We’re often asked why we freeze-brand our horses as many people think that it’s cruel because it’s effectively a cold burn. It’s a good question.
Today we had our annual visit from Alison at Premier Equimark, who freeze-brands all our horses. Freeze-branding is a method of visibly and permanently identifying horses, ponies and donkeys. At Doghill, we do it because not only does a visible “brand” mark deter horse thieves, but it also helps with horse identification. In a field, a bay TB with no markings, looks identical to any other bay TB with no markings. A freeze-brand gives a horse a unique marking that anyone can identify. Montana our bay TB (with no markings) is now sporting a very smart freeze-brand on her back (HPW7), as is Hobbit, who is also bay and the proud owner of mark “HPW8”. We find that after the initial “cold burn”, most horses have very little discomfort while the brand and white hairs are coming through.
There have been numerous instances where freeze-branded horses have been stolen alongside their unmarked companions and the marked horses have been recovered. In one instance, marked stolen horses were found less than 24 hours after their theft, in a horse market 200 miles away. Sadly the unmarked horses taken in the same theft disappeared for good and without trace because they couldn’t be properly identified. Given that the marked horses were found in a market where horses are bought for meat, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what happened to the others. A freeze-brand registration is unique to you and your horse, and that is good enough proof for the police to identify and get you your stolen horse back if it turns up somewhere it shouldn’t be.
So, given that horse thieves are not going to go away and many horses are stolen or go missing every year, the question really should be; why would you NOT “freeze-brand” your horse?