Frequently-Asked Questions About Microchips

Frequently-Asked Questions About Microchips

Here are several questions American Quarter Horse owners ask about microchips and the AQHA Microchip Pilot Project.

How to microchip a horse

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Why microchip? 
Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and contain a 15-digit numerical code unique to that horse that can never be altered. They are very much like an automobile’s VIN number or a human Social Security Number, and provide a reliable way to verify a horse’s identity. Verifying a horse’s identity can contribute to the well-being of a horse and support consumer confidence during horse sales, competition, registration and natural disasters. Getting the microchip is a quick, easy process. To learn more about the process, watch the microchipping video on this page.

Where is the microchip implanted?
The microchip is implanted in the nuchal ligament in the left side of the horse’s neck half way between the poll and withers.

Where can I find the AQHA rule for microchipping? 
At this time, AQHA does not require all American Quarter Horses to be microchipped. The Association, however, launched a Microchip Pilot Program in March 2019 to educate members, owners, breeders, trainers and others about the benefits of microchipping.

Does my horse need a particular kind of microchip?
AQHA requires microchips to be ISO 11784/11785-compliant. This microchip has a unique 15-digit number assigned only to your horse. If you have a veterinarian implant the microchip, your vet will have the chips on hand. But you can purchase microchips from veterinarian. In the near future, AQHA plans to sell biothermal microchips, which provide the horse’s body temperature in addition to the unique ID number when scanned.

If my horse already has a microchip, but that ID number is not 15 digits, should I have another microchip implanted? 
Yes. Some earlier microchips did not contain 15 digits and are not compliant.

If my horse already has a 15-digit microchip, do I need to implant a new chip for the AQHA Microchip Program?
No, as long as the ID number on the chip that is already in your horse has 15 digits, it is compliant with industry standards.

What should I do if my horse has multiple microchips?
Please report the ID number for each microchip to AQHA, even if some of the microchips are not compliant. Current industry standards require the use of microchips that comply with ISO 11784/11785.

How does the microchipping process work?
1.    Before a horse is microchipped it should be properly identified using registration papers and markings.
2.    It should then be scanned with an ISO 11785-compliant microchip reader to determine if other chips have been implanted.
3.    The implantation site should be thoroughly cleaned with a betadine solution or alcohol.
4.    The microchip in its sterile package should be scanned to verify that the number matches the number imprinted on the bar code label.
5.    The microchip needle cap is removed and the needle is inserted roughly ½ to 1½ inches below the mane on the left side of the horse’s neck, half way between the poll and withers.
6.    The plunger is depressed, implanting the microchip.
7.    The horse’s neck is then scanned to ensure the implantation was successful.
8.    Affix the bar code label to the horse’s records for future reference.
9.    Record the microchip number with AQHA.
10.    Your local equine veterinarian is equipped to microchip your horse or to provide you advice on the procedure. 

Watch this video .

Can’t someone just take a chip out of one horse and put it in another horse?
Because a microchip is embedded deeply in the nuchal ligament using a syringe-type device, it would be nearly impossible to remove a chip from one horse and re-implant it into another horse. Doing so would disfigure the horse from which the chip was removed.

How do I report my horse’s microchip to AQHA?
In the near future, AQHA will have a module on its website and an app for smartphones that you can use to add your horse's microchip ID number to its record. Until those tools are available, you can call AQHA Customer Care at 806-376-4811 to report your horse's microchip ID number.

How long does a microchip last?
Microchips don’t wear out. They last the life of a horse because the chip “sleeps” most of the time; the chip is only activated when it is scanned. The chip is not a GPS and does not transmit location. It only provides a unique identification number that must be paired with a database that contains the horse’s registered name and number, as well as its competition, health and ownership records, among other records.

When will my horse’s microchip be scanned?
Horses are subject to scanning at any time, such as checking in at a show or racetrack, during a drug test, or at a sale.

What information does AQHA read off the microchip?
The only information contained on the microchip is the horse’s individual 15-digit identification number. Because AQHA will be selling biothermal microchips, the scanned microchip will also provide the horse’s body temperature.

How will competition secretaries know whether a horse has been microchipped?
The microchip number will be added to a horse’s AQHA records, which is information that is available to competition secretaries and confirmed when they scan the horse to check it into the show or racetrack.

How much does microchipping cost?
The cost of having your veterinarian implant the microchip varies, but generally is in the range of $20-$45. In the near future, AQHA will be selling biothermal microchips. If you purchase a microchip from AQHA, Merck Animal Health will provide a life membership for the chipped horse in its HomeAgain national pet recovery database, which is normally a cost of $19.99 per year. Go to the AQHA website to learn more about the program and how to register your horse in the program.

Who can I contact for more information?
For more information about microchipping your American Quarter Horse, contact AQHA Customer Care at 806-376-4811. AQHA Customer Care representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central. Microchip FAQs, a microchip implantation guide and a video on how to microchip your horse can be found at