Horses in Sport and Entertainment
SPCA advocates for the horse sport and entertainment industries to improve practices to provide horses with a Good Life where they experience positive welfare and 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 in sport and entertainment. SPCA supports housing of horses 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 horses are not subjected to excessive behavioural restriction, discomfort, or constant pressure in training or the event itself.
SPCA advocates that riders or drivers must not use equipment that causes pain, fear, or distress. SPCA advocates for a ban on the use of whips and other painful equipment 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.
Competition rules and judging standards must be revised to allow for the use of equipment that minimise the negative impact to a horse’s welfare (e.g. force-free, bit-less bridles). SPCA opposes penalising riders and drivers who choose not to carry or use whips or other painful equipment.
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 is concerned about the welfare impacts of long-distance endurance riding races.
Endurance rides have the potential to 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.
Jumps races are associated with higher risk of injuries and fatalities than flat races. SPCA advocates for 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 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.
SPCA supports industry bans on this practice for competitions.