Traceability: what does it mean for your horse? 

Find out what traceability means for you and your horse and our 5 key steps on how to improve it.

Find out what traceability means for you and your horse and our 5 key steps on how to improve it.

It is common for horses to change hands, sometimes multiple times over the course of their lives, highlighting the importance of having a system in place that allows for horses to be fully traceable throughout their lifetime. Current identification regulations require all horses to have a passport and a microchip as means of identification and contain up-to-date details of their registered owner. However, there are flaws with this system which can lead to lack of traceability, fraudulent changes being made to horse details, horse theft and in some cases, horses being smuggled out of the country. Illegal identification documents are surprisingly common and horses may even have more than one microchip. It is important when microchip scanning to scan twice in order to double check that there is only one microchip.

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We have pulled together 5 simple steps all horse owners should take to make sure their horses remain visible and protected: 

  1. Make sure your horse is microchipped (a legal requirement) and has a passport with a UK Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) 
  1. Check your horse’s passport information (e.g., your details and your horse’s description) is up to date and that their microchip number is included in the passport 
  1. Visit the Central Equine Database (hosted by the Equine Register) and make sure your horse is registered on there. 
  1. Sign up to the Digital Stable (or ScotEquine in Scotland) to create alerts and upload photos should your horse be stolen. These are free services.  
  1. Take photos of your horse regularly, especially of any distinctive markings. Include head shots and photos of the full body from both sides.  

The photos you take don’t need to be perfect or staged but should clearly show any distinctive markings as demonstrated by the photos of Bandit below. 

A front and side views of a horse with black and white markings standing in a field.

Horses can also change colour over time, particularly if they are grey. If you were shown the two pictures of Diamond below, would you believe they were the same horse? Therefore, it is important to take regular photos to document any changes to coat colour. 

A young grey and white horse standing in front of trees and a barn showing his face and right side 

A white horse standing in a field showing his face and right side with trees behind him.

You may have seen our News story on the Dover 26. These horses were found with fraudulent documentation and were more than likely being smuggled out of the country. This case really highlights the need for proper identification and traceability. You can read more about the progress of the Dover 26 since being in our care here.  

To find out more on our work towards improving equine identification and traceability please see our ‘Equine ID and Traceability’ position page. 

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Not found the advice or answer you were looking for here? Then our Advice Line is available during office hours, or you can email us on education@worldhorsewelfare.org to let us know what topics you were looking for.

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