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Seven methods of identification for your horse

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The equestrian trail riding community is growing every year, so it’s important to be prepared with identification in case your horse gets lost. In this blog post, we’ll go over seven methods of identification for your horse, some permanent, some less so. We hope these tips will help make sure your horse stays safe and sound!

Permanent methods of identification for your horse

Permanent physical traits

Take detailed pictures of your horse, such as markings, conformation, and coat colour, and including your horse’s breed, sex, age. It will be easier for other people to identify your horse. They are especially important when filling out a police report or posting on social media.


In microchipping, a vet uses a needle to insert a microchip the size of a grain of rice into the nuchal ligament halfway up the neck. The chip contains a unique 15-digit code that can be read by an RFID scanner. The numbers are registered with the company and can help reunite the horse and owner. Most vets have these scanners, so they are a great way to help be reunited with your horse. Unfortunately, not all horses are microchipped, so it may not be the first thing someone checks should they find your horse. Also, microchipping has a slight risk if the company loses the data, the chip migrating, or is not able to be scanned. 

Freeze brands

Freeze brands, consisting of angular symbols, are the primary method used to identify Racing Standardbreds. They are typically applied to the neck but can also be used on the thigh or shoulder. This type of brand is better tolerated by horses than hot branding and it produces minimal changes in the horse’s coat. The downside to freeze branding is that it can be altered. 

method of horse identification - hot brands
Hot brands

Lip tattoos

Lip tattoos were introduced by the U.S. Army in the late 1800s and are now used primarily by thoroughbred registries. The tattoo is found on the inner aspect of the upper lip and is made up of a letter followed by a series of numbers. They can be hard to read sometimes, which can make identifying a horse difficult.

Blood Typing and DNA testing

Blood Typing and DNA testing are good ways to identify a horse and are relatively painless. It only takes a few hairs with the root still attached for analysis. It is the only sure way of identifying a horse. Lip tattoos, freeze brands, and markings can change over time or be altered. 

Temporary or Emergency

Paint or permanent marker

In a pinch, if you need to release your horse because they will be safer loose than in a burning barn, write your phone number and name on their hoof with a permanent marker. It takes a few minutes though and has to be done while your horse is calm – not necessarily the case during an emergency evacuation.

ICE Clips as a method of horse identification

If you have a few extra minutes, you can braid an ICE clip into your horse’s mane. The clip has a tag with your emergency contact information. Several types of clips are available, including one that takes only a second to put on – less time than it takes to write your number on the hoof of a prancing horse. 

Thank you for reading this blog post on methods of identification for your horse. We hope these tips will help make sure that if anything happens, we’ll be able to find and return your horse home as soon as possible!

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