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Registration, passports and identification

All horse owners need to obtain a passport for each horse they own.

This includes:

  • horses
  • ponies
  • donkeys
  • other equidae

The passport is a small booklet that uniquely identifies your animal.

Please note: veterinary or breed certificates are not passports.

It lasts for the lifetime of the horse. It also states whether your animal can be used for food at the end of its life. You can declare that your animal is not intended for the food chain by filling in the appropriate section of the passport. This cannot be changed later.

When do I need to get a passport?

The owner of a horse must obtain a passport for it on or before 31 December of the year of its birth or by six months after its birth.

Foals must have a microchip and passport before sale regardless of age.

Your horse must be microchipped before you apply for the passport because all horse passports issued since July 2009 must contain a microchip number.

How do I apply?

You can get an application form for a horse passport from an authorised ‘Passport Issuing Organisation’ (PIO).

See the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website for a list of approved PIOs and their contact details.

A passport will not be valid if issued by an unauthorised organisation.

Where to keep a passport

The passport should remain with the animal at all times e.g. if you keep your horse in a livery stable the passport must be kept at the stable.

There are times when you will need to show the passport, such as, whenever a vet examines or treats your animal or on demand from a Local Authority Inspector.

If you sell or transfer ownership of your horse the passport must be supplied at the time of the sale or transfer. The new owner will need to contact the issuing organisation to amend the details. This must be done within 30 days of the change of ownership.

Remember: it is illegal for a horse to be sold without a passport.

Horse passport regulations

A comprehensive guide to the horse passport regulations can be found on the Gov.uk website. 

For more information on horses and other equines please visit The National Equine Welfare Council website where you can find latest edition of the equine industry welfare guidelines compendium.

Purchasing a horse

Buying a horse is a serious long term commitment. It is both time consuming and expensive.

A guide is available on the below dropdown, containing some points to consider before you purchase.

If you think you may have been mis-sold a horse please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Pet horse burials

We are aware that this can be an emotional and distressing time for owners of pet horses.

To prevent spread of animal-borne pathogens or disease there are strict rules on the burial of pet horses.

Please note: commercial burial of horses is not permitted.

The only information we need is a note from your vet which specifies that the horse has not died from a disease which is communicable to humans or other species.

Fly grazing and abandoned horses

In the present economic climate many horses are being abandoned or 'fly grazed' on someone else's land.

The Control of Horses Act (2015) gives landowners a wider range of options to deal with the problem.

The following guidance outlines the steps that may be taken should you find fly grazed or abandoned horses on your land:


Common ragwort is a specified weed under the Weeds Act (1959).

It contains toxins which can have debilitating or fatal consequences if eaten by horses and other grazing animals.

When handling common ragwort, either live or dead, you should wear gloves and a facemask to prevent inhalation of ragwort pollen.

The Gov.uk website has an webpage further explaining how to prevent harmful weeds and invasive non-native plants spreading.

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