Many stories have appeared in the papers lately about pets (most notably a cat from Colorado who ended up in NYC) being returned home due to a microchip identification. Federal agencies involved with major disasters now recommend microchipping for horses as a way to identify them if they get lost. Coggins forms now ask about microchips for identification.
Here in the Utica/Rome upstate area, some communities suffered from the recent serious flooding and horses both escaped and were lost. Barn fires are not uncommon and can also result in lost horses. Barn roof collapse in the upstate winters from snow loads may also leave horses running free.
Having permanent identification means you can prove the horse is yours. A found horse can be identified and tracked back to the owner. Permanent identification in horses generally comes in one of three forms – tattoo (generally on the upper lip and commonly used in racehorses), microchips and brands.
Retired racehorses, both from the Vernon Harness Racing Track and the Canandaigua Thoroughbred Track, generally have lip tattoos. It can be difficult to read those tattoos in an unwilling horse or if the numbers gets slurred over time. Also, many times horses get transferred without once they leave racing without anyone keeping track of ownership and numbers. Freeze branding is used on some horses.
Microchips have become fairly common among horses owners but a few still swear by brands. A recent article looked at branding versus microchipping in foals to see which was more stressful. In this study, stress levels were about equal and were also similar to the stress responses generated just by being restrained by a person. This suggests you can use either method to mark your foals for future identification. A permanently identified horse may be a safer horse.