No more freeze branding for NZ harness horses

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A standardbred foal being freeze branded.
A standardbred foal being freeze branded. © HRNZ

Harness racing horses in New Zealand will no longer be freeze branded from next season, with microchipping the way of the future for the industry.

This season was a “transition” season, with standardbred foals being both branded and microchipped, but those born in the upcoming season will be microchipped only.

It brings the New Zealand industry into line with other harness racing jurisdictions around the world, and Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) said the change was about traceability and animal welfare as well as embracing technology.

Standardbreds in New Zealand may also soon have a change of birthdate, with a special general meeting of HRNZ clubs on May 27 to consider changing the date to January 1, from August 1.

HRNZ chair John Coulam said early indications were that there was overwhelming support and compelling reasons for the change, “in particular, aligning the birthdate with Australia and other overseas harness associations”.

Coulam said documentation had been sent to clubs and kindred bodies to consider the reasons for the proposed change. “Also out for consultation and approval at the same time will be the updated breeding rules. Now that the calendar is finalised, a working party is focused on remapping all group, feature and series races across our season. This work will not be completed until the outcome of the Special General Meeting is known regarding the birthdate of the horse.”

The special meeting is at 11am, with attendance in person or via Zoom.

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