SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Horses in Sport and Entertainment

Animals in Entertainment, Sport, and Work

SPCA advocates for the horse sport and entertainment industries to improve practices to better meet the physical, health, and behavioural needs of the horses for the whole of their life. SPCA supports the use of low-stress, force-free handling and training techniques for horses used in sport and entertainment. SPCA supports housing of horses used in sport and entertainment which allows them to meet their physical and behavioural needs.

Good horsemanship, husbandry, and training should allow for horses to perform well without the need for restrictive and painful aids. Competition rules and judging standards should be revised to ensure that items which subject horses to excessive behavioural restriction, discomfort, or constant pressure are not permitted in training or the event itself. Competition rules and judging standards must be revised to allow for the use of equipment designed to improve performance that minimise the negative impact to a horse’s welfare (e.g. force-free, bitless bridles).

SPCA advocates that riders or drivers must not engage in practices, or use equipment that causes pain, fear, or distress. SPCA opposes the use of whips in the training and racing of horses due to the negative impacts to their welfare.

Horses in competitive equestrian events must not be subjected to excessive behavioural restriction, discomfort, or constant pressure from the use of equipment such as spurs, whips, bits, tight nosebands, twitches, tongue ties, head pole burrs, fixed martingales or side-reins. SPCA advocates for a ban on the use of these types of equipment during training as well as the events.

Practices that cause fear, pain, or distress to horses must not be permitted in equestrian events.

The task required of the horses, the jump heights, and the position of obstacles must be such that the potential for distress or injury to the horses is minimal. These concerns extend to practices which are part of show jumping, dressage, and eventing.

SPCA opposes long-distance endurance riding events.

Endurance rides and jumps races can be stressful and dangerous for the horse. SPCA advocates for practices that ensure the horse’s physical, health, and behavioural needs are met. If endurance rides do take place, veterinarians must be in attendance assessing the welfare of the horses at regular intervals.

SPCA opposes jumps races, such as steeplechase and hurdling because of the negative impacts to the horse’s physical, health, and behavioural needs.

SPCA advocates the prohibition of such races as it is not possible to adequately mitigate the risks involved.

SPCA opposes the use of immature horses (e.g. in two-year-old races) in sport and entertainment.

SPCA advocates for the requirement that independent veterinary certification, verifying that an animal has physically matured and is able to withstand the physical demands of racing or competing, be obtained before training for riding is permitted to commence.

SPCA is concerned about the breeding practices of horses for racing, and the potential welfare problems for unwanted, retired, or injured animals.

SPCA advocates that improvements in breeding of horses for racing must be formally limited to address over-supply and wastage rates. In addition, the racing industry must make suitable provision for the future well-being of all unwanted, retired, or injured animals. Strict and enforced racing regulations are needed to ensure the welfare of the horses throughout their lives, not just when they are participating in races or events.

SPCA advocates for the mandatory collection and publication of comprehensive lifecycle (birth to death records) and injury statistics for horses bred for sport and entertainment, and a national identification registration and traceability system.

Strict and enforced regulations for horses used in sport and entertainment are needed to ensure the welfare of the horse throughout their lives, not just when they are participating in events.

SPCA opposes the use of drugs or surgery to attempt to alter the performance of an animal or to enable it to compete, including masking pain.

SPCA opposes the prophylactic and cosmetic docking of horses’ tails.

SPCA only supports the amputation of horses’ tails for therapeutic reasons when the procedure is carried out by a veterinarian, and appropriate pain management must be given prior to, during, and after the operation, including anaesthetic and analgesic. Improved husbandry or management practices can allow horses to be driven without risk to themselves or their handlers arising from the presence of a non-docked tail. (The shortening of tails for therapeutic reasons is referred to as “amputation” not “docking”).

SPCA advocates that horse whiskers (vibrissae) are not clipped as these perform an important function by providing sensory feedback on the horse’s environment.

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