What is involved in owning a Horse

How to officially own a horse?

The first thing one should consider before buying a horse is its maintenance cost. Keeping a horse is an expensive pursuit both in terms of time and money. Apart from accommodation, other costs include feeding, maintenance, insurance, grazing (if you have to lease a field), tack, grooming, veterinary fees for spaying or castrating the horse, training, etc.

Horses are mostly bought and sold by way of private sale or auction. There are two important pre-requisites before you buy a horse. Firstly, take great care to read all the conditions of sale. Enter into any purchase with due regard to your own rights under a contract of sale, as well as the obligation of the seller. Second, before buying or bidding, examine the horse carefully or endeavour to have it checked by a vet.


Once you have decided to buy a horse you need to make sure that it has a passport in order to own it officially. Ideally, one cannot sell a horse without a horse passport as it needs to be handed over to the new owner. If you have been given a passport by the last owner of the horse, you will have to get it updated. Within 30 days of the purchase, you should let the concerned PIO (Passport Issuing Organisation) know that you have taken ownership of the horse. And, in case, the horse did not already have a passport, you will have to apply for a new one.

What is a horse passport and why is it important?

A horse passport is a small booklet containing details about your horse, including its breed, age, appearance and all the medications it has been given.

It is important to get a passport for your horse in order to prevent it from being re-sold via theft. A passport also makes sure horses that have been treated with certain medicines do not make it into food intended for humans.

How to get your horse a passport?

First step is to get an application form from an authorised Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO). Most of the PIOs are renowned breed societies. They may only issue passports for a particular breed of horse. A list of approved PIOs and their contact details could be found at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) website.

Second step is to get a vet who is experienced in working with horses, to get your horse micro-chipped. You can search for a horse vet on the website of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

You will receive your horse’s passport in the post, which normally takes between five to fifteen working days. Once issued, the passport is valid for the horse’s lifetime.

Your horse will also get a Unique Equine Life Number (UELN). UELN details will be added to the National Equine Database (NED). The NED holds details of the number and the various categories of horses in the UK.

Completing Section IX of the passport

In Section IX of the passport, you will need to state whether or not your horse is meant for human consumption. Most horses in the UK are not meant for human consumption. This means a horse’s meat would not make it into the food meant for humans after it has died. It is important to complete the declaration in the application form in order to prevent horses treated with certain poisonous medicines entering the human food chain.

Once the declaration – ‘not intended for human consumption’- has been signed, it can never be changed. If you declare that your horse is ‘intended for human consumption’, your vet will document all the medication given to it. Your vet will always check the declaration before treating it with certain medicines (which are poisonous to humans). The Veterinary Medicines Directorate gives a list of medicines that need to be documented in your horse’s passport.

What if your horse doesn’t have a passport?

The owner is responsible for making sure that he has an up-to-date horse passport so that the horse can be identified. If you do not have a valid horse passport, you cannot use your horse in competitions (like a sow or race), move your horse to a new premises, sell or export your horse, use your horse for breeding, have your horse slaughtered for human consumption. You may be asked to show your horse’s passport by a trading standards inspector from your local council and you could be fined up to £5000 if you do not have one.

A lost or duplicate passport

If you lose your horse passport, you can get a replacement by contacting the PIO that issued it. The PIO will give you a substitution passport, which will be stamped – DUPLICATE.

Please note that you should only have one valid passport for each horse you own. If (in case) you have duplicate passports, the process for making sure that there is only one valid passport depends on when they were issued. If you have duplicate passports for the same horse that were issued after 1st January 2007, you must keep your original horse passport. And, in case, you have more than one horse passport issue before 1st January 2007, you can choose which one to keep. You will have to make sure that Section IX of the passport you keep must be signed ‘not for human consumption’. You should return the passport you do not want to keep (or the duplicate passport) to the PIO that issued it, where it will be cancelled.

Importing a horse

If you are planning to import a horse from another country inside the European Union (EU), it needs a valid horse passport. The passport must have been issued by a certified Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) in the European Union. If the organisation is not certified (or a passport has not been provided) you will need to apply for a new passport to a PIO in the UK. In such a case, the owner must apply for a new passport within 30 days of importing the horse. Also, if the horse’s passport does not include Section IX, it will need to be updated.