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Horse Branding 101
 By Winniefield Park   •   20th Aug 2017   •   1,848 views   •   0 comments


Two horses that my daughter recently had in for boarding have brands on their haunches. Branding was a common form of identifying ownership. Itís less popular today but there are still many horses that are branded. Itís a relatively simple process and an inexpensive way to identify a horse that helps verify any other paperwork such as registration or veterinary records that come with a horse.

There are two types of brands. For freeze branding, a branding iron is set in dry ice and alcohol to bring the metal down to a scaldingly low temperature. The frozen brand is set against the horseís skin. Depending on how long the brand is left on the skin, it may kill the color pigment in the hair follicles, making the hair grow in white, or it may result in baldness where the brand sits. It can take up to three months for the branded area to heal and grow in the white hairs.

Fire branding or hot brands are the ones most of us are familiar with from old cowboy movies. A branding iron is heated in a fire or forge and applied to the animalís skin. It burns the hair, and the top layer of skin leaving a scar in the shape of the brand. Itís felt that fire branding is more painful for the animal than freeze branding although both methods cause discomfort.

The brands themselves may indicate ownership, or they may hold information about the horseís breed or its history. The BLM has a specific type of brand that combines Ďangle codesí and number codes. Read together, these brands will tell you that the Mustang belonged to the U.S., the state where it was captured, its age, and its registration number.

Other brands are strictly alphanumeric such as Arabians and Standardbreds. The string of numbers and letters are usually on the right side on an Arabian and the left side of the neck on a Standardbred. Arabian brands start with the letter ĎAí and a sideways A denotes a part bred Arabian. But these too can use the angle system used to identify BLM Mustangs. Some Arabian brands are unique to the stable it was born in.

Warmbloods, whether they be Dutch, German or any other European breed were often branded. Each type has a specific brand. A Dutch Warmblood would be branded with the lion coat of arms of the Dutch royal family. The Danish Warmblood brand is a crown above a wave. Selle FranÁais horses are branded with the initials SF within a geometric shape. Belgian Warmbloods were branded with a broken circle surrounding a star shape. The Trakehner brand looks like moose antlers. The brand for Holsteiners looks like a crest surrounding the letter H. The Oldenburg brand has O beneath a crown and the Hanoverian brand is two stylized horse heads formed to make a letter H. Some brands will have the year of the horseís birth beneath the symbol. In some cases, the last two digits of their registration number are used. Not all Warmbloods are branded, however, as the practice is now banned in many countries, and in most places, microchipping is favored.

Farms, stables, and ranches can, of course, have specific brands. The brand design must be applied for, and when the application is submitted, there must be no other similar brand within a specific distance where the horse is kept. There is a fee for keeping the records at a brand agency office. If the horse is shipped out of the area it was branded in, you may need to go back to the office in that area to research its history.
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