DEFRA is opening its doors to more organisations to issue passports as the December deadline by which all horses must have the relevant paperwork looms.

There are now 70 organisations listed by DEFRA as eligible to issue horse passports (PIOs). Among the new PIOs is the Pleasure Horse Society (PHS), which is offering a free passport to owners of horses with unknown breeding when they join the society.

Rather than being a breed society as such, the PHS is a web-based “club”, which is an offshoot of insurance broker Equestrian Direct. However, DEFRA maintains that its criteria when determining which bodies may become a PIO have not changed. To date only studbooks and competition organisers have been eligible.

“A studbook is defined in EU law as any book, register, file or other medium recording horses registered by an organisation, so the Pleasure Horse Society does comply with our criteria,” a DEFRA spokesman says.

Among the more surprising additions to the list is Horse Passports Ltd, a trading company of London’s Southall Market, which sells 70 horses per week.

“We are looking after our business interests,” explains director Richard Steele. “If we accept horses for sale without passports, we could be aiding and abetting their owners to break the law. Now, if a horse is entered for the sale without a passport, we can issue one.”

Meanwhile, freeze-marking specialist Farmkey, which was initially turned down as a PIO, has been told that its application would be considered favourably and has reapplied. Animal microchip specialist Pet-ID has joined forces with Joydens Riding Club of Bexley and has been approved as a PIO.

And anyone who is concerned about the numerous gypsy horses can rest happy in the knowledge that these horses now have their own society, which is approved as a PIO – the Gypsy Cob Society, set up to “protect the hundreds of years of Romany bloodlines”.

But the accurate recording of successful bloodlines on a national equine database being devised by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) could be put in jeopardy by the proliferation of PIOs, warns BEF consultant director of breeding Graham Suggett.

“I have expressed concerns to DEFRA that PIOs that are not breeding- or performance-oriented will not bother to record breeding details, which are needed to provide data for a future breeding programme,” he explains.

“Many competition horses are part-bred and if we have no details of their origins, when their progeny are competing we will be no further forward.”

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