure it is working. All the details of the horse and owner will then be uploaded onto the Central Equine Database.


How much will it cost to microchip my horse?

Costs can vary but are typically around £25-30. You’ll also need to factor in a visit fee if the vet is coming to you.


Will microchipping hurt or damage my horse?

No. Microchipping your horse causes minimal discomfort. As well as the standard microchip, a relatively new, smaller microchip is also available. This is around the size of a grain of rice, which means a finer needle can be used to inject it.

Microchipping should no leave any scarring. It is injected into the ligament, so is unlikely to move into the tissue.

What happens if I don’t microchip my horse?

Owners who fail to microchip their horses, ponies, and donkeys by October 2020 could be fined £200.

Selling your horse

If you sell your horse, you’ll need to transfer the ownership details held on the database. This is easy to do by contacting the Central Equine Database.

Other ways to protect your horse

Microchipping can help you find your horse or pony faster if it is stolen. But there are other ways you can protect it, including taking out horse insurance.

Park Insurance has been helping horse owners for 30 years to protect themselves financially with equine insurance products. We offer a complete range, from covering emergency vets’ bills and public liability to insuring your horsebox or stables. To find out more, call our dedicated equine team today on 0117 9556835 or get a free quote.