os­ing track of your horse would be heart­break­ing. Tak­ing delivery on the wrong horse—or deal­ing with a cross-coun­try co­nun­drum in­volv­ing big bucks—would be time-con­sum­ing, stress­ful, and po­ten­tially ex­pen­sive. How do you avoid find­ing your­self in such a

Horse & Rider - - Level Out -

horse, as well as any horse you pur­chase, is pos­i­tively iden­ti­fied. If your horse car­ries pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, there’s a much bet­ter chance that you’ll be suc­cess­fully re­united with him if you’re ever sep­a­rated, no mat­ter what the rea­son. And with pos­i­tive, no-fail ID, you’ll know that the horse you bought was the horse you got.

If you’re like most horse own­ers, you be­grudg­ingly ac­cept re­quire­ments for brands, mi­crochips, or other forms of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion called for by breed reg­istries or com­pe­ti­tion rules. But you don’t re­ally see what the fuss is all about. You know what your horse looks like, and you have the pa­pers to prove it.

How­ever, there’s more to pos­i­tive ID than meets the eye. Here, I’ll ex­plain how pos­i­tive ID can help you in your equine pur­suits, as well as avert (or quickly re­solve) a prob­lem. Then I’ll give you sev­eral horse-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion op­tions (hot brand­ing, freeze brand­ing, lip tat­too­ing, and mi­crochip­ping), in­clud­ing the pros and cons of each one.

Armed with this knowl­edge, you’ll be able to take the proper steps to posi- tively iden­tify your horse, which could po­ten­tially save his life.

How ID Helps

Here are five sit­u­a­tions in which pos­i­tive ID can help you in your equine pur­suits, as well as avert (or quickly re­solve) a prob­lem.

Show­ing/breed­ing. Reg­is­tra­tion pa­pers may be re­quired for your show horse to par­tic­i­pate in breed-rec­og­nized com­pe­ti­tions or be el­i­gi­ble for awards. Pedi­grees listed on reg­is­tra­tion pa­pers help breed­ers choose mares and stal­lions for breed­ing pro­grams and en­sure that the re­sult­ing off­spring will be el­i­gi­ble for reg­is­tra­tion.

Buy­ing/sell­ing. Pa­pers that doc­u­ment age and pedi­gree can be im­por­tant parts of sales agree­ments. But how can you prove that a horse is the same one listed on the reg­is­tra­tion pa­pers? Solid-col­ored horses with no mark­ings es­pe­cially pose a chal­lenge. Some form of pos­i­tive ID is the only way to re­li­ably link your horse to the pa­pers pre­sented to you.

True story: A client once dropped off a horse for board­ing at my farm and left me his reg­is­tra­tion pa­pers. When I called to con­firm his age prior to a med­i­cal pro­ce­dure, she told me, “Oh, I’m not re­ally even sure that’s the right horse. When I bought him, the seller told me she had a num­ber of chest­nut geld­ings and wasn’t sure which one she’d sold to me.” Sound crazy? Per­haps. But this type of mix-up is also more com­mon than you might think.

Emer­gency evac­u­a­tion. In a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, safe barn space fills up quickly. Your care­fully laid emer­gency-evac­u­a­tion plans could fall apart fast as you con­cen­trate on sav­ing your horse’s life—and your own. Dur­ing large-scale evac­u­a­tions, your horse can eas­ily end up in a shel­ter barn (or worse).

Cases in point: In 2017, more than

500 horses were evac­u­ated to Cal­i­for­nia’s Sonoma County Fair­grounds in re­sponse to wild­fires. A hun­dred or more horses sought refuge at Sam Hous­ton Race Park dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Har­vey. Three hun­dred in­di­vid­u­als/ fa­cil­i­ties of­fered aid along the East Coast in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Irma. And in some cases, horse own­ers were forced to sim­ply turn their horses loose.

In the midst of mass con­fu­sion, horses with some form of pos­i­tive ID had a much bet­ter chance of be­ing re­united with their own­ers than those that did not. If your horse is ever dis­placed by a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, such as a wildfire, hur­ri­cane, or earth­quake, you’ll rest eas­ier if he has pos­i­tive ID. It’s also ad­vis­able to use a live­stock crayon to write your con­tact in­for­ma­tion onto your horse’s coat, braid a lug­gage tag into his mane, or af­fix a neck band hold­ing all rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion. (You can find more about be­ing pre­pared for a dis­as­ter on Horse andRider.com.) Pro­tec­tion from theft/slaugh­ter. Imag­ine com­ing home at feed­ing time and dis­cov­er­ing that your horse is miss­ing. Now imag­ine learn­ing that he’d been loaded into a trailer in broad day­light while you were at work by a man your neigh­bor as­sumed was a friend of yours. Think it can’t hap­pen? Think again. Al­though it’s hard to find ac­cu­rate sta­tis­tics due to lack of re­port­ing of these types of non­vi­o­lent crimes, es­ti­mates by res­cue or­ga­ni­za­tions say as many as 40,000 horses are stolen ev­ery year in the United States.

As if that isn’t scary enough, if your horse is stolen, there’s a good chance he could end up on a slaugh­ter truck to Canada or Mex­ico. Pos­i­tive ID not only helps de­ter horse theft in some cases, but also can be crit­i­cal for re­cov­ery—es­pe­cially if your horse ends up in an auc­tion yard on his way to a slaugh­ter­house.

Out­break con­trol. When a se­ri­ous in­fec­tious dis­ease, such as the neu­ro­log­i­cal form of equine her­pesvirus, strikes a barn, one key fac­tor in con­trol­ling its spread is to iden­tify ex­posed horses. And if that dis­ease strikes at a big event where a lot of horses are com­ing in and out, quickly track­ing move­ment be­comes es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult. If the ma­jor­ity of horses have pos­i­tive ID that’s been recorded (such as a mi­crochip), it be­comes much eas­ier to track those horses down. Wouldn’t you feel bet­ter know­ing right away if your horse had been ex­posed? Not only would it help you take the steps nec­es­sary to pro­tect your own horse, it also would re­sult in faster quar­an­tine and re­duced ex­po­sure of other horses, thereby help­ing limit the scope of any out­break.

Horse-ID Op­tions

Now let’s take a look at the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion op­tions avail­able for your horse, in­clud­ing the pros and cons of each one.

Hot Brand­ing

What it is: Hot brand­ing cre­ates a per­ma­nent mark on the horse by burn­ing the skin with heated metal, also known as a brand­ing iron. Hot brand­ing is the old­est known form of horse iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. The prac­tice dates back to an­cient times when the marks cho­sen were be­lieved to ward off evil spir­its. In mod­ern times, hot brands most com­monly iden­tify spe-

cific own­ers, ranches, or breed reg­istries.

Pros: Hot brand­ing is in­ex­pen­sive, per­ma­nent, and vis­i­ble. Pro­po­nents be­lieve that the vis­i­ble na­ture of a brand helps de­ter theft.

Cons: Hot brand­ing causes painful third-de­gree burns and tis­sue dam­age. These ef­fects raise wel­fare con­cerns and has even led to ban­ning of the prac­tice in such coun­tries as Den­mark, Ger­many, Scot­land, and The Nether­lands. There are also anec­do­tal re­ports of chronic, low-grade lameness as­so­ci­ated with the tis­sue dam­age that oc­curs.

Al­though brands are vis­i­ble, the marks aren’t al­ways clear enough to be ac­cu­rately de­coded. In a study done of 248 branded horses in com­pe­ti­tion and 28 eu­th­a­nized horses, breed sym­bols were cor­rectly iden­ti­fied in 84 per­cent of horses, while dou­ble-digit num­bers were iden­ti­fied in only 40 per­cent. The au­thors con­cluded that hot brands are an un­re­li­able method for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Freeze Brand­ing

What it is: Freeze brand­ing cre­ates a per­ma­nent mark on the horse by ap­ply­ing a brand­ing iron that has been chilled in liq­uid ni­tro­gen or al­co­hol and dry ice. The brand is ap­plied for 7 to 10 sec­onds to dark-col­ored horses, which dam­ages the pig­ment-pro­duc­ing hair cells re­sult­ing in white hair growth. On light-col­ored horses, the brand is ap­plied for 12 to 15 sec­onds, which de­stroys the hair cells com­pletely.

Pros: Like hot brand­ing, freeze brand­ing cre­ates a per­ma­nent, vis­i­ble mark. Freeze brand­ing is less painful for the horse and causes less tis­sue dam­age than hot brand­ing. A freeze brand is usu­ally more leg­i­ble and has bet­ter de­tail than a hot brand, mak­ing it a more re­li­able form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Cons: The equip­ment re­quired to freeze brand is more ex­pen­sive and dif­fi­cult to set up than that re­quired for a hot brand. Al­though less painful than hot brand­ing, freeze brand­ing still causes some pain and dis­tress, lead­ing to wel­fare con­cerns.

Lip Tat­too

What it is: A lip tat­too is a se­ries of let­ters and num­bers that are ap­plied to the in­side of the horse’s up­per lip us­ing a se­ries of inked “per­fo­rat­ing plates,” that is, plates with mul­ti­ple nee­dles dipped in ink. Lip tattoos were in­tro­duced in 1947 by the Thor­ough­bred Rac­ing Pro­tec­tion Bu­reau and are still re­quired by the Jockey Club prior to en­try in a race. Other as­so­ci­a­tions that ac­cept lip tattoos for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion in­clude the Amer­i­can Quar­ter Horse As­so­ci­a­tion, the Ap­paloosa Horse Club, and the Ara­bian Horse As­so­ci­a­tion.

Pros: Lip tattoos are in­ex­pen­sive and easy to ap­ply, al­though the tat­too­ing process takes longer than ei­ther type of brand­ing. Lip tattoos cause very lit­tle dis­com­fort for the horse.

Cons: A lip tat­too isn’t read­ily vis­i­ble and can be dif­fi­cult to read, es­pe­cially if a horse is re­sis­tant to han­dling. Lip tattoos fade over time; af­ter 4 to 5 years, they may be­come il­leg­i­ble.


What it is: A mi­crochip is an elec­tronic de­vice that’s in­serted via a nee­dle into the nuchal lig­a­ment that runs along the top of a horse’s neck. This tiny de­vice, about the size of a grain of rice, con­tains a unique code that emits a ra­dio-fre­quency sig­nal that can be read by a hand­held scan­ning de­vice. Mi­crochips have been used in horses for years, but prob­lems, such as lack of stan­dard­iza­tion and wide­spread mis­con­cep­tions about their use, re­sulted in re­sis­tance from horse own­ers in the United States. How­ever, in re­cent years, international stan­dard­iza­tion and bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion have led to greater ac­cep­tance. Many breed reg­istries and com­pet­i­tive or­ga­ni­za­tions now re­quire mi­crochips, in­clud­ing the International Eques­trian Fed­er­a­tion for Eques­trian Sports (FEI), the gov­ern­ing body for all international horse sports.

Pros: Mi­crochip­ping is sim­ple, quick, and pain­less. The process isn’t much dif­fer­ent for the horse than be­ing vac­ci­nated; only the most nee­dle-pho­bic horse is likely to re­quire se­da­tion. The iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­vided is un­al­ter­able and spe­cific to each in­di­vid­ual horse. Scan­ning the horse for a mi­crochip is also sim­ple and takes only sec­onds to com­plete. You can regis­ter your horse’s mi­crochip num­ber with a breed reg­istry or other or­ga­ni­za­tion; most com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture mi­crochips also of­fer a reg­is­tra­tion ser­vice where your horse’s in­for­ma­tion can be stored.

Cons: Op­po­nents to mi­crochips in horses ar­gue that chips will mi­grate in the tis­sues, but stud­ies have demon­strated that this doesn’t ac­tu­ally oc­cur. Oth­ers claim a mi­crochip can be sur­gi­cally re­moved—a process that would be very dif­fi­cult (if not im­pos­si­ble) to per­form. Crit­ics also cite high cost as a hur­dle to horse own­ers, but in re­al­ity the cost of a mi­crochip and place­ment is typ­i­cally less than $100.

The one ac­tual dis­ad­van­tage of a mi­crochip com­pared with other forms of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is its lack of vis­i­bil­ity. The only way to know if horse has a chip is with a scan­ner. If your horse is mi­crochipped and liv­ing in a barn, con­sider plac­ing a sign on his stall door stat­ing, “This horse has been mi­crochipped,” as a po­ten­tial theft de­ter­rent.

Al­though stan­dard­iza­tion is im­prov­ing with the wide­spread use of chips, pay at­ten­tion to chip type; make sure it’s a 15-digit International Stan­dards Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ISO) com­pli­ant chip, mean­ing that it op­er­ates at a fre­quency of 134.2 kHz and can be read by a uni­ver­sal scan­ner. As mi­crochip use be­comes more widely used and ac­cepted, any re­main­ing prob­lems with stan­dard­iza­tion are likely to be over­come. 

Find “10 Steps to Re­duce the Risk of Horse Theft” at Horse­andRider.com this month.

‘Oh, I’m not re­ally even sure that’s the right horse.’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.