Horses are part of an ever growing industry, with over 600,000 horses in the UK, 1.4 million riders and 5 million people with an active interest in the equine industry*. Most people acquire a horse out of choice, so if you make this decision you should think carefully before going ahead. A horse needs lots of love and care, including regular worming, vaccinations and dental care. Owning a horse is time consuming and can be costly; not only will you will need to consider where you will keep your horse, you must also consider the ongoing costs of owning a horse which include accommodation, bedding, feed and healthcare.
In the unlikely event that your horse goes missing it is going to be very difficult for anyone to know who it belongs to, unless your horse carries some form of permanent identification. It is wise to get your horse microchipped or freezemarked, this will avoid heartache in the long run, should your horse go missing or is stolen.
Horses are herd animals, and thrive on being together with other horses. Don’t forget that your horse will need somewhere to graze, a stable for warmth in the winter time, a constant supply of water, feeding daily and regular exercise. It can cost hundreds of pounds a month to care for a horse, including accommodation, food, veterinary care and insurance; there will be other costs, including buying tack and rugs and extra livery charges when you go on holiday.
Horses can live into their thirties, over this time your horse will need lots of care and attention. Being able to provide all of this will ensure you and your horse make the most of your time together.
* Research conducted in 2004 by the Henley Centre for DEFRA and the British Horse Industry Confederation.
Equine passports (UK/Europe)
If you are unsure about the requirements for equine passports, then read on. Passports contain important information about your horse, including details of who owns the horse, identification (including identification number) and much more.
The following regulations are now in force:
- Equine Identification (England) Regulations 2018
- Equine Animal Identification (Scotland) Regulations 2019
- Equine Identification (Wales) Regulations 2019
- Equine Identification (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2019
All regulations can be read in full on the legislation.gov.uk website. The regulations require vets to carry out certain actions when administering, prescribing and dispensing substances or medicines to horses.
All equine animals need a passport and all those born after the 1st July 2009 also need to be identified with a microchip implanted by a vet. In England, the regulations now make it a legal requirement for every horse, pony and donkey to be microchipped and have a valid UK passport, with all details stored on a Central Equine Database (CED).
The passport document contains information which identifies the horse for which it was issued.
- Section I:
- Owner: name of the owner or his agent.
- Section II + III:
- The horse must be identified by the competent authority (includes identification number and, where present, the identifying electronic chip).
- Section IV:
- Recording of identity checks.
- Whenever laws and regulations so require, checks conducted on the identity of the horse must be recorded by the competent authority.
- Section V + VI:
- Vaccination record.
- All vaccinations must be recorded.
- Section VII:
- Laboratory health tests.
- The results of all tests carried out to detect transmissible diseases must be recorded.
- Section VIII:
- Basic health requirements.
- States basic health requirements and lists the diseases which must be noted on the health certificate.
- Section IX:
- Medicinal treatment.
- To record certain medicinal treatments.
All passports must contain Sections I, II, III, IV and IX.
Sections V-VIII must be included in the document issued for horses either registered or eligible for entry in a studbook of a recognized organization. These Sections can also be included in other passports.
Documents that do not comply with the format and which were not issued by a recognized Passport Issuing Organization are not valid under the regulations.
A vaccination certificate is not a substitute for a passport.
Implications for veterinarians
You can approach your vet to:
- Complete the silhouette details and sign it - your vet cannot sign a silhouette that he did not complete himself. and/or verify the silhouette details and sign it. It is not a legal requirement to have a silhouette, where the animal is also microchipped, however, most breed societies will continue to require that this is completed.
- Microchip your horse.
Section IX - Declaration
- You may also approach your vet for advice as to which declaration to sign on the passport, ie 'Intended for Human Consumption' or 'Not Intended for Human Consumption'.
Administration of veterinary medicines
Section IX - Declaration
Section IX of your horse's passport includes details on whether or not your horse is intended for human consumption. You must decide if it is or not, and sign the appropriate section.
If your horse is prescribed, administered or supplied with medicine by your vet you must show your vet your horse's passport so they can check if your horse is, or is not intended for human consumption. This declaration determines what action your vet takes and what medicine he can prescribe or use.
In Scotland, the declaration must be signed before the horse moves off the premises for the first time. This means that you must make a decision on the future of your horse at an early stage. In England and other parts of the United Kingdom, you can opt to leave the declaration in Section IX blank for completion at a later date; however, you must then treat your horse as if it were to enter the food chain and record medicines as directed by your vet.
Horses intended for human consumption
Your vet will need your horse's passport to record the medicines that have been prescribed/administered/supplied. An 'intended' declaration does not mean you definitely have to elect for abattoir euthanasia, but it does mean that you will have kept open that option should your circumstances change in the future. If the 'intended' declaration is signed, or neither declaration has been signed, it will be necessary to keep a record of veterinary medicines administered to the horse, regardless of who administers them. Certain medicines must be recorded in the passport itself.
Horses NOT intended for human consumption
No record of treatment in the passport will be necessary. This declaration is not reversible and once your horse has been deemed not intended for human consumption, he or she cannot enter the food chain.
Horses without passports
Your vet will give you a written record of the treatment your horse receives. If your horse is intended for human consumption, or the declaration is not signed, this information must be recorded by you in your horse's passport as soon as it is available.
If your horse does not have a passport you must apply for one immediately.
All horses must have a passport, regardless of age or type, with no exceptions other than wild or feral horses living on Dartmoor, Exmoor or in the New Forest (special regulations apply to these groups of animals). Any equine-animal, horse, pony, donkey, ass or mule born after the 1st July 2009 must also have a microchip inserted by a veterinary surgeon. In England the regulations now make it a legal requirement for every horse, pony and donkey to be microchipped and have a valid UK passport, with all details stored on a Central Equine Database (CED).
It is illegal to buy or sell a horse without a passport and you should contact your local trading standards office, if you have any concerns over the legality of a horse passport, the sale or purchase of a horse.
Your vet will not refuse treatment without viewing your horse passport but there are restrictions on which medicines that can be used or prescribed.
Foals should have a passport by the time he or she is six months old or 31st December in the year the foal was born, whichever is the later date.
The owner must return the passport to the Passport Issuing Organization within 30 days of the death of a horse, indicating the date of death, so that the Organization's records can be updated and the passport cancelled unless the horse was sold to a slaughterhouse. The Passport Issuing Organization may agree to return the passport.
Useful websites and contact information
For comprehensive details on equine passports in general, including guidance for horse owners, Passport Issuing Organisations, veterinary surgeons, applying at slaughterhouses, Local Authority Inspectors, auctioneers and the National Equine Database visit:
- Getting and using a horse passport
- Livestock ID and Traceability of Horses in Scotland
- Horse passports (British Equine Veterinary Association)
- Horse passports (British Horse Society)
Please note that web links are subject to change.
The DEFRA helpline email for passports is email@example.com.
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate is the government body responsible for the use of medicines in all species of animals and the VMD can be contacted on 01932 336911.
Passport Issuing Organisations (PIOs)
An up-to-date list of organisations and associations authorised to issue horse passports is available here.
As well as the main breed societies, a number of general horse societies and companies also issue equine passports to all types of horses, ponies and donkeys.