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Paper Pushers: How to Register a Horse With No Papers

Written by Natasha D.

A Crash Course in Horse Registration Papers

The big day has finally arrived! You are the new proud owner of the horse of your dreams! You are basking in that ‘new purchase feel’ when your stable mate asks, “Did the previous owner sign over his papers?” Um…papers? What are those?

Obtaining registration papers for your horse is dependent on certain specifics set by breed associations. If your horse is unregistered, or perhaps has had its papers lost or misplaced, there are steps you can take to obtain new registration forms.

What are Registration Papers?

Registration papers are specific to individual breeds and/or colors of horses. The information listed on these papers consist of the horse’s registered name, birth date, location of birth, color/markings, pedigree, breeder, and owner history.

With certain registries there may even be a photo of the specific horse.

Papers help prove ownership and may increase the sale value of an animal.

What are common breed registries in the United States?

Breed registries play a big part in ensuring breed specific rules are followed.

Some of the most common registries that can be found in the United States are:

  • American Paint Horse Association (APHA)
  • American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA)
  • American Warmblood Registry
  • Appaloosa Horse Club
  • Arabian Horse Association
  • American Morgan Horse Association
  • BLM National Wild Horse and Burro Program

Proving Horse Ownership

Registration papers also play a role in proving ownership. Each time a registered horse is bought and sold, a transfer of ownership should be completed.

If your horse is not registered it is always smart to receive an alternative receipt for proof of your purchase.

Horse bill of sale

Photo Cred: Canva

How do I prove I own a horse?

In addition to having your name listed as the current owner on your horse’s registration papers, a proof of purchase via signed contract (aka Bill of Sale) is the smartest and safest way to prove ownership.

It is also helpful to keep a file of previous vet bills, farrier receipts, and other various horse records, too.

Do horses have titles?

Although registration papers seem similar to a “title,” there have been instances where title documents did not legally prove ownership in court.

Should you get a bill of sale when you buy a horse?

For most of us, purchasing a horse is a serious investment.

In order to protect this investment, signing and completing a bill of sale contract will show beyond doubt that you are indeed the owner of your horse should you ever need proof.

How to Register a Horse

Most registries require you to fill out an application to register your horse. The information needed will depend on which association you are applying to. For example, the American Quarter Horse Association requires horses to have registered AQHA parents.

On the other hand, there are also registries such as the American Pinto Association that require certain color characteristics, but are not breed specific.

Want to learn more? Check out our article on pedigree terminology.

Signing paperwork

Photo Cred: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can you register a horse without knowing the sire and dam?

Many registries are formed in order to maintain the integrity of a specific breed. Because of this, most will not accept an application where the sire and dam are unknown.

Q: How do I get my horse papered?

If you know the breed of your horse, the first step is to research the required information needed to apply for specific registration.

Q: How do I register AQHA without papers?

AQHA requires you to know the sire and dam of the horse you are trying to register. If you know this information, the next step would be to submit a registration application.

There will also be a registration fee that you must pay. This amount will vary depending on the current age of your horse.

Parting Thoughts

Having a horse that does not currently have papers is not the end of the world. There are various different avenues you can take to obtain registration papers and most can be completed via online application.

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About the author


Natasha D.

Natasha is a Certified equine massage therapist with experience showing in western pleasure, hunter under saddle, horsemanship, showmanship, and trail. She now focuses on reining horses, but dabbles in dressage training when time allows.