All domestic horses, donkeys and mules will have to be chipped and have their own passports by next summer.
The move, decided by the European Commission, is to protect the spread of disease and to stop dangerous medicines getting into the food chain with horsemeat.
Horsemeat is eaten widely in the EU. Countries where it appears on the menu include Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia.
It is also easily found on French supermarket shelves.
All horses going for slaughter will have to be accompanied by their passport, which must tally with the chip number.
If the horse has received certain medicines the slaughter can be postponed for up to six months.
Horse owners must have an electronic chip inserted into the foals’ necks within the first six months after birth.
The horses will then hold a unique life number and a “passport”.
A similar system has existed, on a voluntary basis, with cats and dogs, which have been able to skip quarantine when going to the UK, since 2000.
The horse scheme comes into effect in July 2009, and which point all horse owners will have to comply with the new regulations.
The rules do not affect horses imported from abroad or those that roam wild.
Since 2000 all horses in the EU have to be accompanied by an identification document (passport) during their movements, on foot and during transport.