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Horse Identification

Like people, horses need identification (ID). Horse owners should use identification methods that are the least invasive and the most effective for identifying the specific animal.

Non-invasive ID Techniques

Non-invasive ID can be as simple as having a good physical description on file, documenting a horse’s colour, markings, breed and position of hair whorls and scars. Non-invasive ID techniques do not injure or stress the horse.

Invasive ID Techniques

Invasive ID techniques can injure or stress the horse. These techniques include:

  • Lip tattooing, as defined by registries for horse breeds.
  • Microchips implanted under the skin using a needle. The microchip contains a transponder to identify the horse.
  • Branding produces a permanent mark on the horse’s skin. Hot branding produces a scar where hair grows in a different pattern from the surrounding area. Freeze branding causes the hair to re-grow in a lighter colour. NOTE: Branding is considered a less humane way to mark a horse permanently, because it causes pain. Most brands are used to identify ownership rather than identify individual horses. Providing pain control is strongly encouraged for branding procedures.
  • Plastic tags and hoof branding are temporary ways to identify a horse.

Horses need people who keep track of their animals and maintain good records.

What does the Code of Practice say about identification?

“Permanent identification is an essential aspect of the horse industry.  It serves a legal proof of ownership and is necessary to maintain adequate health records.  

For registered horses, the breed registry will determine the acceptable method of identification.
Horse owners should use the least invasive method of identification that is effective.

The non-invasive identification system most widely used is a physical description, using colour, markings, breed and position of hair whorls and scars. Chestnut fingerprinting is possible but not currently in general use.

Hot and freeze branding of horses produces a permanent mark on the skin. Hot branding causes a scar where the hair re-grows in a different pattern than on the surrounding skin.

In freeze branding, the hair re-grows in a lighter colour. Horse organizations are encouraged to move away from this type of identification.

Horses should never be rebranded. Governments and industry are encouraged to develop a more humane identification system for verifying ownership.”

Icon of an internet linkMore information is provided in the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC)’s  Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines.

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Activity 5.1 – Animal Identification

Farms, animal shelters, kennels and stables are part of communities. Issues that affect the management and care of domestic animals can affect everyone within these communities. Answer the questions about animal ID in the Module 5 booklet.

When you are finished, move on to the next topic.

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