Equestrian terms: What is a brand?

Speaking of horses, what is a brand?

First, equine brands and breeds are very different things, although non-horsey folks often confuse the two.

A brand is a man-made marking, placed upon the body of a horse for identification purposes.

The word “breed” pertains to the type of horse one is discussing, such as Appaloosa, Bashkir Curly, Connemara, Dartmoor, Exmoor, or Falabella.

Often, young horses are branded at breed inspections, so that they bear the official logo of the equine breed to which they have been approved. For example, a horse may be branded to  identify him or her as an approved Haflinger, Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Irish Sport Horse, Oldenburg, Rheinland Pfalz-Sarr, Selle-Francais, Shagya-Arab, Trakehner, Warmblood or other breed. Some horses may receive extra branding elements to indicate preferred status, as with certain Freesians.

This article originally appeared on another publisher’s site, which is no longer open. All rights reverted to the author, so it appears here with full permission.

Horse breeders may brand horses with their own trademarks as well. Individual equine breeding operations may register their own logo brands for identification purposes.

Equine branding is usually performed with a hot iron, which burns through the horse’s fur (usually on the hip or shoulder) to the skin, leaving a permanent marking. This process is much like that used to mark cattle and other livestock. In fact, livestock owners have branded their animals since ancient times.

Horses may also be freeze-branded. This process is commonly used in wild horse management and as an anti-theft safeguard for horse owners. Freeze-branded horses are usually marked with registered codes identifying them for ownership, even as racehorses may be tattooed for identification purposes. This type of equine branding is frequently performed upon the animal’s neck.

Freeze-Branded Mustang –
Branded Palomino Quarter Horse –
Close-Up Mustang with Freeze Brand –
Creative Commons Licensing Photos

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