Microchipping horses: How it’s done, and why

Microchip applicator (Photo: C. Aurich/Vetmeduni Vienna
A Microchip applicator. © C. Aurich/Vetmeduni Vienna

Many breed and performance associations around the world now require microchipping as part of their registration process. Here’s a quick outline on the how it’s done, and why.

Microchip implanting is safe, quick, and relatively simple. The chip is about the size of a grain of rice and it is coated silicon to help secure it underneath the skin midway down on the left neck in the vicinity of the nuchal ligament.

Microchips are implanted by licensed veterinarians, who sterilise the area of implantation before administering a local anesthetic at the insertion site.

A 14-gauge needle is then inserted under the skin and into the ligament to inject the chip, which is assigned a 15-digit number. The procedure usually takes under 15 minutes and costs less than $100.

In addition to competition requirements, microchipping is an important part of equine management and can be helpful in the following situations:

  1. Theft – If a horse has been lost and is suspected to be stolen, a microchip will be useful in quickly identifying the horse and returning it to its rightful owner.
  2. Disaster – Natural disasters such as fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes often displace horses. If those horses are rescued by emergency shelters, scans for microchips will almost always be performed.
  3. Loose Horse – Loose horses that are retrieved by animal services will be scanned upon intake and can be quickly returned to their owner if microchipped.
Reading the microchip of a competition horse.
Reading the microchip of a competition horse.


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