The State of the Microchip

The practice of microchipping is becoming prevalent throughout the horse world--but for reasons beyond simply identifying a lost equid.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

More horse organizations are requiring owners to use this identification technology

Countless dog and cat owners can attest to the value of microchipping. These are the people who have spent sleepless nights agonizing over their pets’ disappearance and whereabouts until they receive that phone call with the comforting words, “Your dog is at the local animal shelter; we scanned him for a microchip and found your contact information.” 

This practice of microchipping is also becoming prevalent throughout the horse world—but for reasons beyond simply IDing a lost equid. Many competitive organizations and breed registries are now requiring it for ease of identifying individual horses. 

The Microchipping Process

Microchip implantation is a fairly innocuous process for horses—or any animal, for that matter. After scanning the chip to make sure it’s readable, a veterinarian uses a large gauge needle to inject the chip below the mane into the nuchal ligament on the left side of the neck, about halfway between the horse’s poll and withers. A new mini-chip is now available so that veterinarians can use a smaller-gauge needle for the procedure. This microchip and its surrounding glass-polycarbonate capsule is roughly the size of a grain of raw rice. The injection causes minimal discomfort to the horse and does not leave a scar. The chip is encapsulated within the ligament and unlikely to migrate within the tissue. 

The entire process, including the price of the microchip, usually costs less than $100. Upon inserting the chip, the veterinarian scans it again to ensure it’s transmitting readable information. Then the horse owner registers the chip with the appropriate microchip company, as well as the desired sport organization and/or breed registry. This is a one-time process that needs no repeat fee or renewal.

This article continues in the January 2017 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. Learn how microchips work, requirements for microchipping, and more when you subscribe now and get an immediate download of this issue!

About the Author

Nancy S. Loving, DVM

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care. She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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