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


"The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has always indicated to me," Griesser continues, "that they like it because they do not have to capture a horse to read its ID; they can do so from a distance."

The BLM does use freeze-mark ID on all of their "adopt-a-horse and burros." Also, in the early 1970's a federal regulation was passed which holds slaughter plants responsible for undocumented freeze-mark hide. The protection that the wild horses enjoy carries over to domestic horses as well, since a slaughterhouse operator will make sure to check for a freeze mark.

The drawback to this, as with other methods of ID, is that a freeze mark, like any other mark, may be altered.

  • Lip Tattoo

For more than 50 years, the Thoroughbred racing industry has made lip tattoos the standard, preferred identification method.

It's an easy and convenient means of identification at the racetrack.

The critical nature of racing and the value of Thoroughbreds demand an accurate and reliable identification method.

Though tattoos may possibly be altered, they are an excellent method to simply apply and view the proper identity of these valuable animals. Not only Thoroughbreds, but also other breed registries, such as the Appaloosa Horse Club, as well as the U.S. Trotting Association (Standardbreds) and the American Quarter Horse Association, use lip tattoos for primary identification.

When a Thoroughbred is being prepared for the racetrack, before it starts in its first race, it will need a lip tattoo.

The Thoroughbred racing industry and other breed registeries have made lip tattoos the standard, preferred identification method.
The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau (TRPB) provides technicians to properly identify (via the Jockey Club certificate of registration) tattoo and photograph Thoroughbreds throughout the U.S. and Canada. Tattoos ensure that each horse is who it is supposed to be. Lip tattoos are applied to the gum of the inside of the upper lip and are encoded with numbers and a letter, which represent both the individual horse and the year of its birth. Once inked, the technician presses the pins into the gum tissue. Afterward the technician photographs the completed tattooed lip. Prior to the tattooing procedure, the horse is properly acknowledged via its registration materials and appearance (a written description and photo) to ensure the accuracy of its identity.

Once the animal is properly verified, the identifier and technician complete the process.

"The process is not very painful at all," comments Gerald Bergsma, DVM, track veterinarian, Emerald Downs, Auburn Wash. "A small percentage of horses may need to be tranquilized, but generally most horses just stand without any problem, they tolerate it very well."

It is mandatory to lip tattoo those Thoroughbred horses participating in racing, that go to the track, are in training, and have been entered in a race.

The tattoos always start with the year of birth's letter designation (each year is assigned a particular letter) followed by the actual birth year, followed by the last five digits of their Jockey Club registration number. The recent letters are: A 1997, B 1998, C 1999, D 2000, E 2001, F 2002, G 2003, H 2004.

Via lip tattoos, racing commissions across the U.S. require racehorse identities to be verified at race time.

Each State Racing Commission makes its own rules regarding lip tattoos.

Following is Title 11: Alcohol, Horse Racing, and Lottery, Chapter I, Illinois Racing Board, Part 1415, Section 1415.15, Lip Tattoo. "No horse will be permitted to start at a pari-mutuel meeting unless it has been tattooed on the upper lip with his identification number. However, the requirement of a lip tattoo shall not apply to horses entered in stakes races when such horses are fully identified pursuant to the provisions of rule 193 (11 Ill. Adm. Code Section 1415.10) and when such horses have raced at pari-mutuel meetings outside of North America (Source: Amended at 5 Ill. Reg. 8911, effective August 25, 1981)."


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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