An On-Line Video Lesson Series with trainer Christopher Ewing

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"How are horses branded?"
Videotaped on a trip to Europe, Christopher shows you the process of a foal being branded. 
Caution: This video clip may be disturbing to some viewers.


To view the actual video, "click" below:

So, one day I was at a farm in Europe looking at horses and while I was there a guy showed up to brand a foal.  I asked if he would mind if I videotaped it.  He said "go for it", so I did.  Below is how it all went, both in words and on video.  If you do watch the video, be aware that the actual branding part may be disturbing to some of you.


So, the man was from the Oldenburg Verband (or registry).  His job is to go around from farm to farm and brand newly approved Oldenburgers.  In his car was a huge tank of propane, as well as a bunch of branding irons with different numbers on them. 

He took out the iron with the Oldenburg "O" on it, as well as 2 more irons with the 2 numbers that will be placed underneath the "O" brand.  Usually, a European brand consists of the letter or symbol that reflects the registry and then 2 numbers.  The numbers used in a horse's brand depend on the registry.  Sometimes it is the last 2 numbers on the horse's registration papers, sometimes it is the last number of the year they were born and the last number of the registration number.  Some of you with older European horses may see brands on other parts of your horse's body.  For a while they were putting brands on the upper left part of the horse's crest (neck).  Prior to that they were putting it in the center of the horse's back, underneath where the saddle would go.  Soon visible brands may be a thing of the past because there is talk of more and more horses being branded by microchip.



While the man from the verband was heating up the irons, his assistant was looking over every part of the foal for its exact markings, as well as the location of any cowlicks (hair swirls).  Since this going to become the foal's official set of registration papers, it is very important that every marking is properly recorded in case in the future there is any question as to whether those papers belong to that horse.




As soon as he was ready to brand the foal,  the man went over to the foal and shaved the area to be branded with a battery-operated clipper. 





After about 5 minutes or so the irons were red hot and it was time for the branding. 




After one last question to the owner to make sure that the foal was to be branded an Oldenburger (because there was no turning back after the fact) he walked over to the foal and lined up the branding iron to the area the brand was going to go.  As one of the assistants held the foal still, the man put the iron as close to the foal as he could without touching him so that he could line up the brand exactly where it needs to go because, of course, as soon as that hot iron hits the foal,  it is going to jump and he doesn't want to "smear" the brand.  Once it was lined up he pressed the hot branding irons firmly into the foal's hip area.  As you might imagine, the foal jumped out of its skin (no pun intended) and the smoke of burning horse hide started to billow in the stall.  The foal danced around for a few seconds and then started to calm down and surprisingly, after about 30 seconds or so, the foal acted as if nothing ever happened!  I think I hurt for the foal more than it hurt for itself!  It was amazing to see what kind of a pain threshold a horse has.  At least this foal had a pretty strong tolerance for pain.


After a couple of minutes he was back to just hanging his head out of the stall and eating hay.

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