It’s always alarmed me at how exposed we leave our valuable horses to thieves, in unlocked stalls or pastures (although most thieves can’t catch a cold let alone a horse in a pasture). Are we too complacent?
I believe it’s law in some European countries to have horse’s micro-chipped with a passport! With many neighboring countries and a lot of international traveling going on constantly, it makes sense.
So what is micro-chipping and what are the costs?
A microchip, an electronic device the size of a rice grain implanted invisibly in your horse’s neck, can provide him permanent identification. Etched with a unique number and encapsulated in glass, the chip (shown here enlarged) is inserted with a syringe. It can be activated by a hand-held radio-frequency scanner, which then reads the number. It functions for 25 years or longer.
Electronic ID can also improve infectious disease surveillance. In Louisiana, a program that mandates permanent identification in conjunction with a negative Coggins test proving the horse is EIA (Equine Infectious Anemia)-free has decreased the state’s incidence of EIA by 70 per cent.
When a horse is stolen or missing you can then report it to law enforcement and they will contact a number of Equine Protection Registry network affiliates such as brand inspectors, and Stolen Horse International etc.
The microchip however does not enable your horse to be located using GPS tracking equipment or satellite because the chip has no power source. So if your horse is stolen, the only way it will be found is if your horse is scanned by the thief or the new owner!!
The actual cost of having the microchip placed in the horse is relatively inexpensive however registering the horse with various agencies and affiliates may make it less cost-effective.
Is the microchip only going to really deter theft when a GPS tracking system can be used? Or maybe we need to have our horses micro-chipped now to prevent substitution scandals like the Fine Cotton case in the Australian Thoroughbred industry in 1985 (The horse Fine Cotton was substituted with another look-alike horse before a race and it won). So many scenarios, so many reasons!
Have you had any experience with identifying animals individually for either theft protection, disease prevention or reducing the incidence of horse swaps in competition and sales? Are there other ways this could benefit the cutting horse industry? Or do you see it as simply another expense, another way for middle men to make money and no real outcome is achieved? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!