Microchips could soon be compulsory for all new horses registered with the FEI.

Microchipping is now mandatory for all equines born after 1 July 2009 under Europe-wide regulations — and has been compulsory for foals in the thoroughbred industry since 1999.

But this is the first time specific legislation has been proposed for sport horses.

FEI veterinary director Graeme Cooke said: “Microchipping is the European Union’s preferred method of identification as it is the most reliable and tamper-proof.

“Being able to prove a horse’s identification beyond all doubt will allow for a more efficient passage [between countries], which, in turn, will benefit horse welfare.”

A timeline for the proposal is yet to be announced. Once chipped, all horses taking part in FEI competitions would be linked to a central database.

It is hoped that this database will prove crucial in enforcing the new regulations, although full details on this work are yet to be revealed.

Though the move will affect professional showjumpers and dressage riders who compete internationally, it is likely to have a greater impact on event riders, as many who compete at the lowest international level — CIC/CCI* — are amateurs.

Kylie Roddy, who produces young horses and competes regularly at the lower levels, said: “I think it’s a good idea in theory, but in practice it could be tricky to implement.

“Some of my older eventers aren’t microchipped,” she added. “I’ve even had horses in my yard who have come over from Ireland with two microchips — one from Ireland and one from Holland, where they were bred.”

Emma Harris, who aims to compete at CIC* this year, added: “Although microchipping is not particularly expensive [the fee is usually between £15-£25 excluding veterinary call-out charges], it is still an added cost and an inconvenience if you have an older horse who wasn’t microchipped as a foal.”

The proposal was discussed at the FEI bureau meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, earlier this month and will now be put to the 2011 general assembly in November for approval.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (26 May, 2011)