Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses at Bush Race Meetings (Revision 1)

1. Preface

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 came into force on 20 May 1986 and is administered by Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions. The Act has the purpose of protecting animals, encouraging the considerate treatment of animals and improving the level of community awareness about the prevention of cruelty to animals. It establishes fundamental obligations relating to the care of animals in general terms. Details of these obligations are found in Codes of Practice made under the provisions of the Act. These Codes set out minimum standards and recommendations relating to important aspects of the care of animals. It is recommended that all those who care for animals become familiar with the relevant Codes.

This 'Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses Competing at Bush Race Meetings (Revision Number 1)' (the Code) has been prepared by the Bureau of Animal Welfare, in consultation with people who have expertise in operating bush race meetings, animal welfare and veterinary science.

2. Purpose

The purpose of the Code is to provide the minimum standards for the welfare of horses competing at bush race meetings in Victoria.

The Code does not apply to any race meeting held under the Australian Rules of Racing of the Australian Racing Board, Rules of Racing of Racing Victoria Ltd or the Rules of Harness Racing of Harness Racing Victoria.

Unless otherwise stated, the organisers are responsible for ensuring compliance with this Code.

3. Definitions

In this Code:

bush race meeting means a meeting on a day or on consecutive days at which a mountain race or a flat race is conducted which is not bound by the rules and regulations governing the Australian Racing Board, Racing Victoria Ltd and Harness Racing Victoria

flat race means a horse race at a bush race meeting conducted at high speed on a course over flat terrain which is free of obstacles or hazards

meeting means a bush race meeting

mountain race means a horse race at a bush race meeting conducted at high speed on a course over variable terrain which may include obstacles and hazards such as trees and water

organisers means the club or organisation which is responsible for the conduct of a bush race meeting

head organiser is a person appointed by the organisers that is responsible for directing the organisers and supervising the event

race means a heat, trial or final of a flat race or a mountain race

veterinary practitioner means a veterinary practitioner registered under the Veterinary Practice Act 1997.

4. Veterinary practitioners

Minimum standards

S4.1 A veterinary practitioner must be in attendance at a bush race meeting at all times.

S4.2 A veterinary practitioner must conduct a pre-race veterinary inspection of the horses to determine their fitness to start before each race.

S4.3 The veterinary inspection must be carried out in accordance with the 'Guidelines for Veterinary Inspection of Horses Competing at Bush Race Meetings' (Appendix 1).

S4.4 The veterinary practitioner must have substantial experience in treating equines.

S4.5 Where more than one veterinary practitioner is in attendance one veterinary practitioner must be appointed by the organisers as the veterinary practitioner in charge and this person's decision shall be final.

S4.6 All participants, including officials and organisers, must comply with the directions of the veterinary practitioner in attendance and in charge relating to withdrawal of lame, unfit, fatigued or injured horses, or any other animal care or welfare issue, at any time before, during or after the meeting.

S4.7 Within seven days of each meeting the veterinary practitioner in charge or veterinary practitioner (when more than one is in attendance, refer G4.1) must complete the veterinary report (Appendix 2) and forward it to the head organiser. On request the head organiser must supply a copy to the Director, Bureau of Animal Welfare, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.

Guidelines

G4.1 At large meetings (over 30 horses competing) it may be necessary to engage more than one veterinary practitioner, taking into account the nature of the course, the length of the race and the anticipated number and experience of competitors.

G4.2 The veterinary practitioner in charge is to decide who will complete the required veterinary report and who will investigate serious incidents (ideally, the report and investigations will be done by the same person).

5. Competing horses

Minimum standards

S5.1 Horses under four years of age must not be permitted to compete in bush race meetings.

S5.2 Organisers must record and check identification of horses to ensure that a horse is uniquely identified for the pre-race veterinary inspection and for the relevant race.

S5.3 Lame, unfit, injured or horses otherwise unable to run to their full potential for any reason must not be permitted to start in a race.

S5.4 Any horse that is withdrawn or eliminated from a race on veterinary grounds must not be permitted to start in another race at the same meeting without passing a veterinary examination by the veterinary practitioner and being declared fit to run in the race.

S5.5 Horses used at bush race meetings must be free of any drug or substance that influences performance.

S5.6 Organisers must take effective measures to ensure that horses are presented drug-free at meetings, and that any horse deemed to be affected by drugs does not participate in the bush race meeting. Such measures include random drug testing to ensure compliance.

Guidelines

G5.1 Identification methods useful for horses competing at bush race meetings include the use of microchips and brands. Organisers should have a microchip scanner available at the meeting that is able to read both FDX-A and FDX-B microchips ('multi-readers').

G5.2 Organisers should ensure that there is the capacity to collect blood and urine samples for the purposes of drug testing.

6. Course design

Minimum standards

S6.1 The design of the course for the meeting may test the skill of the horse and rider but must not place unreasonable or dangerous demands or hazards on the horses.

S6.2 The course must be inspected by the organisers at least 30 days prior to the meeting to allow for any necessary alterations to the course site and design.

S6.3 The organisers must inspect the course on the day of the meeting, prior to commencement of the meeting and modify the course if any part of it is considered dangerous to the horses.

S6.4 Organisers must follow the advice of the veterinary practitioner in the event that adverse conditions such as heat and humidity, wet weather or muddy terrain place unreasonable or dangerous demands on competing horses.

S6.5 Organisers must ensure that all riders walk or ride over the course on which they will compete prior to the race.

S6.6 Where water obstacles are used on the course, the maximum depth of water must be 30 cm.

S6.7 If there are different classes of horses competing at a meeting, the course design must accommodate all levels of ability and experience of those horses.

Guidelines

G6.1 The Head Organiser has the final responsibility for the course site and design.

G6.2 In addition to the course inspection on the day of the meeting, prior to the commencement of the meeting, there should also be a course inspection conducted immediately before each race.

7. Riders

Minimum standards

S7.1 Any rider who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol must not take part in a race.

S7.2 Injured riders must have a medical examination and be declared able by a medical practitioner before riding in further races during a meeting.

S7.3 A rider must not ride dangerously, compromise the welfare of a horse, ride under the influence of drugs or alcohol or misrepresent the identity of a horse.

S7.4 All riders must treat the animals they interact with humanely and obtain prompt veterinary assistance if a horse they are in charge of becomes ill or injured.

S7.5 Organisers must take effective measures to prevent riders riding dangerously, disregarding horse welfare during meetings, riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol or misrepresenting the identity of a horse.

Guidelines

G7.1 Measures taken by organisers to prevent riders riding dangerously, disregarding horse welfare during meetings, riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol or misrepresenting the identity of a horse may include disqualification and/or removal from the premises.

8. Gear

Minimum standards

S8.1 The organisers must ensure that a gear inspection of all competing horses and riders takes place before each race. Gear includes saddles, saddle blankets, girths, martingales, cruppers, horse boots, bandages, bridles, halters and other headgear, and bits.

S8.2 All gear worn by the horse and used by the rider must be properly fitted, in good repair and must not cause discomfort or injury to the horse.

S8.3 All horses must be shod with correctly fitting shoes. Shoes must not be worn, have nails protruding or clenches risen. Toe grabs must not be used.

S8.4 All bandages must be stitched. Velcro fastened boots must be taped.

S8.5 Organisers must prohibit a rider from using a bit which is deemed to compromise the welfare of a horse.

S8.6 Spurs must not be used.

S8.7 Riders in mountain races must not carry or use whips.

S8.8 Standing martingales must not be used.

S8.9 Running martingales, if used, must be properly fitted and must not unduly restrict head movement.

9. Injuries and deaths

Minimum standards

S9.1 Any injury to a horse must be brought to the attention of the attending veterinary practitioner as soon as possible.

S9.2 Appropriate first-aid must be applied as soon as possible after injury to a horse and before removal to an appropriate facility where further treatment can be provided.

S9.3 The organisers must have appropriate equipment available such as a vehicle and float to enable transport of injured horses, if transport is approved by a veterinary practitioner, from the course to a place of treatment and to allow prompt humane destruction of injured horses if necessary.

S9.4 The head organiser must, within 24 hours of a race meeting, conduct a thorough investigation including a report from the attending veterinary practitioner as to the cause of injury or death, and the action taken to prevent a repetition of the incident. The report of such an investigation must accompany the veterinary report and be sent to the head organiser. Upon request the head organiser must provide a copy of this report to the Director, Bureau of Animal Welfare, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.

Guidelines

G9.1 Organisers should provide a screen to place around horses that need to be humanely destroyed.

G9.2 The veterinary practitioner should have at hand the necessary equipment for appropriate first aid and for humane destruction of horses.

10. Race supervision

Minimum standards

S10.1 The head organiser must ensure that all races are supervised by an adequate number of sufficiently experienced officials with authority to render assistance to injured riders or horses, supervise riding behaviour, catch riderless horses and withdraw injured or fatigued horses.

S10.2 The head organiser must ensure that the instructions of the veterinary practitioner are implemented.

S10.3 The head organiser must ensure that the Bush Racing meeting is conducted in accordance with this Code and any other relevant legislation.

Appendix 1: Guidelines for Veterinary Inspections of Horses Competing at Bush Race Meetings

1. Degree of examination

Horses must be examined before all races. All horses must be examined thoroughly to the same degree of intensity and a decision made as to the fitness of the horse to participate in the meeting.

2. Initial examination

2.1 The horse should be examined individually and must be unsaddled and without rugs, bandages and boots. At the end of the examination a clear decision and declaration of the horse's fitness to participate or not should be made by a veterinary practitioner.

2.2 Aspects of a detailed physical inspection carried out by a veterinary practitioner and officials should normally cover the following:

  • body condition
  • general attitude
  • signs of respiratory (or any other relevant) disease
  • girth and saddle area for galls, spur marks
  • legs for wounds and signs of injuries
  • mucous membranes
  • fit of shoes
  • age
  • normal ocular menace response
  • hydration status
  • lameness examination.

2.3 There should be a close examination of:

  • any leg wounds or swellings such as, flexor tendons, joints
  • mouth for any bit or teeth related damage
  • girth galls, saddle sores or spur marks
  • heart by auscultation
  • any other relevant factor.

2.4 Any horse showing lameness or considered to be unfit or otherwise unsuitable to compete in a race must be withdrawn. (On this issue a decision by the veterinary practitioner is to be regarded as final). Gait abnormalities that are not considered to affect the performance or welfare of the horse should be noted.

2.5 All adverse findings at the examination should be recorded for future reference.

2.6 If the examination reveals abnormalities where competition could exacerbate the condition, or the horse will have to endure unreasonable pain or suffering, the horse must be withdrawn from racing until the veterinary practitioner in charge has approved its re-entry in a race.

3. Assessment of fitness to compete in a final

3.1 Horses with abnormalities (see 2.6) or which are distressed, exhausted, tied up (suffering from exert ional rhabdomyolisis), lame, dehydrated, become ill or recover poorly after a heat or qualifying trial must not be permitted to compete in the final.

3.2 Assessment of heart rate, mucous membrane colour, moisture and capillary refill, skin recoil (over shoulder area), gut sounds and gait should be part of the standard examination to be carried out in assessing metabolic recovery.

Any horse with a problem in any of these areas should either be eliminated if the problem is serious, or presented for another examination closer to the final if there is adequate time available.

3.3 If heart rate recovery is used to assess fitness after a trial, recordings should be made at 15 minutes and again at 30 minutes after the trial. This enables evaluation of the rate of recovery and accounts for individual variability in recovery rate. Heart rate assessments should be performed so as to minimise the potential for excitement. To compete in a final a horse should have a heart rate less than 55 beats per minute 30 minutes after exercise.

Appendix 2: Veterinary Report - Horses Competing At Bush Race Meetings

View Appendix 2: Veterinary Report - Horses Competing At Bush Race Meetings (WORD - 13.2 KB)

Page last updated: 21 Jan 2021