Having been somewhat overwhelmed with Government 'guidance' surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic over the past six months, it is easy to lose track of other key information emanating from the Scottish Government – especially if it doesn't attract mass media attention.

However, horse and pony owners should be aware of the guidance on equine passports produced by the Scottish Government, which relates to legislation entitled 'The Equine Animal (Identification) (Scotland) Regulations', 2019, which came into force on March 28, 2019.

This follows a four-year period during in which the Scottish Government has been working in consultation with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Veterinary Medicine Directorate, British Veterinary Association, British Equine Veterinary Association and the Local Authority Stakeholder Group.

Whilst having no legal status in its own right – unlike the legislation itself – this guidance does help in the understanding of the requirements for horse passports and specifically the roles that different people play in ensuring the horse is identified throughout its lifetime.

Although all aspects of the regulations are obviously important, the guidance highlights several which are worth mentioning here. Most crucial of these is the deadline set for the requirement for all equines to be identified by a microchip as well as a passport by March 28, 2021.

It is easy to know if your horse or pony falls into this category simply by looking at its passport. If there is a long microchip number visible on the front cover, no action required but if there isn't one, a microchip is required by that date and the Passport Issuing Organisation (PIO) updated with the microchip number – PIOs will deal with this differently so it's worth finding out more about the necessary procedures well in advance.

Bearing in mind that it is the local authority which has the responsibility to implement the regulations, enforcement may not be far from anyone's stable or field so other parts of the guidance are worth noting.

One important note is the need to keep passports with the equine at all times including its movement although some limited exceptions are listed which are practical and common sense. It is interesting to see the development of an ID card which presents an alternative to a hard passport copy for transport purposes but not for slaughter and significantly doesn't replace the need for a passport.

This signals the Scottish Government's adoption of ScotEquine (or Scottish Equine Database) which passes all data from Scottish PIOs to the UK Central Equine Database (UKED), as well as receive and hold data from UKED on all horses whose owners have a Scottish postcode.

It is not surprising that other important aspects of the guidance concerns the requirement to record the use of veterinary medicines as well as the equine's food chain status. Eating horse meat may be a concept foreign to most Scots, however, as members of the EU we have to live with its rules.

Interestingly there has been no mention of Brexit so it does beg the question of whether or not the legislation covering equines will need to remain following a post-Brexit deal. Given well-documented reports of unacceptable slaughter and transport conditions – which horses going for slaughter may have to endure – it certainly could provide an opportunity to campaign against horses going for meat from Scotland based on welfare grounds simply by amending the passport rules to that affect.

For many readers a copy of the guidance, published in July, 2020, may have already dropped through their letter boxes however for those who haven't caught sight of one, a copy is an essential read and available at www.gov.scot.

Talking of passports reminds us that we have come to that time of year when foals have to be registered with respective PIOs and breed societies. Apart from the basic procedure required to complete the appropriate document, there is also the question of giving the new-born a name – something which can involve lengthy consideration and much thought.

Just as we have surnames to denote family connections, so too with traditional breeders who use a first name (prefix) which immediately links the horse/pony with a stud. The prefix often reflects a place name relevant to the location of the stud or perhaps a name or word with special significance to the stud owner.

In my case, it was a combination of both as Waxwing was the name of my home situated outside Dunfermline built on a war-time base of that name which belonged to the Fleet Air Arm. In order to create a unique prefix which no-one else can adopt, breeders can register their stud name through the Central Prefix Register and their stud book society.

The name, Waxwing, was first registered in 1970 with the Welsh Pony and Cob Society but then registered centrally on January 1, 1978, to protect it from use by other breeders. In exactly the same way, modern sport horse breeders often use two or more capital letters in front of the name.

Tradition also had it that a name added to the end (suffix) denoted ownership and nothing else with the result that the breeder took no credit for breeding the horse/pony nor was overtly given any. While many equine breed societies have now revoked this rule and only prefixes are allowed, I am intrigued to know why this hasn't been adopted across the board.

Take the Clydesdale Society for example: many of the worlds renowned Clydesdale stallions proudly carry a stud prefix, which bears no reflection on the ability of his breeder, but is used to promote the stud of his purchaser. So if you breed them there is no obvious credit to your stud but if you feed them there is! Where is the justice to the breeder in that? Clydesdale females are obviously more precious to their breeders as the same luxury of naming them doesn't fall to the purchaser.

In the world of commerce and sponsorship, prefixes were often given to competition horses/ponies although opposition has grown over the years as it has been increasingly found counter productive as the equines changed hands and names as a result. Apart from the obvious confusion raised within the sport, permanent identification by name in the passport now prevails although we must never forget that it is the microchip which is the ultimate identifier.

As much as I support prefixes, I have to admit to admiring some of the 'stud-less' names that exist such as the dressage stallion, Valegro, the show jumper, Mr Softee and the racehorse, Red Rum – great names for great horses.

The last-named reminds me that the National Hunt horse have some tremendous names, which are selected to stick in the minds of punters, I suspect. They have perhaps come about after a few drinks at the bar or reflect a family connection. Beef or Salmon, the well-known Chaser – where did that come from, other than a menu? What about Your Tent or Mine – the mind boggles!

From all the marvellous names which abound in the racing world the horses from Coolmore are so distinctive that they roll off the tongue ranging, from Alex Ferguson's Rock of Gibraltar to the Stud's outstanding sire, Galileo, and to the current leading race filly, Love.

As attractive a name as it is, we'll see how much ‘love’ this one gains when she meets the nation's favourite, Enable, in the Arc de Triomphe early next month, at Longchamps.