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Branding and Identifying Your Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   10th May 2014   •   2,998 views   •   0 comments
Branding and Identifying Your Horse

Have you ever thought of what you would do if your horse were lost or stolen? Itís not something you can really plan for, beyond locking up your gates or barns and making sure your horse is always kept safe and secure. However, if the worst did happen, it might be a good idea to have an accurate description of your horse to give searchers, news media and authorities.

A good place to start is to take clear photos of your horse. Take one from each side, from the back and front. A close-up of facial markings, leg markings or other distinguishing features such as scars, brands, whorls or ermines is also a good idea.

Next, write down a detailed description of your horse, including any unique mannerisms or other characteristics. For example, my horse is bay in summer, but her winter coat turns quite Ďfrostedí, and she looks more grey than bay. On some horses, their flecks and spots may change season by season. Now store your description in a safe place, along with the photographs. You might want to update it occasionally if your horse gets a new scar or its a grey that is getting whiter.

There are a few artificial identifications that horses can have. These include various brands and microchips.

Hot Iron Branding
Hot iron branding can be done with a metal branding iron heated in a fire, or with an electrically heated iron. The hot iron is held against the skin for several seconds, and when done, leaves a hairless scar in the shape of the brand.

Freeze Branding
Freeze branding is done with a liquid nitrogen frozen branding iron. Itís considered more humane, but there is still pain as the skin is frozen so that it burns. The result is a scar of white hairs against the horseís natural color. If the horse is white, the brand is left long enough to create a hairless scar. Freeze branding is commonly seen on Standardbreds and is usually underneath the mane.

Lip Tattoos
Tattoos on horses work the same way human tattoos do. Tiny needles are used to deposit ink into the skin layers. Most common on Thoroughbreds headed for the track, lip tattoos can be hard to read. To make it easier, pull up the horseís lip, take a photograph and use the lightness/darkness and contrast functions of graphic editing software to make the tattoo clearer. Sometimes just converting the photo to grayscale can make it easier to read and record a lip tattoo.

Microchips
Least painful to the horse, and less scarring is microchip identification. A tiny microchip about the size of a grain of rice is implanted under the skin. A hand scanner is then used to read the information on the microchip. The downside of microchips is that not every vet clinic has a scanner, not all scanners read all chips, the companies that run the databases of scanner information can go out of business, and itís not obvious that a horse has a microchip.

Temporary Identification
A temporary brand can be burned or clipped into a horseís coat. Hoof branding can be done with a hot iron, and will not damage the hoof. As the brand grows out with the hoof wall, the brand will have to be redone about twice a year.
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