10 Things to Know Before You Microchip Your Horse

10 Things to Know Before You Microchip Your Horse

13 February 2015

By Debi Metcalfe


UPDATE: This article was written in 2015 so there have been updates since the article was written. The article does give more history of how the equine microchip industry has evolved and more. The US has transitioned closer to a uniform microchip system but there are tens of thousands of horses that still have the old US Standard 125 kHz chip in them. No one who scans horses other than their own should own anything less than a true universal scanner that scans ALL frequencies, not just the new international frequency.  More professionals have upgraded to the new universal scanners, which is fantastic! However, we are still running into problems where scanners are sold that are not universal scanners, and the people who purchase them think that they are universal. Some of the cheaper scanners only read one frequency and that leaves some animals with microchips in a situation where their chip cannot be read.  Please, do your homework and make sure that you know the maker of your microchip, your microchip number, and register your microchip in the registry that is associated with the company selling the chip. Do not register your horse ONLY at the vet's office. You can also back up your microchip registry with the all equine ID record-keeping registry provided by Stolen Horse International, NETPOSSE ID. This registry is specifically for proof of ownership traceability and there is no other registry like it, especially one backed by 23 years of experience in the field of bringing missing and stolen horses home. We welcome questions so please use the CONTACT US  tab on the site. 

Microchips are a very popular low-cost way to permanently ID an animal in the United States.  The United States is in a transition period in regards to microchipping, moving from the old to the new chip.  The key is the transition, meaning we have not arrived yet. 

I am often called a myth buster for a reason. I have been working with all forms of equine identification for 20 years.  I believe in telling the public the truth about equine ID methods instead of the sales pitch that comes with an ID method, including microchips which are the subject of this article.

First, I want you to consider a microchip as your serial number or VIN number for your horse. I have never misled the public into thinking that a horse will be scanned at horse auctions and slaughterhouses.  It is also highly unlikely that a kill buyer at a horse auction is going to have a scanner at a sale and even more unlikely that they would use one to return a horse to an owner.  

So why get one for your horse? That answer is very simple. You get one to prove ownership in case of theft, disaster, civil situations and a multitude of other really good reasons. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you wished you had one, it is too late.

Second, even with all of the pros and cons of microchipping I firmly believe this is one of the best forms of personal identification for a horse. Think about it, if all horses had them would we need anything else?

There is much to know about the microchips but I have the points I think are most important simplified below.

There are two main frequencies in the United States. 

The US Standard 125 kHz frequency microchip is the oldie but goldie and is still the most widely read by the scanners in the United States.  Both the old universal and new universal scanners read this microchip which is usually a 9 or 10 character microchip number. 

The International 134 kHz frequency is the newer kid on the block and is a 15 character number, stands a high chance of not being read when needed if an older scanners is used.

Everyone Is Not Doing It... Yet

We are finding that many older scanners have not been upgraded by professionals in the field. Many professionals still use the older microchip and some do not want to spend more money to upgrade to the new universal scanners. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Scanners Are Not Created Equal

AVID Microchips—The old AVID Mini-Tracker, one of the most used universal scanners is universal for the 125 KHz  US Standard microchip only. It will not read other microchip frequencies but does read the chips from another microchip company on that frequency. The new AVID universal scanners read multiple frequencies including the US Standard and the International microchip.

It is not true that AVID chips can only be read by an AVID scanner and the HomeAgain can only read their chip.  We use both the AVID Mini Tracker and the HomeAgain Universal Reader and they read each other's microchips and others as well if they are on the programmed frequencies.

HomeAgain—The new universal HomeAgain scanner reads 134.2 kHz, 125 kHz,and 128 kHz encrypted and non-encrypted microchips.

We know that you'd never want to miss a chip and cause an animal to be put down or reunited with its owner so, beware when you purchase your scanner. The old saying that you get what you pay for seems to hold true when it comes to buying scanners.

If you are buying a cheap scanner make sure that you read all of the frequencies that it will, or will not read in the small print. There are scanners being sold that only read the new 134 Khz frequency. If you use those scanners to read a chip on another frequency you get a false read. You will think there is no microchip when in fact there could be one present.

There is also the Halo scanner that is so popular now because of the price. It is a good scanner to carry with you to ready your own microchip but not a good one for professionals or groups who read multiple animals to use. Why? It is not a true universal scanner because although it read different frequencies it does not read all frequencies.  

FEI and USEF require horses that are shown in their shows to have an International frequency microchip. This is to make sure the right horse is in the right show. It is not necessarily for tracking in case a horse is lost. A few other registries require the International microchip while some who use to use just the new chip is giving the owner a choice or use the much safer US Standard chip.


Registered microchips are a great way to help prove ownership of an animal.

A microchip does not move in a horse if it is properly inserted. It can move in a dog because the two are inserted differently. 

Stolen Horse International started the first microchip kit program in 2002 and was the first to sell directly to the public online to help provide much need protection to more horses at low prices and our program serves as an ongoing fundraiser for our educational outreach programs and victim’s services.

Almost anyone can microchip their own horse since a horse is considered property.  It is not legal in most states to insert a microchip into another person’s horse unless you are a veterinarian or veterinarian technician under a vet's watchful eye.  Refer to the Veterinary Practice Act in your state for a current ruling. If you are doing this as a business and are a layperson, we highly recommend that you get a letter from the State Veterinary Board as a ruling.

Stolen Horse International does not represent the microchip as a cure-all form of animal identification. All forms of equine Id have pros and cons. We highly recommend the microchip in combination with a permanent form of visible ID as well.

Questions? Ask me by sending me an email.  I not only brought you the ability to purchase the chip online but I also actually work in the field in clinics with veterinarians and at many horse venues.  I have also personally dealt with thousands of missing horse cases personally or through Stolen Horse International.  I see what works and what does not.

It is not about the money for Stolen Horse International. It is about the safety of your horse so that in any situation where you need to prove ownership, you can do so.  I highly recommend that you ID your horse in any manner of your choice as soon as possible.

“It” does not always happen to the other person. 

 Purchase your microchips from Stolen Horse International and help us continue to help missing horse victims with your purchase. All proceeds support our Victim's Service and Educational Outreach projects. Click the image below.

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Debi Metcalfe

Founder | debi@netposse.com

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