Article Published in Horse Breeder Magazine, Spring 1990

"Foaling Around" by R. Lar Thomas

Now that you have your frisky foal, what do you do with it? An easy question to answer for some, but not all. Besides feeding, doctoring, and a lot of affection, what else is required of horse owners? New Mexico law mandates that horse owners do certain things for their protection and the protection of others. You can probably guess that you will have to feed and inoculate, but what else could there be? The following simple reminders may keep you from paying more for that new filly or colt than you intended.


Breeding registered horses doesn't always mean you are going to register the offspring. New Mexico requires every person, company, or corporation owning livestock to brand their animals. This applies to all but registered (presumably registerable) animals. Horses must be identified by registration papers issued by their respective breed associations and a certificate of brand exemption must be issued by the New Mexico Livestock Board.

A foal of registered parents is exempt if it is at the dam's side as is a grade foal if its dam is branded. if you decide to sell a foal as a grade horse, don't forget to brand it. Hot iron brands used to be the only acceptable way to identify your property. I never did get used to the smell and I don't imagine the horses liked it much either. Freeze branding with liquid nitrogen is now permissible. There is little stress to the animal and it doesn't smell much either.

It's probably not a bad idea to freeze brand your registered horses anyway. Freeze brands work well on all but the lightest colored horses and can be place under the mane out of sight. Trying to describe a stolen horse could get difficult without some permanent unique marking. "Yes sir, she was a __________ (chestnut, bay, brown, etc.). I'd know her anywhere." You get the picture.


If you are going to move or ship your foal or any other horse off of your property in New Mexico a transportation permit must be issued. New Mexico law provides that any person owning "horses, mules, or asses" that are to be moved within the state, must have a transportation permit. These permits are good for as long as you own your animal and may be issued in lieu of a brand and a health certificate. They can also be transferred to subsequent owners for a small fee.

A transportation permit is good only for movement of horses within the state. All state to state transportation of horses requires an inspection certificate from the New Mexico Livestock Board. The inspection certificate or transportation permit must be kept with the animal for which it was issued at all times while you are moving your animal. They're inexpensive and they'll keep you out of trouble with the Board. Sure it's a hassle, but when you get stopped on your way to the next race you will be glad that you took the time to ensure everything was "legal" before you left home.

It is also a good idea to look at insuring your investments if you plan to travel a great deal. It may be a good idea even if you don't travel at all. policies covering loss of livestock are not necessarily cost prohibitive. Shop around and compare. You may find that the benefits far outweigh the costs.


If there were ever any two things that did not go together it would be foals and fences. One is just as much trouble as the other when the two get together. There are very explicit requirements for fences in New Mexico where livestock is to be kept. The reason for this is to protect the general public from harm caused by roaming ranch critters and to define liability to some extent.

If you run a standard five wire fence or a field fence with barbed-wire at the top and bottom, chances are you have an adequate fence that will protect you from liability should your horses get out on the road -- provided you don't leave the gate open. Fences made from other materials are also defined in the New Mexico Statutes. Check out the specifications before you build to save time, horses, and a few bucks.

Contrary to popular opinion, open range laws in New Mexico were pretty much abolished in 1965 by the New Mexico Supreme Court. But, that doesn't mean that he days of livestock wandering at large are over. The New Mexico Legislature (of all things) has come to the rescue of those with livestock on open pasture.

If your horse pasture borders a state highway for instance, the state highway department is probably responsible for the fence. If this is the case, and the highway is fenced on both sides, a horse owner has some protection against liability should his horses get out on the highway and hurt someone.

On the other hand, if you own the land and the fence then you are responsible for keeping the fence in shape so your horses won't get out. if they do get out, you may be liable for all damage that they do to another's person or property. This is in addition to the potential loss of a horse or new foal.


All this talk about new foals, horses, and potential losses of both reminds me of the days when the railroads laid tracks and ran cowcatcher-equipped trains through open rangeland. Now these trains would occasionally run over cows, calves, and other livestock that would wander onto the tracks. The railroad always had the worst luck when it came to settling with the ranchers. It seems that no matter how many head of stock the owners might have on that range, it was always their "best one" that got killed.

Take a little time to protect your foal crop and your investment. it takes minimal effort to prevent foreseeable problems while the remedies if not prevented can be devastating. Don't lose your "best one" -- because it may just be the best one.