Reading standardbred and thoroughbred horse brands

Got an OTTB or a branded standardbred? Want to know more about the horse?


Reading standardbred horse brands is a cinch – if you know how. You can do it yourself and find out more about your horse’s racing history, who bred it, and the horse’s breeding.

Finding the identity of a thoroughbred is a little more involved, but do-able.

For starters, standardbred horses in New Zealand and Australia are freeze branded on the neck (offside). Freezebranding in New Zealand was first introduced in 1970.


New Zealand uses the “TVI” system, in a two-line brand, using the symbols below.

The three symbols on the top line denote the year of birth, and the Z indicates the horses’ country of origin – New Zealand. The bottom line of the brand is a four-symbol number.

For the brand pictured above, the symbols at the top show the horse was born in 1988, in New Zealand.

The second row – shows the registration number – 3370.

To find the name and pedigree of a horse, go to the Harness Racing NZ website, and input into the first box 883370.

This horse is Greener Than.

Another example is:

This means the horse was born in 2001, in New Zealand, and his registered number is 1569. His name is Baltic Knight.


Australia uses “alpha angle” symbols – which are also used by other breeds – and the brands are made of two lines of four symbols each.

From August 1, 1987, all freeze brands had an “S” added, denoting the horse is a standardbred. Thus, the first letter on all brands is “S”, followed by the state ID number, then the horses’ year of birth:

  • 2-New South Wales
  • 3-Victoria
  • 4-Queensland
  • 5-South Australia
  • 6-Western Australia
  • 7-Tasmania

In the made-up example above, the horse was born in South Australia in 1991, and its registered number is 8410.

Go to Australian Harness Racing to find out the identity of the horse. Input the horse’s brand into the Freezebrand box on the site.

Standardbreds in the US either have a tattoos on their upper inside lip, five characters long, or after 1995, may have letters and numbers on their neck. Go to the US Trotting Association to input your horse’s brand. For horses born in 1981 or earlier, the first three digits are numbers. The fourth character can be a letter or a number, and the fifth character is a letter indicating the year of foaling. The letters M, N, O, Q, and U are not used in tattoos of horses born in 1981 or earlier. The year letter for horses born in 1982  is “A”, and so on down the alphabet, except for I,O,Q, and U.


Identifying a thoroughbred horse

Thoroughbreds are not as straightforward, as in order to make an identification, you must apply to NZ Racing using this form (PDF). It costs $25. If the search is unsuccessful, the fee is refunded.

Thoroughbreds are usually branded with numbers on the offside – the bottom number being the year. The other side has a cipher brand, which can be a breeder’s mark, or a vet clinic’s brand.

Other breeds are also branded in this way, and breeders can register their brand with specific organisations. There is no central brand database in New Zealand.





15 thoughts on “Reading standardbred and thoroughbred horse brands

  • April 30, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    minor correction in that most USA standardbreds do have a freeze brand on their necks these days, eg 306R & 4B768 are examples I have come across

  • May 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Actually, NZTBA acts as a clearing house for most registries brand registrations.

    Major TB brand information can be found for free on:
    1/ Trademe/Community/pets and animals/TB Brands
    (needs login)

    2/ Equichat/forums/Research Help & info

    Hope this helps

  • August 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Hey I really want to know what done that white write on his neck mean. What year did he born or anything that i want to know how old he is and when he born. Hope it help you and hope to hear from you.

    Thank you

  • September 16, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Just to clarify, Standardbreds in the US born after 1995 can still have lip tattoos, we had one who was foaled in 2002.

  • November 9, 2012 at 9:42 am

    well im looking for the breeder of my tb horse, she is branded and i do know her reghestired name but i just want to find more, like if she raced etc. her brand is DW and 8 over 5,any help or websites where i can do that will be much appreciated or if anyone knows who this breeder/ brand belongs to (:

    • February 11, 2013 at 9:46 am

      hi, did you find out where the horse came from?? someone on fb is looking for details on same brand. DAJ Walker is the brand owner but im not sure where he/she is from

  • October 24, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Hi. I have an older Standardbred. Have the brands changed at all because, while most look the same, some of hers look different to the above code? Thanks. Clare

    • October 24, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      Maybe there was some movement when she was being branded? Send a pic – summer coat – if you like, and maybe we can figure it out!

    • May 24, 2015 at 5:58 am

      ihave a standard bred retired racehorse she has a breeze brand on his neck X 9 155 I want to figure out some stuff about him will you please help me

      • May 24, 2015 at 5:59 am

        its either gelding sorry very tall skinny the person I got them from adopting him

  • June 26, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I need information on my mare. I was told she was a Standardbred. But I have zero credible information. She had a freeze brand tattoo on the right side of her neck, and no tattoo on her lips. The neck tattoo reads, “O23”

  • September 4, 2014 at 6:43 am

    I have a ex-Racehorse named Ellie, I just got her a few weeks ago. She is around 20, has a freeze burn on her leg, and the tattoo 20 on her neck. She is a standerdbred.

  • September 10, 2014 at 12:08 am

    I am looking to try and trace a horse with an unusual freeze brand:

    KAP on left shoulder, 10/9 on right shoulder

    Name: Troy; Warmblood chestnut gelding; date of birth: 4 December 2001

    Do you have any idea where I could look?
    This is all the information that I have for my boy. His date of birth could be wrong, with regards to the 9 on his marking.

    He is currently in South Africa and have no idea how to find out the history.

  • December 19, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    hey any one out there who can help me I want too find out about my horse he a 7 year old thoroughbeed that as a cross like the red cross on his shouder want to know where he from he go 3/6 om other side

  • June 4, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    my horses brandings are WT6 and 10/3 what do these mean, and how do i find more info about her?


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