Q: What is a microchip and how does it work?


By: Molly Kaplan, DVM

A: Given the fact that the USEF is requiring all horses to be microchipped by December 1, 2017 in order to accumulate points, I’ve been asked a lot of questions regarding microchipping and how it’s performed.  I feel it’s necessary to stress to all owners and trainers that from December 1, 2017 to November 30, 2018 you can still show without a microchip but you will not be eligible to accumulate points or awards.  After roughly a year (November 30, 2018) though ALL horses will be required to have a microchip to show at recognized FEI, USEF, or USHJA events for the 2019 show season.

Microchipping is a fairly quick and simple process.  The microchip itself is the size of a grain of rice and it holds information about both the horse and the current owner.  This allows the horse to easily be identified through a lifetime permanent 15 digit number which can be key in returning a lost horse to its rightful owners or identifying animals after a natural disaster.  Most people are microchipping their horses due to the recent changes in the FEI, USEF, and USHJA rules, however other reasons to microchip your horse are that it provides information about proof of ownership, health records, and health certificates.

The entire microchipping procedure takes roughly 15-20 minutes.  First the horse’s neck is scanned with the microchip scanner to ensure that the horse has not been previously microchipped and then the microchip itself is scanned to ensure that the 15 digit code that appears on the microchip scanner screen is the same as what is on the microchip packaging.  Next, the horse’s neck at the level of the nuchal ligament (roughly halfway between the ears and the withers) is aseptically prepared using betadine or chlorohex scrub and alcohol.  The area along the neck where the microchip is to be injected is blocked with a small bleb of lidocaine to minimize any pain elicited from the injection.  The neck is scrubbed one last time with scrub and alcohol before injecting the microchip.  The microchip is then administered into the nuchal ligament within a large gauge needle by depressing the syringe.  The most common side effects include mild swelling, heat, and localized pain at the site of injection that generally lasts up to 3 days.