Buying a horse that is right for you
Buying a horse Equine Passport

Everything you need to know about horse passports9 min read

A horse passport is for accurately identifying animals and making international transport easier.

In the UK and EU, all equines (horses, ponies, donkeys, mules etc.) must have passports by law and cannot be sold without one. In the US passports are primarily intended for animals competing in international Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) events.

The passport is a small booklet that:

  • identifies your animal by its species, sex, colour, height
  • gives the animal’s date of birth (may be approximate, if necessary)
  • gives the name of the animal
  • identifies the owner;
  • states if your animal can enter the human food chain when it dies
  • gives the serial number
  • includes the animal’s microchip code number
  • includes the UELN of your horse.

It can also contain silhouettes, also called diagrams, of your horse. These are images where specific markings of your horse have been drawn in.

In addition to a passport, any horse, pony or other equine, must be microchipped. A horse owner that does not have a valid passport for their animal is subject to a fine of £5000, up to two years’ imprisonment, or both.

The passport is required to be with the horse at all times, so if you have your horse at a livery stable, ask them about how they usually handle the passports of their renters.

You need to present the passport:

  • Upon demand from a local authority enforcement officer, like a Trading Standards inspector
  • When you sell, loan or give the animal to someone else
  • When a vet examines or treats your animal

Why do horses need passports?

The point of your horse having a passport is to ensure that doesn’t get sold illegally. In theory, with a passport a horse can only be sold by the rightful owner

The passport can always be matched to the rightful owner by an authorised Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO). In the UK it is the Department for Environment, Food and Agriculture (Defra) and see this list of authorised PIO’s in the EU.

By making sure that you buy a horse that comes with a passport, you’re ensuring that you aren’t buying a stolen horse.

If someone is trying to sell you a horse without a passport, you can contact the Trading Standards office.

While travelling, the owner or person in charge of the horse should always be in possession of the passport because Trading Standards Inspectors or animal health officers can ask to see it.

At any time when you load your horse into a trailer, you need to have the passport with you. Moving a horse by foot (short walks/hacks) does not require you to have the passport with you.

If you are asked to show the passport, and you don’t have it on you, you will have three hours to produce it.

Why is section II (or section IX) important in the horse passport?

Horses are considered production animals and must have mention in their passports if they cannot end up as part of the human food chain.

Some medications that are used on horses can be harmful for humans to consume, and if a vet treats a horse with such medication the notes will be made in the horse passport in section IX to indicate that the horse has been classified as “not intended for human consumption”.

A horse with a note “not intended” for the human food chain in his passport cannot be sold to an abattoir.

Whenever your horse is having any kind of veterinary procedure, be sure to have your passport at hand. The details of your horse’s treatment will be logged in the horse passport.

Section IX of your horse’s passport must be signed by either the owner or keeper and a veterinarian to determine your horse as “intended” or “not intended” for human consumption.

Most horse owners will sign their horses as “not intended” for the human food chain.

When a horse passport indicates that a horse is “not intended” for the food chain it makes the vet’s job easier as they can choose whatever medication they deem appropriate without having to consider the restrictions of food safety.

What are some of the problems with horse passports? 

  • If a horse passport is lost it must be announced to the issuing PIO and a duplicate passport will be issued. Any horse that has lost a passport and had a duplicate issued should routinely be kept out of the food chain and marked as “not intended” for human consumption. This precaution is taken because the details of its previous treatments were lost with the original passport.
  • Fake or unauthorised horse passports are a problem that you should be aware of. Make sure that the PIO you use is authorised to give horse passports and make sure you don’t end up buying a horse with a fake or unauthorised passport.
  • If you have a problem with a horse passport, contact the issuing PIO and sort out any problems and updates or changes immediately, and do so in writing or get receipts and copies of submitted forms.
Whenever you’re buying a horse it’s always a good idea to do your due diligence and make sure that everything is above board.

The role of the passport when buying or selling a horse

  • An animal being legally sold should always have a valid passport.
  • Always check that the details in the horse passport match the horse.
  • Once you’ve purchased a horse, pony or other equine you are legally required to announce the change of ownership and have 30 days to announce to a PIO that you are the new owner of the animal.
  • It is always the job of the buyer to update the horse passport.
  • Always check to make sure the horse passport isn’t a fake.
  • When selling a horse, the vendor must give the horse passport belonging to the horse to the new owner. Refusal to do so can cause the vendor to be prosecuted.
  • Any horse being imported from within the EU or UK must have a valid horse passport issued by an authorised PIO. If the PIO is not authorised or there is no passport, contact your local PIO to obtain a passport for your horse.
  • If you are importing or exporting a horse into or out of the EU or UK contact your local PIO.
  • If anyone tries to sell you a horse, pony or other equine without a passport you can report it to the Trading Standards Office.

How to update your horse passport

Remember to always update your horse passport when your or your horse’s information changes.

If you change your name, for instance through marriage, your address changes, or your contact information changes, you should update the passport.

If your horse is gelded, his colour changes or he has a new microchip implanted, you need to update his passport.

The issuing PIO will usually have a form for you to fill in and require that you send in the form and passport to be altered.

You should make a photocopy or take pictures of the passport to keep for yourself and send off the required items in recorded or registered post.

How to change the name of your horse

If you want to change the name of your horse that is also possible. The old name will be required to be written in brackets after the new name, but your horse will officially go by the new name.

A horse originally named “Lucky” would become “Hunter’s Lucky Charm (Lucky)”.

Since passports are issued at a young age, your horse will undergo physical changes as he matures. You can have significant changes altered in the passport, but it is generally understood that things such as height and exact colouring will change over time.

For these type of changes just ask your vet to amend them by hand and have all the changes stamped.

If you find an error in a passport you were just issued, you should contact the PIO that issued it and have them amend it. If it is their mistake they should correct it free of charge.

What does a horse passport cost? 

Getting a new passport for your horse will generally cost around £25-30 and take around 10 days.

To have a passport issued faster, usually within 24 hours, an additional charge of around £10 will be required.

The cost of changing the details in horse passports will vary but is generally around £10-20. None of these fees include the postage both ways, which is paid for by the sender.

To send in a passport to be altered or updated, recorded post is usually used, but you can also use registered post, which is kept separate from normal mail and includes insurance in the posting fee.

As all horses born since 2009 are required to be microchipped by law, this will add another £60-70 to the passporting process.

The microchipping is usually around £20 and the call-out fees vary per vet. The microchip number is then recorded in the passport.

When you loan out your horse, the passport should always remain with the horse

It is a legal requirement that the horse’s original passport always remains with whoever is in charge and in possession of your horse.

When you loan or lease your horse you must give the original passport (photocopies are not acceptable) to the current keeper of the horse.

If you feel uncomfortable parting with the original passport, here’s what you can do:

  • Contact the relevant PIO and announce that your horse is going out on load. The PIO will add a note to the horse’s record and can check with you if they receive a request to change your horse’s ownership details.
  • If your horse doesn’t have a microchip yet, have it done as a measure to have your horse’s identity proven definitively. Update the microchip number with your PIO so that the accurate serial number is on record.
  • Take a photocopy or picture of the original passport for your records so that you can prove that the original passport pre-dates any illegal replacement passports that an unscrupulous loaner may have applied for. This will be more effective if the horse has been microchipped.
  • Make sure your own contact details are always up-to-date with your PIO.

If you feel unsure or uncomfortable with the loaner, find a new one with whom you feel comfortable.

Also read: Help! I think my horse’s passport is a fake

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