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Freeze-branding a grey horse

From: Loni

Dear Jessica, nobody at my barn knows the answer to this but I hope you will. How does freeze-branding work if the horse is grey or white, is there some other way of marking a horse like this that will show? Every freeze-brand I have seen has been on a chestnut or bay or black horse and I know it turns the hair white. So what do you do if your horse is grey? I don't have a horse yet, but I am pretty sure that I will want to buy a grey horse, but I want to have my horse freeze-branded and I just don't know if that will even work on a grey horse. Especially since I will need to buy an older more experienced horse since it will be my first horse, so it will probably be almost white if it is a grey horse. Is there some way that you can freeze-brand a horse like that and make the hair go black or some other colour? I know this is probably too stupid a question for you to answer but I really want to know. Thank you for all of the interesting things you write about, I love reading HORSE-SENSE! Loni

Hi Loni! I've said it before and I'll say it again - the only stupid question is the one you don't ask. ;-)

Freeze-branding works quite well with grey horses, whether they're dark or light or almost white. Here's how that works:

When you freeze-brand a horse, the extreme cold creates what is basically a burn on the horse's skin. The skin shouldn't be broken, but you'll see the branded area become red and puffy. Along with the skin, the colour-producing cells in the horse's hair follicles has also been damaged. After two or three days, the puffiness and redness will disappear, and the horse will develop scabs. The scabs should be left alone, because underneath them, the horse's new skin is growing in. Eventually, the scabs will fall off (don't try to pull them off sooner - you might damage the new skin underneath). Because of the damage to the hair follicles, when the hair regrows on that new skin, it will be white.

And that brings us to your question - what if the horse's coat IS grey or white? How can you freeze-brand a grey horse and expect to be able to read the brand?

The answer to this is when a grey horse is freeze-brande, the cold iron will be held against the horse for a slightly longer time, so that the hair follicles are completely destroyed. This means that when the scabs fall away and the new skin underneath is revealed, it will NOT grow hair - the brand will be visible because wherever the cold iron was applied to the horse, all you will see is skin.

If you take a series of photos of the brand over the next few years of the horse's life, you'll probably notice that it becomes MORE visible, not less, as time goes by. The skin's pigment will typically begin to make those bald areas DARKER over time, thus creating even more contrast against a grey or white hair coat (which is probably getting lighter in any case). Don't worry, if you purchase a grey horse, you can have it freeze-branded. The brand will be visible, and should become more visible from year to year.

By the way, it's very sensible of you to be planning to purchase an older, experienced horse for your first horse - congratulations on your clear thinking!


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