Sixth equine ambulance deployed in New Zealand

New Zealand's latest equine ambulance is heading north this week.
New Zealand’s latest equine ambulance is heading north this week. © Libby Law Photography

A trust set up to fund a fleet of equine ambulances in New Zealand is deploying its sixth vehicle.

The new ambulance, manufactured at TL MacLean’s Dunedin workshop in the South Island, is being taken north to Auckland on a road trip by Otago equine veterinarian, Dr Peter Gillespie.

Gillespie and his colleague, Dr Bill Bishop, came up with the idea of a national horse ambulance service eight years ago.

The New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust was set up to drive the initiative.

Gillespie acknowledges the hard work and determination of trust chairman Martin Burns in growing the ambulance service.

The trust has worked closely with NZ Thoroughbred Racing, Harness Racing NZ and the NZ Equine Veterinary Association to bring the vision to life.

By the end of 2020, Gillespie expects that a horse ambulance will be able to attend every race meeting in New Zealand.

“It’s incredibly satisfying to personally deliver the sixth horse ambulance to Auckland,” he says.

“We’ve planned a few stops along the way to demonstrate its capabilities and to formally acknowledge the generous support of our sponsors.”

The ambulances have a full hydraulic suspension system, which means they can be dropped right to the ground and then raised again.

This is important as it means when a horse is injured on the track it will put far less stress on the animal than having to walk up or down a ramp.

The new ambulance was made by TL MacLean in Dunedin.
The new ambulance was made by TL MacLean in Dunedin. © Libby Law Photography

There are now six mobile units in operation, which are based in Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu, Canterbury and Otago/Southland.

As the rollout of the fleet progresses, the trust is seeking funding support for two more ambulances, which will benefit other equestrian sports such as three-day eventing and showjumping.

The horse ambulances, designed and custom-built by TL MacLean Ltd, are described as a world-class asset for the country.

Most of the cost of the sixth horse ambulance was funded by a major grant from the NZ Community Trust.

Racing and equestrian sports are an important part of rural and urban communities in New Zealand, with many families and groups participating in or attending some form of equine-related activity.

The purpose-built horse ambulances promote and support the welfare of horses competing in events that bring the community together.

Trust chairman Martin Burns, who is general manager of racing and equine welfare for NZ Thoroughbred Racing, is grateful for the support the trust has received to date.

“Without significant grants from the NZ Community Trust and One Foundation, and the support of our national equine welfare partners, the establishment of the horse ambulance fleet would simply not have happened,” Burns says.

Gillespie’s road trip north includes visits to Massey Equine Hospital, Southern Rangitikei Vets and to Cambridge Equine Vets, who were early supporters of the initiative.

Gillespie will be joined by other trustees at Cambridge today, where all three northern ambulances will be showcased together, with recognition provided to those who have funded the fleet.

Burns says the trust appreciates the grant from the NZ Community Trust. Major sponsors of the ambulance initiative include Cambridge Stud, Kevin and Jo Hickman of Valachi Downs, NZ Bloodstock and the NZ Equine Veterinary Association, along with the generous support of the late Dr Charles Roberts, the Bendigo Valley Sports Trust, the Salient Trust and the Rodmor Trust.

The Cambridge Equine Hospital, Matamata Veterinary Services, Riccarton Stud, Auckland Vets, Vet Associates, Canterbury Equine Clinic and Otago Vet Clinic have also contributed significant funds to the trust.

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