The first question most of us ask when considering freeze branding our horses is if the procedure causes pain and if the application is humane. To get the best answer, we decided we’d like to hear what a long time professional in the field had to say on the subject. Pittsburg Foundry, the official branding iron supplier of Equine Quick Response, LLC, happens to have a long time client from Australia who has spent the past 25 years of his life in this field; Tony Carter – Smith PTY Ltd. Tony gave us the following insights on the freeze branding process:
“Freeze branding is a safe, virtually painless and economical process. The brand is legible, permanent and can be read from a distance, this means your horse is less likely to be the target of thieves. It’s like your horse or pony having its own registration plate. Other methods of branding can be painful and quite often result in an uneven and unreadable brand.” Tony Carter-Smith
What is Freeze Branding?
Freeze branding is a method of visibly and permanently identifying horses and ponies. Freeze branding, as the name suggests, is carried out by freezing the brand using liquid nitrogen to -196c and then applying to the skin for 6-10 seconds. This destroys the hair pigment so when the hair grows back it is white. White or grey horses will need a slightly longer application; this will destroy the hair follicle which will result in a hairless brand.
A small area on the animal’s shoulders is clipped and methylated spirit is applied to the clipped area, the brand is then applied. The horse/pony may be walked in a small circle or stand quite still while the brand is being applied. They react differently but most times barely notice what is going on. Even foals cope well with this process.
The brand swells up after it is applied, but this swelling subsides within a couple of hours. The branding application is virtually painless to the animal.
Does it hurt?
The coldness of the application will help to act as an anesthetic; however the initial effect can cause slight discomfort. Many horses can be branded with little or no restraint but of course we don’t usually know which they are until after the brand has been applied. All efforts are made to make this process as stress free as possible for animal, handler and brander. As this application does not break the skin and does not cause ongoing discomfort your horse can be ridden, rugged and fed as normal.
How long before the brand shows?
Freeze branding is humane and therefore a gradual process. At first there will be little to see, then the old hair will die away and the new hair will grow through in the shape of the brand. This will take approximately 4 – 6 weeks.
“Here in Australia all thoroughbreds and standardbreds (harness horses) must be freeze branded with registered brands and micro chipped. This is recorded on national and state databases. Many other breeds are also freeze branded and micro chipped and their brand is recorded by their own horse association or society. We have a national/state microchip register.
Many people freeze brand their pleasure horses with unregistered brands but it serves the purpose of giving identity. In the southern states of Australia, most working horses are freeze branded now but in our larger states there is still some hot branding, mainly due to tradition, lack of liquid nitrogen in remote areas and cost.
Tony brands all types from Clydesdale to miniature and everything in between. He brands all standardbreds in this state and 75% of the thoroughbreds so this time of the year is busy for him. Probably the biggest difference we notice is that the brands in the USA are enormous compared to ours. Most Thoroughbred brands here are only one 1″ inch, which grow a little after application, but this gives a clear clean brand. Our brands are actually manufactured in Texas, it took them a while to figure out how we could use such “itty bitty” brands.
Good luck with the database service you offer in America. Cheers.”
Robyn and Tony
Tony Carter-Smith Pty Ltd
With many thanks to Tony Carter-Smith for sharing the information contained in this article. To learn more about Tony please visit his website: www.tcsbranding.com.au
*Wadelee Obsession is owned by Courtney Schleter & Jessica Herring of Wadelee Pony Stud, Mt. Gambier SA.