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What is a Horse Chip? And why they’re essential.

Last updated: November 27, 2022

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

My son and I were at the racetrack, watching as horses were led into their paddocks. One person caught my son’s eye; she was rubbing a wand on each of the horses. He asked me what she was doing, and I explained that each horse had a chip implanted in it, and she was scanning it.

Horse chips are about 0.27 to 0.35 inches long and inserted below the skin on the back of the horse’s necks. Each chip contains a unique 15-digit identification number with information on the animal, and this number is read by a scanner. Racing officials use this process to confirm the identity of every racing entry.

Horse chips have become common in recent years as the technology has improved and the cost of implanting them has decreased. This post covers relevant information about horse chips and why you need to use them.

Picture of a racing official scanning a horse before a race.
Racing official identifying a horse.

What is a horse chip?

A horse chip, also known as an identification microchip or RFID chip, is a small electronic device implanted under a horse’s skin. The chip contains information about the horse, such as its name, breed, and owner.

Horse chips are also useful for identifying lost or stolen horses and by veterinarians or animal welfare officers to obtain information about a horse’s medical history and recent movements. However, I’m most familiar with their use in racehorses.

The person at a race track that scans chips is an identifier. While I was at Delta Downs, their identifier showed me the equipment used to identify horses and explained the process.

To read a microchip in a horse, you have to use a scanner. The scanner sends a signal that activates the chip. The chip then sends back a response containing an identification number to a separate device.

This number is used to look up the horse’s information in a database. I looked at the information that came across the screen, along with the owner’s name, horse’s date of birth, and breed; there were also pictures of the horse with emphasis on their markings.

If a racehorse’s chip doesn’t match the information provided by the owner when the horse was entered, it is scratched from the race. Chips are also useful for tracking a lost or stolen animal and can be used to find a horse’s owner.

Some people believe that chipping horses is cruel and can cause health problems, but no scientific evidence supports these claims. Overall, horse chips are a safe and effective way to identify horses and protect them from getting lost or stolen.

Below is a YouTube video showing a horse getting a chip.

YouTube video

How is the chip implanted in a horse, and how long does it last

Most people are familiar with the idea of implanting a chip into their horse in order to track their location. However, you may not know how the chip is actually implanted. It starts with shaving the area the chip is to be inserted.

Next, wipe the region down with alcohol and give your horse local anesthesia because the chip is inserted with a large-bore needle beneath the skin of animals and could be painful. Wait for a few minutes for the anesthesia to act, and then inject the microchip into your horse and activate it with a scanner.

This procedure generally doesn’t cause the horse any pain or discomfort. The YouTube video above is a good example; notice that the horse doesn’t even flinch when the chip is injected.

How long do microchips last in a horse? Most are made to last twenty-five years, which is the lifespan of many horse breeds.

Picture of a scanner used to read a horse chip.
Chip scanner

What are the benefits of using a horse microchip?

Microchips are a safe, reliable, and convenient way to identify and track horses, and they offer many benefits for both owners and horses. They store a unique identification number that can be read by a special scanner and are becoming increasingly popular as a way to identify and track horses, particularly in cases of theft or straying.

Amazon has a wide variety of scanners to choose from. The Omni Max in the picture above is what the identifier at Delta Downs uses, but I haven’t heard that one brand is better than another.

There are several benefits of using a horse microchip. First, they are a permanent form of identification that cannot be removed or altered. Second, they are an international standard of identification that can be read by scanners in other countries.

Third, they provide a quick and easy way for large horse farms to keep up with their animals. I once visited a breeder who had yearlings for sale. He took us to two pastures and asked me to choose two or three I was interested in.

Well, I wanted to know their pedigree and if their parents were successful on the track. He told me he would have to round them up and scan them to let me know their bloodlines because he had too many horses to be able to remember each one.

Picture of the yearling I bought.
Yearling I bought

Are there any risks associated with horse microchips

There’s been a lot of talks lately about microchipping horses. And, you know, when I first heard about it, I was like, “What the hell is that?” But then I did some research, and it turns out that microchipping horses is actually a pretty common practice.

A few companies make horse microchips, and they all have slightly different procedures for implantation and activation. But overall, it seems like the process is pretty straightforward. Now, as far as risks go, there are always going to be risks associated with anything you do. But from what I can tell, the risks associated with horse microchipping are pretty minimal.

There have been a few studies on the subject, and the vast majority of horses that have been microchipped have had no adverse effects whatsoever. In fact, most horses don’t even seem to notice that they’ve been chipped. So overall, I think the benefits of microchipping horses outweigh the risks.

How much do microchips for horses cost, and who can chip one?

Horse microchips typically cost between $30 and $60 and can be obtained from a variety of sources, including veterinary clinics, online retailers, and equine supply stores.

I’ve always used a veterinarian to implant chips for our horses. I’m not certain if an individual can implant a chip from any company. I assume that the Jockey Club (Thoroughbred racing authority) has a protocol for all racehorses.


Horse chips are a great way to track your horse and ensure they’re healthy. The chip is implanted in the horse’s neck and lasts for years. It can help you find your horse if it gets lost, monitors its health, and even provide them with medical care if they need it. No major risks are associated with implanting a chip in your horse, but be sure to talk to your veterinarian about any concerns you may have. Chips cost around $30-60 and can be purchased from most vets or online retailers.

How do you know if your horse has a chip?

You need to use a handheld scanner that can detect the chip. Most animal shelters and veterinarians have scanners that will be able to read your horse’s chip.

What microchips are used on horses?

RFID microchips are the most common type of microchip used on horses. LifeChip is the most popular manufacturer of microchips used on horses.

Can you feel a microchip in a horse?

No, you cannot feel a microchip with your hand if you rub a horse. The chip is implanted just below the skin and is about the size of a grain of rice. It would be difficult to feel it even if you were looking for it.