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Horse Welfare


One Saturday in February 1966, when horse racing was still a miles and furlongs game, 53-year-old Walter John Hoysted clambered onto Flemington’s course proper with a point to prove and a double-barreled shotgun. A son and brother in a line of pedigreed trainers, Hoysted was a racing man, but this game he’d been born into, this sport of kings, it unsettled him in one special way. Wally Hoysted could not make peace with the whip. 


At the recent International Equitation Science Conference held in Saumur, France, new statistics were released showing competition riders are more likely to over-tighten nosebands than adjust them correctly.  The traditional standard recommending nosebands are adjusted loose enough to allow two fingers to slide between the nose and the strap is being followed by just 7% of riders.


Animal welfare science has, since the 1970’s, relied on the concept of the Five Freedoms as a means to make sense of what an animal might be experiencing and what its welfare might be.  However, since that time, welfare scientists have also argued that freedom from thirst and hunger, discomfort, pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal behaviour, and freedom from fear and distress represent an unachievable Nirvana, and could even give the wrong impression of how animals, and even we humans, experience the world. 


Centaur Biomechanics founder Russell Guire has dedicated his life to studying the biomechanics of horse and rider interaction. His research has ranged from analysing the effects of mounting on the horse’s back to developing the Fairfax Performance Girth, Team GB’s ‘Secret Weapon’ for London 2012. 


Humane destruction is possibly the least discussed topic of horse ownership and, by far, the most sensitive. Even so, every horse owner should give this issue some considered thought, so they will be prepared if the time comes. It’s probably fair to say the majority of horse owners will one day be faced with the upsetting, yet inevitable, situation of having to put a horse down. What do you need to know? 


The wellbeing of Australia’s horses, particularly those associated with the racing industry, horse sports and recreational associations, is under public scrutiny like never before.  As the Australian Horse Industry Council states on their webpage: “Often people think of horse welfare as concerning only what is commonly described as a ‘welfare case’ - a horse which has very poor body condition or treated very badly. There is, in fact, much more to welfare than extreme cases of neglect.”


It would be ideal for every horse to retire to rolling green paddocks with horse companions and an attentive owner but, regrettably, this is often not possible. Realistically, the horse industry will never be able to eliminate the problem of unwanted horses. Horses will always age, sustain career ending injuries, not perform up to expectations or not be attractive enough. There are options to explore to resolve this dilemma that any horse owner may face. Above all, you should ensure the horse’s health and welfare are at all times paramount to every other consideration. Private sale


As horse owners, we have a responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of our horses. Every time you ride, your position, posture and aids have a direct impact on your horse. But, how can you successfully communicate with your horse if your tack is creating discomfort or, at worst, causing severe pain? 


Today’s horses are living longer and more comfortable lives as the workload has decreased significantly and due to improvements in veterinary medical technology, general management and knowledge of equine nutrition. One hundred years ago when horses were used for transportation, work and farming very few lived to see their golden years.


Public auctions held at physical saleyards are a traditional method of selling horses on to new owners or to the slaughterhouses. The horses range from Thoroughbred yearlings through to aged children’s ponies, unhandled equines of various breeds, broken down trotters and much in between.


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