Freeze Branding Your Horse

April 30, 2006 (published)

On a previous program, I talked about preventing horse theft and one of the things mentioned was to have a permanent identification on your horse. There are many different methods of doing this but a common method is freeze brand. The advantage of a freeze brand is that it is not very painful for the horse and is inexpensive to perform. Also, unlike a microchip, it can be examined without a scanner. The Texas Agricultural Extension Service has an excellent pamphlet detailing the facts about freeze branding. Normally, the cold temperature of the freeze brand destroys the color producing portion of the hair follicles but not the growth portion of the follicles. Therefore, a correctly done freeze brand has white hairs but still has hair growing in the area of the brand. Now if you have a light colored horse, you may not want any hair on the brand because it will show up better. In this case, you can leave the brand in contact with the skin a little longer, which will also kill the growth follicle.

It is a good idea to have your vet involved in the process as a little sedation is always a good idea so the horse will be still and you can get a better brand. One of the difficulties in performing a freeze brand is the availability of liquid nitrogen to get the brand cold. Liquid nitrogen is fairly readily available but you need to have a large tank to keep it from evaporating. You can also do the same job with isopropyl alcohol and dry ice. As far as a brand, a brass brand is the most effective. To get a personalized brass brand made as well as a video on the freeze branding procedure, contact L and H Branding Iron Company in North Dakota.

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.