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What You Can Learn From Your OTTB Tattoo
 By Saferaphus   •   5th Jun 2014   •   7,411 views   •   2 comments
What You Can Learn From Your OTTB TattooOff The Track Thoroughbreds can make great riding horses. In North America, horses that are headed for a racing career are lip tattooed for identification. (Many other breeds are lip tattooed as well.) Sometimes owners tattoo their horses with a DIY type kit, or they may call in a professional.

When the horse is freshly tattooed, the letters and numbers are easy to read. Over time, however, the tattoo fades or the inner lip may become pigmented and make the tattoo difficult to read. If your horse’s tattoo is only a few years old, it may still be quite distinct. All you will need to do is hold your horse’s upper lip and roll it back revealing the tattoo on the underside of the lip that would normally lay against the top front teeth.

If the numbers and letters of the tattoo become faded or muddled, there is a way of making them easier to read, that involves a digital camera. Have someone hold the lip back and take a photo of the tattoo. Using photo-editing software on your computer, adjust the color, contrast and other controls on the picture to enhance the outline of the tattoo. This may make the tattoo easier to read. A veterinarian or horse identifier can help, but there will be a cost.

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Once you’ve got the tattoo numbers and letters, what can you learn? The letter which appears at the beginning of the tattoo indicates the year in which the horse was foaled. So a horse with a Q at the beginning of the tattoo would have been born in 1987 or 2013. Because the alphabet has 26 letters, the chart starts over again every 27 years. It would be easy just by looking at the horse to decide which decade it was born in. If the horse has only four numbers in the tattoo, it will be older than twenty-five years. If there is a * before the letter, that indicates it was born outside of North America.

A 1971 1997
B 1972 1998
C 1973 1999
D 1974 2000
E 1975 2001
F 1976 2002
G 1977 2003
H 1978 2004
I 1979 2005
J 1980 2006
K 1981 2007
L 1982 2008
M 1983 2009
N 1984 2010
O 1985 2011
P 1986 2012
Q 1987 2013
R 1988 2014
S 1989 2015
T 1990 2016
U 1991 2017
V 1992 2018
W 1993 2019
X 1994 2020
Y 1995 2021
Z 1996 2022

You can also find out the horse’s pedigree from the tattoo. For no charge, you can sign up and use The Jockey Club's free Tattoo Identification Services available at http://registry.jockeyclub.com and research your horse’s pedigree. You may also be able to find your horse’s former owners, provided they updated the horse’s information with the Jockey Club each time the horse was sold. Not all owners will do this however, so there may be some gaps in the information.

Did your horse race? You may be able to find out your horse’s race records. Some horses are tattooed but did not race, so turning up blank race stats isn’t unusual. It just means that something sidelined your horse’s race career.

A lot of Thoroughbreds don’t have lip tattoos. They may have been in training to race, but some circumstance changed the plans their owners had for them. Some may not have shown a decent turn of speed, or will to run. Some may have had soundness or health issues. There are many reasons why Thoroughbreds don’t make it to the track. Some estimates state that as few as 1 in 100 TBs born to race ever actually run in a race.
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Valkyrie  MOD 
That's interesting :) NZ TBs don't have lip tattoos. They are branded on their near shoulder with the stud brand, as shown on these yearlings.

On their off shoulder they have two sets of numbers as shown here on the NZ-bred stallion So You Think. The top number is simply the order in which the horse was registered by the breeder or stud. The bottom number is a single digit and is the last digit of the year the horse was born. So '0' could mean 1990, 2000, 2010 etc. You can see from So You Think that he was born in 2006.
  Jun 6, 2014  •  7,559 views
 
Saferaphus  
A shoulder brand would probably be more clear as the horse ages. The lip tattoos can get really difficult to read over time.
  Jun 10, 2014  •  7,423 views
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