All horses and ponies need to have a passport identifying the animal. Owners of foals need to obtain a passport for it on or before 31st December of the year of its birth, or by six months after its birth, whichever is later.

How to obtain a horse passport

An owner could be fined up to £5,000 if they don’t have an up-to-date horse passport.

All horse and ponies have to be accompanied by an identification document (passport) during their movements (on foot and during transport).

You can get an application form for a horse passportfrom an authorised ‘Passport Issuing Organisation’ (PIO). The passport won’t be valid if it’s issued by an unauthorised organisation.You'll need to complete a passport application for each horse you own.

Most PIOs are recognised breed societies and may only issue passports for a particular breed of horse, however for horses that do not qualify for specific breed recognition there are PIO’s that will issue an identity passport to satisfy the legal requirements. See the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website for a list of all approved PIOs and their contact details.

You’ll receive your horse’s passport in the post, which normally takes five to 15 working days, although this can vary depending on the PIO. Once issued, the passport is valid for your horse’s lifetime.

Your horse will also get a ‘Unique Equine Life Number’.

Information included in a horse passport

Horse passports are small booklets that contain details about your horse, including:

  • its appearance, which is illustrated in diagram called a ‘silhouette’
  • its age
  • its breed/type
  • all the medications it has been given (if it has been declared ‘intended for human consumption’)

Horse passports - your questions answered

How do the Horse Passport Regulations affect owners of horses?

The Horse Passports Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004 required all owners to obtain a passport for each horse they own.  The introduction of The Horse Passports Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 strengthens the current scheme, and introduces compulsory micro-chipping for foals and horses not previously identified.

Why have the Horse Passports Regulations been updated?

Not all member states had implemented the horse passport requirements correctly, therefore the Commission has introduced a new Regulation to ensure a harmonised approach is taken across the EU.  The new Regulation strengthens the link between the horse and the information regarding its medical treatment that is recorded on the passport.  This measure will reduce the risk of unsuitable horses entering the food chain.  The permanent link will be achieved by means of an implanted microchip containing a unique identification number, with passport and microchip details recorded on a database.

What are the main changes?

The key changes being introduced are:      

  • mandatory microchipping of foals (and adult horses not previously identified) before a passport can be issued
  • horses must be accompanied by their passport at all times (with a few exceptions)
  • owners or keepers with primary responsibility for care of the horse must ensure any horse they look after is correctly identified
  • if a passport is not available or the horses food status is not known to the vet - certain veterinary medicines may not be administered or prescribed
  • extends the passport rules to zebra and other exotic equidae not previously covered
  • allows Member States to authorise the use of ‘smart cards’ instead of paper passports to accompany equidae moving within national boundaries

Why do horses need to be identified?

The aim of horse passport legislation is to ensure that horses which have been treated with veterinary medicines not authorised for use in food producing animals, cannot be slaughtered for human consumption.  Failure to comply with these requirements could result in Northern Ireland losing key veterinary medicines or our horsemeat trade.

When do I need to apply for a passport?

Foals have to have a passport and microchip by 31 December in the year in which they are born or 6 months after birth, whichever is the latest.  Animals born before 1 July 2009 which, at that date, do not have a passport under the existing rules will have to have a passport and microchip by
31 December 2009.

After this latter date you should apply for a passport as soon as possible. Owners of horses that have not applied for a passport within the timescales outlined in paragraph one above are committing an offence under The Horse Passports Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.  You should apply for a passport as soon as possible.

Owners should note that if you apply for a passport after the timelines outlined in the first paragraph Part 2 of Section IX will be completed by the issuing body before the passport is issued, irreversibly excluding the animal from the human food chain.

How do I get a passport?

Horse owners must obtain a passport for each horse they own.  This is done by application to one of the Passport Issuing Organisations (PIOs) that have been authorised by Defra or the devolved administrations to issue horse passports.  Some of these organisations deal with only one particular breed of horse, others will issue passports for all types of horses.

After 1 July 2009 all equines must have a microchip implanted before the application is submitted.  If your passport is urgently required, you may wish to check the processing time with the PIO. Some PIOs offer a ‘fast track’ service.  There is no minimum age under which an owner cannot apply for a horse passport.

How do I get a microchip implanted?

The microchip must be implanted by a veterinary surgeon; it is an offence for anyone other than a veterinary surgeon to insert a microchip.  The microchip itself will be supplied by the vet.  Some passport-issuing organisations will be able to sell you one along with a blank passport with the means to implant it.  You may not implant one of these yourself.  Before implantation, the vet will check the animal to ensure that it has not already had one implanted (even it has been subsequently removed).  Only microchips that comply with standard ISO 11784 and applying HDX or FDX-B technology should be used.  Any microchip inserted must not begin with the 826 UK code.  The vet will implant the microchip into the neck of your horse and will note the microchip number on your passport application.

I am the permanent keeper of a horse – am I responsible for obtaining the passport?

No.  It is the responsibility of the horse owner to obtain a passport.  The ‘keeper’ means a person who is not the owner of a horse but is appointed by the owner to have day-to-day charge of that horse.  Keepers with primary responsibility for the horse’s day-to-day welfare should satisfy themselves that all the horses under their care have been correctly identified before agreeing to keep them.  It is an offence to keep a horse without a passport.

How much does a passport cost?

The cost of a passport is the individual decision of the private sector equine organisations authorised to issue them.  Some organisations may offer discounted rates for riding schools and charities or for bulk applications.  Owners may wish to check this on application.  The average cost of having one horse implanted with a microchip including a call out fee is about £60.00.

Will the microchip help prevent theft?

Many owners already microchip their horses as a security measure as it can act as a deterrent and help to identify stolen or ill-treated animals.

My horse has a passport, does it need to be microchipped and do I need new documents?

Passports issued before 1 July 2009 under the existing rules will remain valid. A new passport and microchip are not required post after 1 July 2009.

What will be the penalties for failing to correctly identify animals under the new rules after 1 July 2009?

Failure to correctly identify animals under the new rules could lead to a fine of up to £5,000.00.

How long are passports valid for?

Passports are valid for the entire lifetime of the horse.

What shall I do if the passport requires updating with change of address or new ownership details?

Changes of ownership or change of permanent address of owner must be notified to the organisation that has issued the passport.  The Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) may require that the passport be returned for updating.  You must inform the PIO of either of these occurrences within
30 days.  Whilst your passport is with the PIO they will issue you with a temporary document that will allow you to move or transport your horse within the UK.

My horse has died - what should I do with the passport?

Upon the death of the animal you must return the passport to the issuing body within 30 days.  They are required by law to invalidate the passport (and, if a microchip was implanted, the microchip number).  You may however request that they return it once they have finished with it.

When do I need my passport?

At all times – with the following exceptions:

  • stabled or on pasture and the passport can be produced without delay
  • moved temporarily on foot in the vicinity of the holding and the passport can be produced within 3 hours
  • moved on foot between summer and winter grazing
  • un-weaned and accompanied by their dam or foster mare
  • participating in a training or test of an equestrian competition which requires them to leave the event venue
  • moved or transported under emergency conditions

How are horses identified in the passport?

From 1 February 2004, completed passport applications contained silhouettes (a diagram of the horse showing markings, whorls etc.) that have been verified and signed by either a veterinary surgeon or a competent representative from a recognised PIO.

From 1 July 2009 microchips replace silhouettes as the primary means of identification for passport purposes.  Some PIOs – as part of their individual rules - may still ask for a completed silhouette.

Other methods of identification (such as hot or freeze branding) cannot be used in place of the microchip as a method of identification for passport purposes but may be used as a supplementary method.

I have more than one passport for my horse - what should I do?

An owner whose horse has duplicate passports issued prior to
1 January 2007 may choose which document to retain.

However, the Section IX on the retained document must be signed as 'not intended' for human consumption, as there is a possibility that medicines may have been recorded in the passport that the horse owner does not wish to retain.  This measure helps protect the food chain and is in keeping with the requirements concerning duplicates contained in the Draft Regulation on ID of Equidae.  The unwanted passport must be returned to the issuer for cancellation.

Inclusion of verified breeding/pedigree information, in horse passports issued by Passport Issuing Organisations not representing a specific Breed (ID only)

When a horse with an ‘ID Only’ passport, is found to be eligible for registration with a Breed Society, the owner should contact that breed society as there are measures in place that allow for a passport to be ‘upgraded’ from breeding/production (ID-only) to pedigree.  The society will be able to advise you further regarding the actual process and costs.

I have a British Horse Database (BHD) passport – is it still valid?

Yes, if updated to current standards.  All passports issued by an organisation on the list of passport issuing organisations are valid.  In addition, although the BHD are no longer issuing passports, Weatherbys will be updating passports issued by them with the required veterinary medication pages and changes of ownership for a small fee.

I have a Federation Equestre Internationale (F.E.I.) passport, what shall I do?

Owners of horses with F.E.I. passports should contact the British Equestrian Federation directly, to confirm that the passport meets the current requirements.  Ex-competition horses with an ‘out of date’ FEI passport can continue to use the passport after the horse has ceased competing.  The passport remains valid for the purposes of the EU regulations but not for competition purposes.  The passport will need to be sent to the British Equine Federation (BEF) with a note explaining that the horse will no longer compete internationally.  The BEF will record this and update the passport accordingly.

I have an identification document issued by a studbook approved by the International Studbook Committee (ISBC), what should I do?

Identification documents issued by studbooks approved by the International Studbook Committee (ISBC) should be updated by Weatherby’s.

I have lost my passport, what should I do?

You should contact your passport-issuing organisation (PIO) as soon as possible.  They will issue a duplicate passport and will sign Part II of
Section IX and therefore prohibit the animal from ever entering the human food chain.  This is a requirement under European law and is a measure to prevent fraudulent use of the horse passports regime.  You may be charged for the duplicate passport.

I am permanently importing a horse into Northern Ireland from a country outside the EU. Will I need to obtain a passport?

Yes, if it doesn’t already have an EU-compliant passport.  You will need to apply for a passport (and therefore have a microchip implanted) from one of the authorised PIOs in the UK within 30 days of importing the horse.  However, if you have identification papers with a completed and certified silhouette these may (at the discretion of the individual PIO) be added to a new passport issued to comply with the new requirement.

I am temporarily importing a horse into Northern Ireland from a country outside the EU. Will I need to obtain a passport?

Horses which remain in the UK for less than 30 days do not need a passport.  However, a valid passport must accompany horses that are moved from the UK to other EU Member States.  If such horses are exported directly to a Third Country, they may require a passport if this is a particular requirement of the importing country.

I am importing a horse (permanently or temporarily) into Northern Ireland from another EU Member State. Will I need to obtain a passport?

Horses imported from other EU Member States must be accompanied by a passport which complies with the EU legislation.  If your passport needs updating (to include a Section IX), you should send it to the issuing organisation.  This may be an organisation based either in the UK or in another Member State.  However, it must be an approved organisation.  If the organisation is not approved (either in the UK or elsewhere in the European Union), you should get your passport updated by an authorised organisation in the UK.

Do I need a passport before I sell my horse?

Yes.  The passport must be passed to the buyer at the time of sale, who should notify the Passport Issuing Organisation of the new ownership within 30 days.

I am buying a horse. What should I be aware of?

You should not purchase a horse without a passport.  You always ensure that you are satisfied that the horse described in the passport is the one that you intend to buy – check the silhouette against the animal.  If there is not a completed silhouette, the passport was issued after 1 July 2009 and the animal is identified by microchipped.

Unless you have access to a microchip scanner you may need to employ a vet to check the identity of the horse.  It is always advisable to have a horse vetted before you buy it.  It is your responsibility to advise the passport issuer of the change of ownership, not the sellers.  You should always see the passport before you purchase and the seller is required to hand it to you at the completion of the transaction.

After the purchase you must send the passport to the issuing body to record the change of ownership.  Failure to do so is an offence under The Horse Passports Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.

What is the purpose of the section IX in the passport?

Section IX is for the owner to declare whether or not the horse is ultimately intended for human consumption.  In Northern Ireland, the declaration does not need to be signed upon issue of the passport.  However Part II of
Section IX must be signed before:

  • any medication containing a substance specified in Annex IV of Council Regulation 2377/90 is administered (in this case the declaration must be signed as ‘not intended for human consumption’).  Additionally, Bute (phenylbutazone) cannot be administered to a horse intended for the food chain. Part II of Section IX declaration must be signed if administered
  • the horse is consigned for slaughter for human consumption.

The owner can, at any time prior to one of the above events, choose to sign the declaration.  It must be remembered that once the declaration has been signed as ‘not intended for human consumption’, this can never be changed in order to protect the human food chain.  You are advised to think carefully about the following points before deciding whether you wish to voluntarily sign your horse out of the human food chain.  A ‘not intended’ declaration at Part II of Section IX cannot be reversed.

  • though it may be many years ahead, what do you expect will happen to your horse when it reaches the end of its life, and what might it cost to dispose of it?
  • have you made financial provision for the euthanasia of your horse at the end of its life?
  • are you likely to sell your horse - some future owners might only want to purchase a horse where they have the option to elect for abattoir euthanasia
  • there are currently a number of options open to owners for dealing with their horse at the end of its life – but these options might not be available in the future
  • leaving the declaration unsigned doesn’t mean you have to elect for abattoir euthanasia – but it does mean you will have kept open that option should your circumstances change in the future
  • if the declaration at Part II Section IX has not been signed, it will be necessary to keep a record of veterinary medicines administered.  Certain medicines must be recorded in the passport itself.  Your vet can advise you regarding this

What medications must be recorded within the section IX pages?

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) website provides guidance about which medicines need to be recorded in the passport.  A link to the European Commission website, where a list of these medications is available, can also be found on the VMD website.

What other medications should be recorded in the passport?

The vet should also record all vaccinations in Sections V and VI of the passport.

What should I do if my horse has been administered Bute (Phenylbutazone)?

Bute is authorised to be given to horses but it must not be administered to horses that are for the food chain.  Therefore, you must sign Part II in the Section IX of your horse’s passport.  This will confirm that your horse is not intended for human consumption.

If I sell my horse, can its new owner change the declaration?

Once a horse has been declared as not for human consumption, at Part II of Section IX, a subsequent owner cannot change this.  This is in order to prevent animals entering the human food chain if they have been administered with medicines that must never be used in a food animal.

Can a veterinary surgeon treat a horse that is not accompanied by its passport?

The passport should be available at the time of treatment with a veterinary medicine.  All owners must sign the declaration at Part II of Section IX, if substances unsuitable for entry into the food chain have been administered.  If the owner declines to sign the declaration, the vet is required to do so after administering or prescribing the medication.  If, in an emergency, the passport is not available and the vet does not know if your horse is signed out of the food chain then they are only permitted to administer substances suitable for food producing animals.  These medicines are generally more expensive than more commonly available medicines.

Disposal routes for horses

Information on the disposal routes for horses can be obtained by calling the dedicated DARD helpline number – 0300 200 7852.

What is the procedure when a horse is killed for disease purposes or is slaughtered for human consumption?

When a horse is killed for disease control purposes, the owner or keeper who has primary responsibility for it must return the passport to the passport issuing organisation as soon as is reasonably practicable and inform the Department’s veterinary surgeon that he or she has done so.

When a horse is slaughtered for human consumption the food business operator must return the marked passport to the passport issuing organisation as soon as is reasonably practicable and inform the Department’s veterinary surgeon that he or she has done so.

I am exporting my horse to France/Ireland – do I need to take my horse’s passport?

Yes.  Since 28 February 2005 it is an offence for an owner to move their horse outside the UK without a passport.  The declaration at Section IX must be both signed and counter-signed.

Import, Export of Horses, Route Plans and Export Licenses

Information on importing or exporting horses and whether your horse will require a route plan or an export license can be obtained by e-mail or by calling the following telephone numbers:

Export Controls and Procedures
DARD Veterinary Trade Section
Dundonald House
Upper Newtownards Road
Tel: 02890 524 885
Import Controls and Procedures
DARD Veterinary Trade Section
Dundonald House
Upper Newtownards Road
Tel: 02890 524 885

Government Policy and Implementation of Import and Export Legislation

Transport Guidance

Welfare of Animals During Transport

I live in Scotland/England/Wales. Do the Horse Passport Regulations still apply?

Yes. Scotland, England, and Wales have introduced their own domestic legislation that implements Commission Regulation 504/2008 in each of the devolved areas. For details on their legislation you should contact the appropriate body:

Scotland - The Scottish Government

England - Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Wales - Welsh Government

How do I update a passport issued by a recognised Passport Issuing Organisation in the European Union?

The owner should first attempt to contact the original issuer of the passport. Contact details for PIOs can be located on the following websites:

Should the owner be unable to make contact, or there are circumstances preventing the passport from being sent for updating.  The owner can approach an aligned society in the UK e.g. Trakehner Breeders Association, Poland can be referred to Trakehner Breeders Fraternity, England.

I organise competitions, do I have to check passports when competitors arrive?

No.  It is the responsibility of the owner or keeper to ensure that they horse passport accompanies any horse competing at an event.  The organiser or the Society holding the competition may state, as part of its own rules that competitors must be in possession of their horse’s passports in order to compete.  At competitions and shows, Local Authorities will be checking horse passports and enforcing the Horse Passport Regulations.

I have a horse passport issued by Richard J Steel (Horse Passports) Limited but I cannot contact them. What should I do?

Richard J Steel (Horse Passports) Limited closed down in April 2009.  The administration of Richard J Steel passports was transferred at this time to the Donkey Breed Society.  Horse owners that have Richard J Steel passports should contact them when transferring ownership or otherwise amending the details within the passport.

Who should I contact for further information?

For information on the procedures about applying for a passport, contact the appropriate organisation - a list of these can be found on the Defra website. For further information call:

Defra Helpline:  03459 33 55 77


Please note that the Horse Passports Regulations 2009 only apply in England.

Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have their own domestic legislation, which differ slightly to that in England.

More useful links

Guide to the Horse Passports Regulations 2010

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