Branding, for both horses and cattle, dates back to the Roman empire. Brands are an individual mark that identifies a horse as yours. A good brand should be easy to read from a distance, clearly identifiable and simple. You can choose to freeze brand or use a hot iron brand. Both types are made up of a combination of characters, uppercase letters and numbers.
Before You Brand
Before you even think of designing your brand, you must first determine what your future plans are for the horse, and the rules and regulations for his breed registry. You must also take into consideration any brands your horse already has. Some breeds are branded with a specific brand when they are registered or accepted into the breed's stud book. For these breeds, only the official brand is acceptable; individual brands are not allowed. Other breeds can be branded only in a specific spot (hip or shoulder) and have limitations on what type of brand can be used. And in other breeds, branding is prohibited altogether. Europe seeks to ban hot-iron brands and some countries want to ban all branding. This could affect your ability to take a horse to Europe for sale or to show. It is illegal in most states and considered bad manners in all states to place a new brand over an existing brand. You can, however, brand your horse with your brand on the opposite hip or shoulder from an existing brand.
Brands are permanent. Once you brand a horse there is no way to remove it. Hot-iron branding produces a hairless scar in the shape of the brand. Freeze branding uses an iron, brass or copper brand cooled in liquid nitrogen. The freezing destroys the pigment in hair follicles turning the hair under the brand white. The white hair is in the shape of the brand. Freeze branding is considered less stressful to the horse as it is possibly not as painful as hot-iron branding. Both types of brands should be applied by professionals to prevent blurring of the brand, and to keep your horse safe during application.
Designing Your Brand
To be legal and official, you need to register your brand with your state's department of agriculture. To make a brand, you can use any combination of capital letters, numbers and symbols (like circles and hash marks). To read a brand you go from left to right, from top to bottom and, if the brand is enclosed, from outside in. Avoid "closed" letters and numbers like A, B, D, 8 or 0, as these can be hard to read from a distance. Keep your brand a simple combination of three letters, numbers or symbols. Your brand needs to fit on the hip or shoulder of your horse. Choose several designs as your brand will be rejected if it resembles another brand too closely. Most people use a combination of initials with a number that has meaning for them. Symbols like hash marks, or enclosing your brand in a circle, can set the design apart. If your breed registry allows it you can also do a free form design, but keep it simple.