FOUR years after work began on it, the National Equine Database (NED) will go finally live on 24 November.

NED is an internet-based system that holds the data — including basic identification details (passport, microchip and unique life number) and voluntary pedigree and competition data — of every horse in the UK.

The project, begun in 2004 and run jointly between Defra and the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), has been beset by delays. But at the end of October, the BEF board gave the go-ahead for its launch this month.

NED is designed not only to link hold data for all British horses, but also to promote their breeding, by allowing global access to the information based on a scale of fees.

More than 100 passport issuing organisations (PIOs) have provided basic identification data and others have provided breeding and competition information on a voluntary basis.

NED now contains records of 1.2million horses in the UK, though chief executive Nick Wallbridge estimates a number of those are dead or duplicates.

“We believe we have about 960,000 current records on the system,” said Mr Wallbridge. “We’re doing a soft launch because we don’t want to raise people’s expectations — there are issues and we need to address them, and for users to tell us when they arrive.”

From 24 November, anyone can log on to www.nedonline.co.uk

To search for a horse for free, users will have to provide an email address, but to look up competition and progeny reports, or to add pictures or update information — such as height — there will be a charge. However, the crucial charges — which will enable NED to be a success — had not yet been decided.

www.nedonline.co.uk