Do all horses need an equine passport?

By Wendy Talbot on 31 August 2017

Do all horses need an equine passport?

All horses and ponies in the UK must have an equine passport, even if they never leave their field. The legislation comes from an EU directive that has been adopted into UK law to protect the human food chain from meat containing traces of equine medicine that may be harmful to humans. It has had the additional benefit of making it much harder to sell stolen horses.

There are different regulations for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but they’re all clear on this point: your horse must have a passport and the owner has a legal duty to make sure it is correctly identified.

It’s estimated that fewer than one in five horse-owners understand the UK system of horse passports or their own responsibilities relating to this. Don’t be caught out!

Since horse passports are EU law, will they be abolished when the UK leaves the EU?

Less easy answer: we don’t know. Although these regulations originally came from the EU, they are now British law and wouldn’t automatically be abolished when we leave. The decision on whether to keep the laws, update them or repeal them would be the responsibility of the UK government. In the meantime, for the next two years at least until Brexit becomes a reality, British horse owners will still have to comply with the relevant laws. Nevertheless, they provide a useful record of a horse’s vaccination and medicine history.

When do I need to show my equine’s passport?

The equine passport must be kept with the horse at all times. For example, if you normally stable your horse at livery, the passport must be kept at the livery. Obviously, the authorities won’t expect your horse to carry its passport around while grazing or out on a ride, but you should always know where it is and be prepared to hand it over promptly if requested by the authorities (such as Trading Standards). If you have a horse in your care and you can’t show a valid passport on request, you could get an unlimited fine.

Occasions when you might realistically be asked to show your horse’s passport include showing the horse at a competition, transporting the animal and importantly when getting medical treatment for your horse. In the event of the horse’s death, you will need to send the passport back to the office that issued it. It is an offence not to do this within 30 days.

Does my horse have to be microchipped?

Microchipping is now a compulsory part of the horse passport application process, and the passport will contain the horse’s microchip information.

Horses that received passports before microchipping became a requirement on the 1st July 2009, won’t need to get a microchip. However, many horse owners choose to get their animal microchipped anyway, because it can be very helpful in recovering a lost or stolen horse. If you do decide to get your horse microchipped when it already has a passport, it is important to let the relevant passport issuing organisation know. They will need a copy of the microchipping paperwork so they can update your horse’s information on their database.

My horse does not have a passport and is not microchipped. What do I need to do?

It doesn’t matter if you’ve bred the horse, bought it or rescued it; you need to get a passport as soon as possible. If you bought or rescued the horse and you’re not sure if it’s already got one, try to find out via organisations that issue them. A list of these passport issuing organisations is available on the Defra website. If the horse turns out to already have a passport, you’ll need to register the change of ownership.

If you’ve carried out all the checks and can’t track down the original paperwork for your horse, you can apply for a replacement passport.

Whatever you end up doing, act as quickly as possible. Being in charge of a horse without an equine passport is an offence and carries very heavy fines.

Further Reading

BHS- FAQs overview horse passport 
BHS- horse passports 
Veterinary Record 



Wendy graduated from Bristol University in 1999. She then went on to complete a residency at Liverpool University and holds a European Diploma in Equine Internal Medicine. After working in practice for 13 years, she joined Zoetis in 2012 as the National Equine Veterinary Manager.

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