Should I have my horse microchipped?
Equine microchipping is becoming much more common, just like microchipping dogs. This easy, painless form of permanent identification is rapidly growingly in popularity, and is now required for many breeds and competitions. Considering the popularity, you’ve probably considered whether a microchip is right for your horse. Is it worth it? Read on to find out!
Many breed registries now require microchips (RPSI, Oldenburg, Norwegian Fjord), and the Jockey Club will begin requiring microchips for all foals born after Jan 1, 2017. Imagine how much easier it will be to identify that off-track TB once this rule takes effect! No more squinting at fuzzy tattoos!.
The state of Louisiana requires microchips for all horses receiving a Coggins (unless they have a brand or tattoo), which was incredibly beneficial in reuniting horses with their owners after Hurricane Katrina. All horses in the European Union must be microchipped, and all horses applying for a new FEI competition passport in any country must be microchipped. As of December 2017, all horses competing in US Hunter/Jumper Association shows will be required to have a microchip.
But what if your horse isn’t registered, and doesn’t compete? A microchip may still be a great choice! Benefits of microchipping include proof of ownership, horse recovery, fraud prevention, ownership tracking, age verification and slaughter avoidance. Let’s take a look at each of these:
Proof of ownership: Many horse owners believe that possession of the horse’s Coggins proves ownership of a horse, but this simply isn’t true. Anyone could pay a veterinarian to draw blood from a horse, so a Coggins is only one step in proof of ownership should a dispute occur. Having a record of that horse’s microchip, and having that chip registered to you as the legal owner provides a much stronger case. Microchip ID can be incredibly beneficial in proving that a horse is yours if the horse does not have any distinctive markings (what if you own a Friesian?). Equine theft does occur, and when a potential match for a stolen horse shows up, it can be incredibly time consuming to attempt to match that horse with photographs and piece together the likelihood that the horse is actually yours.
Horse recovery: Though a natural disaster is something none of us like to think about, hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding can occur in our area. In the event of a natural disaster, equine rescue teams, organizations and law enforcement will contain pets and livestock following the incident. Reuniting animals with their owners can be a long and arduous task, but any animal with a microchip can be quickly traced to its owner and returned.
Fraud prevention: Ever wondered what happens if a seller substitutes a horse for a pre-purchase examination or switches the Coggins for a horse? The answer is likely, “nothing.” Particularly in the case of the “plain bay gelding” a microchip may be the only thing that reliably distinguishes between one horse and another!
Ownership tracking/slaughter avoidance: Organizations such as the Equine Rescue Network are working to provide microchip scanners and volunteers to scan horses at auctions and kill pens. The Equine Rescue network has a growing base of over 215,000 people who attempt to notify previous owners if a microchipped or tattooed horse is slaughter-bound. The ERN has found that 85% of the time, a previous owner is willing to help the horse, even if it is to provide the means to humanely euthanize the horse rather than ship across the border to a slaughter plant. Microchip registry research may also help you locate a horse you once owned in the event you’ve lost track of previous equine friend and partner.
How is the chip placed?
The chip is placed on the left side of the neck, just under the mane. The chip is inserted (after clipping, cleaning the area, and applying a local anesthetic) into the nuchal ligament using the introducer needle that comes with the chip.
Does the procedure hurt the horse?
Most horses don’t react to the placement of the chip at all! Due to the local anesthetic, plus the location of chip implantation (at the base of the mane), it’s unlikely that the horse will notice anything. If there’s any concern about your horse being sensitive, placing the chip with the addition of a light sedative may be a good option. Many owners elect to have their horses microchipped during a dental, when the horse is happily sedated already!
Is microchipping safe?
Yes! Microchips placed in the nuchal ligament don’t migrate, and don’t cause any subsequent problems.
Is microchipping expensive?
Nope! Contact your vet for a specific estimate, but microchipping is almost always well below $100. At Foundation Equine, the chip and procedure runs less than $60!
Where else can I find information on microchipping?