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Horse identification
Natural, manmade, technological ID methodologies give DVMs choices to present to clients; uniform government mandates coming


DVM360 MAGAZINE


This process takes only one to two seconds and provides the details of the iris that are mapped, recorded and stored for future matching/verification. For people, the inaccuracy rating is one in 1.2 million, a highly reliable methodology. By comparison, misidentification with human fingerprinting is one in 1,000.

Retinal scanning analyzes the layer of blood vessels at the back of the eye.

Scanning involves using a low-intensity light source and an optical coupler, and can read the patterns at a great level of accuracy. Retina scan devices (in use for people) are probably the most accurate biometric available today.

For humans, the continuity of the retinal pattern throughout life and the difficulty in fooling such a device make it a great long-term, high-security option. It may be adoptable for equine identification.

Manmade markings

  • Freeze branding

Freeze branding uses a branding iron, soaked in liquid nitrogen, to create a visible mark of white hair growth on a dark-coated horse, or a bald mark on white or gray horses.

The iron is applied for a few seconds on color-coated horses, or up to 45 seconds on white or light-colored animals.


Freeze mark branding uses a branding iron soaked in liquid nitrogen to create a visible mark of white hair growth on a dark horse or a bald mark on a light horse.
Immediately after the freeze branding, a frozen indentation in the skin of the animal is seen. Within a few minutes, the indentation will disappear and swelling will begin. The brand will be swollen for 48 to 72 hours. Within three to four weeks, the branded area will begin to get flaky and scaly. Once this scab is gone, white hair will replace the colored hair and the brand will be easily visible. Since the skin is not broken and there is little or no pain, freeze branding is only mildly stressful to the horse, and unlike hot-iron branding, there is no risk of infection, since there is no burn or harm to the underlying skin. Only the hair follicle is affected.

The liquid nitrogen cold brand causes the pigment in the hair to "disappear" and leaves the affected hairs white. Little restraint is necessary as the freeze brand is applied. The horse feels little, if any pain during the quick process.

  • Freeze Mark Branding

Freeze mark branding is similar to freeze branding. It places an alpha-numeric angle system of marks on the horse to provide a specific horse number (much like the vehicle identification number on a car) which can be passed on to horse-theft organizations to identify lost or stolen horses, or those mistakenly ending up in slaughterhouses.

The brand is usually placed on the neck area below the mane and easily spotted and read. Unlike the freeze brand, the freeze mark not only identifies the owner but the specific horse in question. Kryo-Kinetics Associates, Inc. (KKA), Tuscon, Ariz., provides technicians to apply the mark, and keeps records of the alpha-numeric system to ensure horse identity. The mark begins with an alphabetical symbol, either a symbol that designates the breed of the horse, or its stated domicile. An "A" symbol, for example, is put in eight different positions, Appaloosa, AL, AK, AZ, and AR, etc.

Then there are two digits that are stacked, which represent the year of its birth. Then the last six digits represent either the horse's registration number, with the breed symbol at the beginning of the mark, or a number that has been assigned to the horse by the technician.

"I find that the majority of horse owners want this as theft prevention," says Dee Griesser, KKA, "They know that permanent (and recognizable) ID is best to protect their horse."

This particular ID system allows a horse to be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer, and it doesn't take a whole lot for an officer to read a freeze mark.

"If I steal your horse, and I've got it in my pasture and you show up and say, 'I think that's my horse, we need to scan it with a microchip reader', an officer of the law cannot come on my property unless I give him permission to do so. On the other hand the officer, can, with a pair of binoculars, read a freeze mark from the other side of a fence.


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Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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