New ID Program Possible For Thoroughbreds In UK

Peter Webbon, Chief Veterinary Advisor to the English Jockey Club, confirmed that his organization is looking into using microchip identification of all Thoroughbreds in the near future. The committee charged with improving the current methods of Thoroughbred Identification were members of the English Jockey Club, Irish Turf Club, Wetherbys and Wetherbys Ireland, veterinary representatives from both countries, and Tattersalls.

The recommendations that the group made to the English and Irish regulatory bodies was to add microchip identification to the current passport that includes markings and blood typing for parentage. The microchip came out the first choice over branding and tattooing, said Webbon, because of the "speed and ease of reading them."

Microchipping would be done at the same time foals have markings and blood drawn for the current identification processes, he added. The microchips also would allow authorities to keep other records, including vaccination and medical histories on each horse. The hand-held scanner that reads the microchips, which would be placed in the left side of the horse's neck near the poll, also could flag anything that should be known about that animal, such as incidences of EIPH or ataxia after racing.

Some Thoroughbred foals and horses of racing age had microchips implanted starting in 1997 and 1998, said Webbon.

"It was very reassuring that the farms where we did foals last year, the owners wanted us to come back and do this year's crop, too," he said.

Webbon said the Jockey Club is keen to prevent mistaken identity at races and sales. At races, it is hoped that each runner can be checked as it enters the racecourse, and scanned for identification again as it arrives in the parade ring.

Breeders also will benefit because there will no longer be the possibility of mixing up horses from public auctions.

"It's the integrity of racing that is most important," reminded Webbon.

The cost of the microchip identification will be shared by the breeders/owners of the foals, who will pay for the cost of the chip, and by the racing industry, which will maintain the database and cover administrative costs. Cost of the microchip is expected to be about 20-25 pounds.

Also on he minds of many veterinarians in Britain is the possible ban on therapeutic and necessary medications of all horses in the EU because of the possibility an animal will end up in the human food chain. With microchipping, animals could be "flagged" through their microchip number and placed in a medical quarantine. Microchip technology would be better than tattooing or branding for this scenario because the hide is removed during the slaughter process.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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