Freeze Branding, It's Not That Big a Deal . . .
Freeze branding your horse can be easily done, you don't need an expert to do it, though there are professional companies that freeze brand and mark. A freeze brand is different from a freeze mark. Freeze branding is the placing of your registered brand, on a location on the animal, that is registered with your local livestock bureau. Many states recognize cattle brands only, however, you can register for a cattle brand, and use it on your horse also. In California, the California Department of Food and Ag, handles brand inspection and identification. www.cdfa.ca.gov.
Freeze marking is a series of markings, not unlike the bar codes you see on products. Wild mustangs and burros are freeze marked. There are professional branding and marking vendors throughout the US and Canada.
The How To..
The first thing to do, is contact your local brand inspection bureau or department to see what requirements they have for obtaining and using a brand. Some states do not have any requirements, so you can choose your design, and brand your horses where you want. Make sure you brand all of them in the same spot, all the time.
Once you have your brand design registered, it's time to order your freeze brander. There are several companies that do this, but I use L and H Branders. You can go to their web site, download an order form, and order your Brass Freeze Brander there. www.lhbrandingirons.com.
Freeze branding is painless to the horse, but I recommend that you have your veterinarian tranquilize the horse prior to freeze branding. It eliminates the "spooky" horse, jumping around, and messing up your branding efforts. If you have several to do, set up a day with your Vet to do them all at one time. I recommend that you freeze brand all of your horses over the age of 18 months.
Shave a square area, twice the size of your branding iron head, at the location that you are going to freeze brand your horse. MAKE SURE you freeze brand your horse, at the location in which you have it registered with your brand inspection agency! Do this on all your horses just before branding.
Purchase 10 pounds of dry ice, and 1 gallon of 99% alcohol. (make sure you use 99% alcohol, as the 75% variety just slushes up in the mixture, and does a crummy job of cooling the branding iron). Mix the two together in an ice chest, put your iron in the mix, and let it set for 20 - 30 minutes. make sure you use gloves when handling the cold branding iron!
Once your horse is tranquilized, apply the brand to the site with even pressure, and hold it there for 30 seconds, use a stop watch. That's all there is to it! Re-cool the iron for 2-3 minutes for the next horse.
Why freeze brand your horses? First and foremost, for theft prevention. Just like "The Club" for vehicles, freeze branding is a visible deterrent for horse thieves. They know that a brand will be visible and easy checked by law enforcement and brand inspectors. Additionally, should your horse be stolen and hauled to a slaughter house or auction house, personnel there will check the paperwork, and make sure the seller is the owner.
Should your horse be stolen, you have additional identification verification with a freeze brand. This will help in the return of your stolen horse to you.