AQHA foal in a pasture
• Photo by Molly Montag.

Microchipping, Technology Proposals Sent To AQHA Executive Committee

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Executive Committee has been asked to consider implementing microchip identification of horses, as well as several ways the association can use technology to make business easier for members.

The proposals were just a few of a slew of recommendations authored by the Amarillo, Texas-based association’s committees, which spent March 3-4 debating the merits of rule changes, policies and initiatives at the 2018 AQHA Convention in Jacksonville, Florida. The AQHA Board of Directors voted Monday, March 5, to approve the recommendations for presentation to the Executive Committee.


The Public Policy Committee and the Stud Book And Registration Committee each urged the AQHA to tackle the subject of microchipping.

Although the committee proposals to the Executive Committee were slightly different — Public Policy urged AQHA to continue to move forward with mandatory microchipping of horses, while Stud Book And Registration requested it to develop a business plan to move forward with microchip implementation — both asked that AQHA take up the issue.

Currently, AQHA allows horses to be microchipped but the practice is not mandatory. Information about chips can be noted in a horse’s AQHA records, if the owner desires.

Trent Taylor, AQHA treasurer and chief operating officer, said roughly 16,000 microchips – or half of one percent of the approximately 2.8 million living, registered Quarter Horses – are on file with the association. He said the majority of those chips – 13,000 – are implanted in horses in the United States or Canada. About 3,500 were in horses in other parts of the world, mainly Europe.

However, Taylor said officials believe a large number of horses – particularly in Europe, where microchips are more commonly used to identify horses – have been implanted with chips not been reported to AQHA and attached to the horses’ records.

The primary reason owners chip their horses is for identification. However, AQHA has said the practice – if used in combination with a new computer and data system the registry plans to roll out this summer – could combine to provide data-rich products and services for members.

In the convention’s Membership General Meeting, AQHA Executive Vice President Craig Huffhines said data from microchips could be used in a customized app the association is developing for barrel racers. Officials want the app to provide customized, real-time results and also allow users to look up standings or track the accomplishments of certain horses. The technology also has the potential to tie a horse to health records, such as vaccinations, and its performance record.

Microchips are currently mandatory for Thoroughbreds registered with The Jockey Club, in Lexington, Kentucky. The Jockey Club Registrar Rick Bailey attended the AQHA Convention and spoke to the Stud Book And Registration Committee about the experience making chips mandatory.

The Jockey Club began foal microchipping on a voluntary basis with the 2016 foal crop, sending free microchips to breeders willing to participate. Chipping became mandatory for the 2017 foal crop. The chips are still included in The Jockey Club’s DNA sampling kits at no additional cost to its members.

Microchip identification of Thoroughbreds has already been in use for a decade in other parts of the world, Bailey said.

“Our counterparts all over Europe, much of South America, they went to microchipping many years ago,” he said. “And, part of the reason we’ve eventually fell in line is just the reports of so very very few problems.”

Digital certificates

Bailey also spoke to the Stud Book and Registration Committee about The Jockey Club’s switch from paper certificates to a digital document. It became mandatory for the 2018 foal crop.

Instead of sending a paper certificate of registration, The Jockey Club now allows a access to a digital copy of the certificate housed on the organization’s online registry web page. The manager is able to electronically send the certificate to sales companies, racetracks, horse haulers, buyers – or anyone else who would normally receive paper certificates. The movements of the digital certificate, including ownership transfers, are noted in a ledger attached to the record.

By going digital, The Jockey Club hoped to increase its ability to collect data on horses that are not racing or breeding. The association also tends to have more information on horses earlier in their life, when they are first registered or go through public auction, than it does for older horses that aren’t racing or breeding, Bailey said.

“Our current system is not so efficient once horses leave the racetrack if they don’t go back into the breeding to strictly thoroughbreds, so we lose a lot of the ability to track such horses whether it be finding a certificate or whether it be the ownership of the horse, so we look for improvement there,” he said.

Reaction to the change has been more positive than Bailey expected.

“So far I would say its about 95 percent positive,” he said “The most common reaction that I’ve seen is people say it simply relieves you of the burden of keeping up with the paper certificates.”

Taylor, the AQHA’s chief operating officer, said digital certificates are not currently planned as part of AQHA’s computer system upgrade, but he believed the system will be able to handle the technology should the association decide to go that route.

“It’s not in there right now, but I think, especially with our international groups, I think that’s where we need to go just because we have such a hard time getting [paper] certificates to them; and, you know, I think it has a lot of advantages even here in the States,” Taylor told the Stud Book And Registration Committee. “We just need to talk about how ya’ll feel about it and where ya’ll would want to go with it and direction and how quick and those type of answers.”

The recommendation that AQHA begin using digital certificates came from the association’s International Committee. Numerous people, including Huffhines, noted that it can be very difficult for AQHA to get mail correspondence to international members due to unreliable mail service in some countries.

Members of the International Committee also asked that AQHA review and modify its internal processes to allow for email copies of registration, certificates, DNA kits, DNA results, membership cards and correspondence.

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