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Identifying your horse

By Daniel H. Grove, DVM - July 1st, 2018 - Ask the Vet

AskTheVetWe all love our horses. We invest time and money into their care and upkeep. I think it is natural for us to want to protect the emotional and financial investment we have in our horses. This month I am going to discuss the various forms of identifying our horses.

Registration Paperwork
Each breed registry has its own method for identifying the animal for which they produce papers for. Pictures, written descriptions, and drawings are found on these different documents. They usually also include the parentage of the registered horse.

Hot Branding

Hot branding has been around since 2700 BC. An iron brand fashioned in a distinctive shape is heated and then applied to the specified area. It leaves a permanent mark that can be used to at least identify where the horse is from. Areas that I have seen branded are the shoulders, hips, each side of the tail, face, and necks. Certain breeds like mustangs have a defined place (the side of the neck) that they are placed.

Freeze Branding
Just like with hot branding, it makes a permanent mark. This has become more common in today’s world. It is less painful for the animal. The “Iron” is usually made out of copper, brass, stainless steel, iron or some blend of metals. The irons are chilled either in liquid nitrogen, or there is a method that uses dry ice.

While getting “ink” has become quite the craze in society today, horses have been ahead of the fashion world for some time. Just as with their human counterparts, horses can be tattooed to give them a permanent mark. It is most commonly done in the racing industry. It is performed on the inner side of the lips, most commonly the upper lip. The characters usually start with a letter that corresponds to the year the horse was born followed by a unique number. When done properly, you can get a very nice legible form of identification. Unfortunately, they are commonly challenging to read.

Now we are getting into some techniques that have come about because of newer technology. With microchipping, a very small RFID chip that is about the size of a grain of rice is placed in the horse. The standard location is in the nuchal ligament of the neck on the left side of the animal, midway between the poll and the withers. It is placed in this ligament to minimize the chances of the chip migrating. A simple wave of a microchip reader over the area and a unique number pops up on the screen.

Deoxyribonucleic acid is what makes us who we are. Four different nucleic acids (Thymine, Adenine, Guanine, and Cytosine) are arranged in a particular order for each of us. The variances in the order is what makes each of us different. This is a very simplistic description of the way that it works. With developments in technology, we now can identify a horse from DNA. If you suspect a foal is not from the parents you were told, DNA will tell the truth. More and more breed registries are requiring DNA to minimize falsehoods on papers.

Well, summer is here so make sure your horse has its ID and get out there and have some fun! Happy Summer everyone.


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