Retirement - your legal requirements

Horse Passport Legislation Requirements when transferring ownership

Owners and trainers should be aware that it is now a legal requirement for owners to register their ownership of a horse, when they buy one or take over ownership, within 30 days of the transaction taking place. There is an exemption for horses racing under rules, where trainers take care of the necessary administration. 

This became a legal requirement from October 1 2018 and is being enforced by Trading Standards.

However, it is apparent that transfers of ownership have not been actioned in a number of cases when an owner sells their horse or a horse moves out of training.

Owners and breeders should therefore be aware of the following:

  1. It has been a requirement of the Horse Passport Regulations since 2009 for all equine owners in Great Britain to register their ownership with the Government designated Passport Issuing Organisation (Weatherbys) within 30 days of purchase.
  2. From October 1 2018, it became a legal requirement and is enforceable by Trading Standards.
  3. The legislation also requires that a horse’s passport is returned to Weatherbys to be updated with the new ownership details. Racing ownerships have been granted an exemption; however when a horse comes out of training this exemption no longer applies.
  4. The owner of a horse in training should have previously registered their ownership with Weatherbys before the horse went into training unless they are the breeder, in which case the ownership is already correct.
  5. When a horse comes out of training and the racing ownership is terminated, the Weatherbys ownership becomes the valid ownership recognised by DEFRA and the Central Equine Database.
  6. Even if a racing owner retains ownership of a horse after it finishes racing they will be required to register their ownership with Weatherbys if they haven’t already done so prior to the horse going into training (unless they bred the horse).

In summary, when a horse is in training the registered racing ownership takes precedence, but where it comes out of training, it reverts back to the ownership detailed in the horse’s passport. It is here that details may need updating, e.g. if the owner while the horse was in training keeps the horse, but didn’t originally register as the owner.

To update ownership information online (for horses not in training) see

In the case of a horse that dies or is euthanised the passport should be returned to Weatherbys along with a note with the date of death within 30 days of the horse dying.

Any owners wishing to check they are the recorded owner can check the ownership page of the horse’s passport. If their name appears in there with the Weatherbys stamp to confirm it then they are the registered owner with the Studbook Department.

Retiring a horse from racing – improved, simpler process for trainers and owners

At all stages of a racehorse’s life, being able to trace a horse’s whereabouts is vital in demonstrating responsibility and commitment to good welfare.

The BHA needs to ensure they have the fullest possible traceability, and while there are many possible routes that horses may take on leaving training, the first step is to identify those that have been retired from the sport.

Recent surveys on aftercare indicated that trainers are often involved in this first retirement decision for horses in training, to assist owners. For both regulatory and welfare reasons, it is essential that the BHA is notified by participants when a horse is permanently retired.

What is changing?

Previously, only an owner has been able to provide the BHA of this notification. The rules have been reworded to allow a trainer to provide this notification, effectively acting as agent for the owner. The new process will allow notification to be provided as part of the existing Racing Administration system that is currently used to keep records of horses in training. The process will allow owners to cancel within 14 days if the retirement notification has been made in error.

Both the owner and trainer can use the system to provide the required notification and apply a digital non-racing agreement if applicable, indicating that the horse should not be reinstated to race in the future.

Finally, the new keeper of the horse will be recorded as part of the system change, and will receive email to advise them about their legal obligation to ensure the current owner is recorded in the horse’s passport by Weatherbys within 30 days, securing first step traceability for the retired horse.

The process relating to retirement of racehorses is changing shortly.


Once permanently retired, a horse will be ineligible to race and cannot be reinstated without the approval of the BHA. If no non-racing agreement has been applied, the process to reinstate carries anti-doping requirements that include testing and a stand down period.

If the BHA is not appropriately notified of retirement, the horse is still bound by the rules of racing and may therefore be the subject of whereabouts failures.

How to notify the BHA when a horse is permanently retired

The online process allows owners or trainers to record:

  • The reason for the horse’s retirement
  • Restrictions on racing in the future (non-racing agreement)
  • Details of the horse’s new keeper

Completion of the online form triggers the start of the permanent retirement process, which takes 14 days, after that date the horse is made ineligible to run and is no longer bound by the Rules of Racing.

This 14-day window allows for the retirement process to be halted, if the notification has been made in error.

Completion of the form also triggers a notification to any new keeper advising them that they are responsible for completing a transfer of ownership within 30 days. If the new keeper fails to do this, they may incur a fine of up to £5,000 from Trading Standards.

The BHA is developing a series of helpful guides, to assist owners and trainers with the new process. These will be shared in due course.