By Jennifer Whittle
Owners and equine rescue groups with unidentified Thoroughbreds that sport lip tattoos now have access to free identification services provided by the Jockey Club.
Unveiled in April, the free tattoo lookup service allows horse owners and rescue groups to look up lip tattoos to identify the horse in question. Recently, the group added the tattoo research feature, for partial tattoos, allowing owners to also access the markings database to assist in identifying the horse. By providing the readable portion of the tattoo and indicating any existing white markings on the head or legs, users can obtain potential matches of registered Thoroughbreds in the database.
For identification purposes, many state racing commissions require Thoroughbreds be lip tattooed prior to racing. The Thoroughbred Racing Protection Bureau applies the tattoo to Thoroughbreds stabled at tracks throughout the United States and Canada. The lip tattoo consists of one letter, which corresponds with the horse's year of birth, and four or five numbers.
Unreadable or difficult tattoos can be submitted to the Jockey Club through a tattoo research e-mail. Customer service representatives will then attempt to identify the horse for free using the Jockey Club's database, including color, markings, and photographs.
Prior to these services being made available at no cost, tattoo research started at a base price of $35. For Thoroughbred rescue organizations, this additional expense could add up quickly.
"Now that it is open to everyone and they (the Jockey Club) will also help ID horses with only partial tattoos, but also markings and descriptions, I see rescues across the country using this service," commented Beverly Strauss, executive director of the MidAtlantic Horse Rescue. "It is a great service and one that truly contributes to the safety and welfare of our Thoroughbreds."
But Lisa Amarino, volunteer for Another Chance 4 Horses, a Pennsylvania-based rescue, cautions horse owners about the possibility of misidentification.
"My concern is that a high profile horse is going to be named as saved," Amarino said, citing horses incorrectly identified due to the difficulty of reading partial or illegible tattoos.
Andrew Chesser, customer service coordinator for The Jockey Club, encourages use of the tattoo research e-mail if owners would like additional confirmation of the horse's identification after using the tattoo lookup tool.
"We can certainly try to match the tattoo pictures and markings if they are unsure," he said.
Owners can begin researching tattoos online by creating a free interactive registration account. The free tattoo lookup services and the tattoo research feature are available on the Jockey Club's Web site.