Here in the Midwest I don’t think we are ever going to get out of winter. Maybe I shouldn’t be so myopic and include much of the country in my lament, as it appears winter is hanging on nearly everywhere. I am so anxious to get back to some regular riding. My two geldings have shed some of their winter coat but Mother Nature is sure sending mixed signals…
Last December I wrote a blog about microchipping horses. As a small animal veterinarian, I am quite familiar with microchips in dogs and cats. But I wondered how effective microchips were in identifying missing or lost trail and companion horses? I certainly see the value in microchipping show horses and breeding stock and other equines that are involved in activities that require absolute identification. But what about the best buddy trail horse that gets loose in a large national forest?
As a veterinarian, I have an account at a local pharmaceutical company. They have a publication called Messenger and the April issue has an article called Don’t Skip the Equine Chip. It was written by Amy Van Gels, DVM, who is a companion animal veterinarian and a freelance medical writer. She did not mention in her biography that she owned horses. Therefore, my guess is that she researched equine microchips. It is a good article, and I will share some of the salient points…
Regulations from various equine associations
- The United States Equine Federation (USEF) and the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) have created regulations that restrict non-microchipped horses from earning points or prize money (after December 1, 2017) or even competing at all (after November 30, 2018). USEF has a particular type of microchip that it requires. However, standardization has not yet occurred, so USEF warns veterinarians to avoid using chips that start with certain numbers.
- The Jockey Club of America has also passed new regulations, requiring all Thoroughbred foals of 2017 and later to be microchipped. The chip must be inserted prior to or at the time of registration and a DNA sample and photographs are a required part of the registration.
- Certain governmental groups are beginning to rely on microchips to trace disease outbreaks and to provide positive identification of horses. Owners must microchip their horses as part of Coggins testing in the state of Louisiana.
- The European Union has required a microchip for horses older than 6 months of age since 2009.
- The US government requires written identifying characteristics for horses during interstate travel but doesn’t require microchips.
Microchipping “backyard” horses?
The last paragraph of this article discusses microchipping “backyard” horses. I wholeheartedly agree that a microchip could be a wonderful way of identifying a particular horse. But what happens if my guy and I part ways in the middle of a forest and a potential rescuer finds him wandering around? Would that person have a microchip reading wand?
I have 5 dogs and there are at least 3 different microchip brands within my pack of five. Rescue organizations have many options for microchip acquisition. I moved 18 months ago and I’m not totally sure I have updated all the info. Additionally, I have placed collars on all of my dogs that have my cell phone number embroidered on the collar.
If I come off my horse, I want First Responders to have critical information readily available. I want them to know what medications I take and any allergies I have. Additionally, I want them aware of any medical condition I might have. Based on conversations I have had with owner/operators of large horse camping facilities, they like the idea as well. It would prevent them from having to scramble for information in the event of an emergency.
I am not by any means against microchips. However, I do think they are of limited value when it comes to an accident on the trail. Are YOU protected?