There is no truer beauty that a herd of wild horses, but what about all those brands? Who did it and what to do they mean? Here’s a crash course on the BLM signalment, and what you can tell with a quick glance.
The Neck Brand
Once a wild horse or burro is removed by the BLM, they are all processed and receive neck brands that ID them. The first symbol is unique to the BLM and is noted as the Registering Organization. After that first symbol, you will see two that are stacked vertically. This shows the estimated year of birth, which is measured by the aging of the teeth.
The following two digits show the Herd Management Area (HMA) that the Mustang/burro was removed from, followed by their tag number, an ID that is unique to them. This is Sinatra’s only brand, that number of symbols tells us that he was originally adopted through the BLM and not purchased, which means he would have been under the age of 8 and statistically was likely a weanling or young colt when he was placed. The adoption fee for a BLM Mustang or burro is $125, and full title (ownership) is given a year after the adoption date.
The Big U
The vast majority of our herd carries this extra symbol, commonly referred to as ‘The Big U’. Once a Mustang is over the age of 8 (technically over the age of 10, but it can be bumped down due to space, common coloring, perceived defeats, and temperament) the Mustang is considered ‘unadoptable’ and is made Sale Authority. The other factor that gets Mustangs put onto the Sale Authority list is being listed in three prior adoption events. An unfortunate reality with the new rules and the Online Corral means this can happen very quickly. Online adoption events can be scheduled in rapid succession, which has sadly started to put weanlings and yearlings on the ‘unadoptable’ list simply because they weren’t selected during that window. For more information and to view available BLM equines please visit https://wildhorsesonline.blm.gov/
Hip Brands Galore
What about those hip brands? The four digits that are often seen on our Mustang’s rumps are also BLM brands. Those are their tag numbers which are added when a Mustang is sent into longterm holding. It’s used for staff to more easily ID a Mustang in the pens. We’re not sure of the reasoning for who or why, or if it’s location-specific for these brands to be added, but that’s what those numbers are. We do have over a dozen Mustangs that were in longterm holding for several years and didn’t receive this hip brand, and others that didn’t receive the Big U despite years of holding has a senior, so these brands can’t be relied upon 100% of the time. As a general rule though, they’re a good indicator of the basic history of each horse.
What About Those Letters?
That’s a good question, and it’s one we’re still hoping to learn more about. Several of our mares have letters branded on their left hip. Those letters are PZP brands and show that the mare had been captured once before, treated with PZP (a vaccine contraceptive) and released only to be captured in the following roundup. We’d love to learn more about the actual coding behind these letters, so if you know the coding, please share!
If you’d like to try your hand at reading some BLM brands, here’s a simple key. Further information can be found through the HMA coding available online.
If you’re looking to learn more about brand marks, the plight of wild horses and the ways that you can help, please visit https://wildhorseeducation.org/
They are a fantastic group, a wealth of knowledge, and the source for the helpful charts seen above. https://wildhorseeducation.org/blm-freezemark/