equine research linkEquine Research Centre Team
(Photo : Annet Becker)

“I am who I am”

Ensuring that a horse is easily and accurately identifiable is vital in the Thoroughbred industry. Not only does it prevent the use of ‘ringers’ at the races but it also ensure that stud books are kept precise. It is the job of the Equine Research Centre at Onderstepoort to travel around the country from the beginning of each year, during which time they micro-chip all registered Thoroughbred foals. This Tuesday each and every one of the Summerhill foals was micro-chipped – in what we have to add – a record time for the Equine Research Centre. Never before have they been able to micro-chip 230 foals in one day.

Micro-chipping involves not only the placement of a micro-chip in each foal, but also the drawing of their markings (for future use in their passports) and a blood typing to ensure that all foals were produced from a specific dam and sire.

Micro-chipping is not the only way of identifying horses. Other ways of identifying horses include the following:

Photographs :

Photographs will often help in the recovery of a stolen horse, they can be used in advertisements and notifications and also help prove ownership of horses when found.

Identification Documents :

Registration of a horse with a Breed society will ensure the horse receives an identification document with the horse’s details. This document will include drawings, descriptions and positioning of markings and whorls on the horse.

Freezemarking :

This is a form of identification that makes it very easy to identify a horse. Mainly used in Australia and New Zealand, it not only indicates the horse’s year of birth but also the breeder of the animal. A branding iron is used, cooled in liquid nitrogen to freeze brand the horse. The cold iron destroys the pigment cell on the skin so that the white hairs grow within a few weeks providing a permanent identifiable mark on the horse.

Hot Iron Branding :

It is mainly used for native ponies and some foreign breeds leaving a dark identification mark on the horse.

Lip Tattooing :

Tattooing is another form of branding a horse, it involves having a tattoo, made of letters and numbers put on the inside of the upper lip. However, tattoos can fade in time and can be altered. They are also not easily visible, meaning that they do not serve as an efficient way of identification.

More and more Thoroughbred breeding countries in the world are moving to micro-chipping combined with blood typing. These micro-chips are checked at sales, before races as well as entering and leaving stud farms and covering sheds, making it all the more possible to accurately identify horses and avoid mistaken identities.

(Posted by Tarryn Liebenberg and Annet Becker)