Thoroughbred racing authorities in New Zealand are pushing for a rule change which will cast greater light on the fate of horses leaving the industry.
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) says it is in the process of submitting to the Department of Internal Affairs a rule change which would place requirements on the owner of a horse leaving the racing industry to inform NZTR when a horse was sold or gifted to another party, including the full identity and contact details of the new owner.
“This is just one part of a growing understanding in the thoroughbred industry that providing aftercare is not only the right thing to do but also part of a complete horse care commitment,” NZTR secretary Simon Cooper said.
Thoroughbreds, he said, were among the most agile, intelligent and trainable of all breeds, and can easily adapt to a second career.
Cooper said the Rules of Racing contained a wide range of clauses covering horse welfare, which were reviewed regularly.
“NZTR’s business plan for 2013-15 sets out its immediate priorities for horse welfare, including appointing an industry support group to oversee re-educating and rehoming programmes for thoroughbred retirees, and implementing improved mechanisms for managing data on horse injuries and fatalities,” he said.
Cooper said there were about 120 000 horses in New Zealand, of which about 42,000 were thoroughbreds or standardbreds. There were about 6000 horses registered with Equestrian Sports New Zealand.
The majority of the remainder were kept for sports and leisure.
“Racing contributes $1.6 billion to the New Zealand economy (0.9 percent of the gross domestic product). A total of 52,732 people are involved in the racing industry when you include casual staff, part-time workers and volunteers – a total of 1.2 percent of the population.
“Underpinning all of this is the health and wellbeing of these horses.
The welfare priority for NZTR was securing working futures for retired racehorses, he said.
“While all thoroughbreds registered with NZTR are microchipped, freeze-branded and DNA tested, once they leave the industry they are no longer within the industry’s jurisdiction and this presents a challenge,” he said.
“There are 4000 thoroughbred horses born every year. On their retirement from racing many racehorses continue their careers on stud farms in the thoroughbred breeding industry and some will be retrained and rehomed as equestrian, leisure or companion animals.
“Currently there are several private, non-profit organisations providing rehabilitation and rehoming services for owners unable to keep horses, principally in Auckland, Rotorua and Canterbury.
“Due to high demand some of these have waiting lists. Horses in most need are taken first. As well as providing a place for these horses to recover, these organisations also find more permanent homes.”
Cooper said NZTR, Harness Racing NZ and the Royal New Zealand SPCA put in place a Memorandum of Understanding in 2010 setting out how collectively and individually the signatories will act in reporting and handling instances of thoroughbred and standardbred horse neglect, and promoting early intervention to alleviate horse suffering as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“Those involved in racing are generally passionate about their horses and recognise it is in the interests of both their horse and the thoroughbred racing industry, and all its participants, that it maintains sound horse welfare programmes and protocols and that these are policed as effectively as possible.”