Mustangs 4 Us
l "Working With Wild Horses" Book
HOW TO READ A BRAND
All wild horses and burros who have been gathered off public lands by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) are breeze-branded on the left side of their necks, with a unique set of symbols. De-coding this brand will tell you (1) that the animal was the property of the United States government, (2) the animal's age, (3) the state where the animal was first brought after capture (usually but not always the state of origin), as well as (4) an individual 4-digit code (which corresponds to the neck tag that the animal wears before adoption). These symbols uniquely identify each individual, similar to a human's social security number. If you can read the brand, you can ask any BLM office to look the animal up for you in their computer database, to tell you more about the animal's history.
One thing a brand will NOT tell you is the animal's specific HMA (Herd Management Area). This information can be obtained from BLM if you know the brand.
Additionally, on the original adopter paperwork that is issued for each adopted animal, there is a "signalment code" that gives a more complete description of the animal, for identification purposes. The signalment code identifies the animal's species, gender, and coloring, as well as facial whorls and white "chrome" markings on leg or face.
This indicates the field office where the horse was branded. It does NOT tell the specific Herd Management Area.
SALE AUTHORITY HORSES:
When a horse is put into the Sale Authority program (dues to age or having three "strikes"), it is identified with an extra large "US" symbol, in addition to its regular brand:
(note the large symbol at lower right)
OTHER SIMILAR BRANDS:
Arabians, Standardbreds, and some others use the same alpha-numeric angle system for their horses, although Arabians and Standardbreds are usually branded on the right side of the neck, not the left (although not always). The main distinction is the "U" at the beginning of a government (BLM) horse or burro's brand. Arabians have an "A"
Here is an Arabian brand:
Here is another brand that resembles a BLM brand
but is not. It is also on the right side of the neck.
And once in awhile, things don't go well in the freeze-branding process. Here is Harley, a Jackson Mountain HMA colt with a "unique" brand, to say the least.
When young horses carrying gray genetics that are not yet obvious are freeze-branded, they are sometimes hard to see as adults. When horses are known to be gray, BLM generally holds the freeze-marker on the neck a few seconds longer, to make a clear brand that can be seen even on a white or near-white background.
Something went wrong with this guy's first brand, so he was re-branded.
Brands on pink-skinned pintos can be very hard to see. If you know you are looking for it, the brand is there, but it can easily be overlooked if you aren't expecting it.
DEMAND THE BRAND! While some people find the BLM brands unsightly or embarrassing, most adopters take great pride in it. It shows that they have a genuine American Mustang, born wild, and now their friend.
OTHER BRANDS THAT MAY APPEAR ON MUSTANGS:
Numbers or letters freeze-branded on wild horses' hindquarters or lower necks are usually to identify animals who have been treated for fertility control, or who have been in some specific study group, such as a migration study. Such numbers are easily identified from the air or through binoculars.