There are so many horses out there; some with papers, some without. When you look them over, it is impossible to tell at a glance which ones are in fact papered, and which are not. Indeed, as many horse people love to say, it is not the papers that you ride, it is the horse. So why is it so important to register?
In an ideal world all horses would receive registration papers when they were foaled. Having papers allows horses to be traced and identified. It keeps them from being lost without any way of knowing who bought them, or where they have gone.
If all horses had papers, everyone would expect to receive papers when they buy a horse. If keeping papers up to date with current ownerships were mandatory, it would be possible to trace any horse to its current owner, and keep track of everywhere it has been. No longer would name changes and “accidental” losses of papers trouble breeders when tracking their youngstock. All horses would be traceable in a single database.
In the food industry any animals used for human consumption must be registered or marked so that they can be traced. For the same reason it has been proposed that horses be given life numbers that would mark them permanently, should they make their way into the meat market. While such a system makes sense for the meat industry, a universal registration system for horses could greatly benefit the horse industry itself.
Unfortunately at present registration does not work this way. While some horses become registered, many more do not. Even when horses are registered it is not uncommon for the papers to be lost, or remain behind with old owners who for one reason or another choose to retain them.
So, what makes the cost of registration worthwhile?
If you have ever gone shopping for a horse, you have probably noticed that you are more likely to look at a horse that has papers than one that does not. If you are selling a horse, having one with papers can often make the difference between a sale and being stuck with the horse for many more months.
Registered horses generally sell for more money than unregistered horses. They tend to be bought by more serious horse people, and have a better chance than grades of avoiding the meat truck. Even horse rescues are more inclined to rescue a registered horse than a similar grade one, knowing that the registered animal has a better chance of finding an adoptive home.
Of course, there are other advantages of registration. Many breed registries hold shows that are only open to horses registered with them. Others have incentive programs where you can earn rewards for successful performance records. If you are advertising your horse for sale, some registries have special classifieds sections just for animals registered with their group.
Having papers makes even a plain horse seem to be worth more. If your foal is able to be registered, it is worth spending the few dollars it takes to get his papers. Those papers might just save his life some day.