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As with the rest of your property a detailed description of your horse should be kept, detailing all distinctive markings, scars, freeze marks etc. as well as photographs. The Horsewatch inventory sheet provides a convenient and easy way for these details to be recorded and kept safe.

Freeze Marking

You can make your horse uniquely identifiable by freeze branding which is a popular permanent method of making horses more identifiable, allowing the horse to be traced back to its owner if stolen. The process is quick. The branding iron is cooled in liquid nitrogen and applied to the skin. Pigment cells on the skin are destroyed and the hairs grow back white and stay that way for life. The irons are applied to a grey's skin for a little longer. The hair follicle is destroyed leaving a bald patch in the shape of the numbers and letters. This does not cause the horse any discomfort.

Micro Chipping

Micro chipping is an alternative to freeze marking and it is now a legal requirement for horses born after 1st July 2009. A chip the size of a grain of rice is inserted into the neck with a hypodermic needle. Each chip holds basic information and is registered on a computerised system. When a scanner is passed over the horse, this information can be matched with the owner's details. Until recently there was no outward evidence on a micro chipped horse, but now the horse can also be freeze marked with a small symbol indicating the existence of the microchip. We do, however, recommend that a visible brand is carried out, with or without micro chipping.


It is a legal requirement for all horses and ponies to have an equine passport. This also includes donkeys, mules and zebras. Horses must be accompanied by their passport at all times. The exceptions are when the horse is stabled, out at pasture or if the horse is moved on foot. However, the passport must be made available within three hours of it being requested by an enforcement agency. The only exception when the passport is not required is when the horse is being transported for emergency veterinary treatment.

The passport must always accompany the horse:

For further advice on passports and how to request replacements please visit the British Horse Society

Loaning advice

Before you loan your horse to a complete stranger, or even to someone you thought you knew really well, there are a few sensible precautions you should take. These can ensure that everything is clear and understood between the parties involved and if something does go wrong the details are in place to recover the situation. In cases where equines are loaned on a ‘handshake’ agreement it can sometimes become almost impossible to even prove that the horse is yours. So, if you do not intend to give your horse away, never to be seen again, please consider the following:             

Identify the horse
All horses must have a passport to confirm their identity. The problem is that you are required to give the passport to the loanee with the horse. Make sure anyone can positively identify the horse by having it freeze branded. A microchip is good confirmation but it is not visible and can be difficult to check. A passport only confirms the animal is/is not fit for human consumption - it is not proof of ownership. Freeze brand companies will issue an owner’s pack. This can be taken as proof the horse is yours and you are not required to give it to the loanee. It helps greatly if you have some good, clear current photographs of your horse, winter and summer, digitally stored if possible.

Keep a copy of the passport
You must supply the original passport with the horse so it can be travelled. The passport
should also be available from the keeper for inspection, so handing it to the loanee is usually
unavoidable. This does not prevent you from keeping a photocopy so you always have the
information to hand.

Use a loan agreement
You really must have a formal, written loan agreement in place before you hand over your horse. There is a BHS version at in the Welfare section or a Horse Trust copy at in the Advice section. Make sure it is fully completed and that you each keep a copy. Ideally, the agreement needs to be countersigned by a professional person such as a doctor, lawyer, bank officer or company director rather than a close friend or family member. This will make it more impartial and independent in any dispute. Some solicitors specialise in equine law and can help with drafting such loan