Horses and ponies across Britain (except in certain wild herds) are required by law to have a horse passport, whether they languish in a field or are ridden daily. The regulations are clear: if the owner doesn’t obtain one they could be liable for a fine of up to £5,000.
Once issued, the passport must accompany the horse when he attends a competition, moves to a new yard, travels abroad, is sold or loaned, is attended by the vet, is used for breeding or taken for slaughter. A passport lasts for the horse’s lifetime.
So how does an owner obtain a passport for their horse?
Defra has a web page that lists 76 approved passport-issuing organisations (PIOs). These include breed societies — which you should use if you know the pedigree of your horse — and organisations, such as the British Horse Society (BHS), British Equestrian Federation (BEF) and British Showjumping, to which you can apply if your horse is not a specific breed.
A foal needs a passport by 31 December of the year in which he was born or before he reaches six months of age (whichever is later). Anyone who buys an older horse with no passport will need to apply for one within 30 days. If the horse does come with a passport, it is the owner’s responsibility to notify the PIO of their name and address details within 30 days.
Book your vet, as he will need to microchip your foal or horse — this has been compulsory for foals born since 2009.
The vet will also scan any horse to ensure that he has not been microchipped already. If he has, a PIO will need to be contacted to see if the horse has been issued with a passport in the past and, if so, a replacement requested.
Once microchipped, the vet will then need to state on the application form where he has implanted the microchip, fill in the identification details and sign and stamp the form. The owner can then send it off to a PIO, allowing around four weeks for the passport’s return.
Costs vary, so researching the various PIOs on the internet will pay off. And don’t forget to factor in paying the vet for his visit.
The Horse Passport Agency charges £22 for an online submission from a vet; British Showjumping costs are £15 per passport to members and £27 to non-members, while it also offers group discounts. The BHS, meanwhile, sometimes runs passport sessions with the price tag of £25, including a passport and a microchip.
PIOs will issue duplicate passports if one is genuinely lost. It is an offence to apply for another passport if the horse’s current one has not been mislaid.
When the horse dies, it is a legal requirement that the passport must be sent back to the issuing PIO within 30 days.