Horse Identifier Career Profile

Horse Racing - Fiorente Trackwork Session in Melbourne
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Horse identifiers are responsible for guaranteeing the identity of each horse that is entered in a race.

Duties

Horse identifiers are responsible for guaranteeing to the wagering public that they horse they bet on is, in fact, the one whose record is listed in the racing program.  They ensure that no illegal switches have occurred, either in an attempt to cheat the system or by genuine error (i.e. substituting one similar looking horse with another)

To do this, horse identifiers inspect the official registration certificate for each horse entered in the race before they leave the paddock, matching up the information on the certificate with the horse standing before them.  A registration certificate lists all pertinent details for the horse in question—both the naturally occurring physical traits and man-made identifiers (such as tattoos or brands). 

The horse identifier examines the lip tattoo by grasping and rolling the upper lip, exposing a sequence of letters and numbers that must match the registration papers exactly.  They also verify that the horse is the correct gender and has the color and markings indicated on the papers.  Identifying marks to be checked may include coat color, facial markings (blaze, star, stripe, snip), leg markings, cowlicks, chestnuts, and whorls.  Some tracks also maintain extensive files of photos to document each horse that races there.

  These photo logs are kept for reference and comparison when the horse returns for subsequent races at the track.

Horse identifiers are required to report immediately to the racing stewards if they discover any discrepancies between a horse’s registered description and the horse that is standing in the paddock area before the race.

  The stewards will investigate these occurrences and have the final say on whether the horse may proceed to post.

Horse identifiers must directly interact with horses in the paddock so that they can check their lip tattoos and markings.  While the groom and trainer may assist with this handling, the horse identifier must be on their toes to avoid potential kicks and bites from animals that could be overexcited or aggressive.  The duties for an identifier are usually conducted outdoors in the paddock area of the racetrack, so they may be regularly exposed to changing temperatures and potentially inclement weather conditions.

Career Options

Horse identifiers can find employment at all racetracks conducting Thoroughbred racing, Quarter Horse racing, or other breed racing.  Both chief (head) horse identifier and assistant horse identifier positions are available at many tracks.  Some identifiers also hold additional positions at their track, doing administrative work or assisting with track management duties.

Horse identifiers may also transition from this position into a variety of racing related roles including racing steward, racing secretary, and bloodstock agent.

Education & Training

No degree is necessary for those hoping to pursue this career, but candidates must have extensive experience working with horses so that they can identify horses by their color, markings, and other physical attributes.

  There is no substitute for hands-on experience in the racing industry; practical experience is held in much higher regard than educational achievements.

Completion of equine internships can be a big plus as they help a candidate gain experience and network within the horse racing industry to find a position.  It also benefits an aspiring horse identifier to have experience working as a groom, exercise rider, barn foreman, or in another role that allows an individual to handle horses directly.  An eye for the subtle differences seen in each horse is critical to finding success in this position.  A good candidate for this position is able to readily identify specific characteristics that differentiate animals of similar size and coloring.

Salary

The salary for horse identifiers can vary based on years of experience, whether the identifier is a department head or assistant, the specific industry in which they work, and whether the track offers year-round or seasonal employment.

  Large tracks tend to offer more days of racing and thus higher salaries for their employees.  Experienced horse identifiers will be able to command top dollar for their services.

Career Outlook

Horse identifier positions are not frequently available, but they do come up from time to time when staff members transition to other areas of racing administration or retire.  The number of positions in this field is expected to remain fairly steady in the coming years.