Standardbred welfare

“Every Standardbred horse should be treated with respect, compassion and understanding and shall receive a standard of care which allows them to enjoy a good quality of life while in the racing industry and on retirement.”

Health and animal welfare is very important to Harness Racing New Zealand and is included as one of the six pillars of the 2019-20 business plan. There is a Health and Animal Welfare sub-committee that meets five to six times a year to discuss key topics relating to animal welfare and the impact on the Rules and Regulations of Harness Racing. This committee is chaired by a Harness Racing New Zealand Board Member, and includes Harness Racing New Zealand senior management, a Racing Integrity Unit representative, a Veterinarian and a number of equine subject matter experts.

Harness Racing New Zealand has a Health and Animal Welfare Policy (see here).

The purpose of the Policy is to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all registered harness racing horses is maintained, during the time they are registered (with the industry) and while they perform the following activities: 

  • Racing
  • Training
  • Other activities associated with racing and training
  • Breeding

Harness Racing New Zealand is committed to the health and welfare of horses involved in the wide range of harness racing related activities in New Zealand.  Harness Racing New Zealand considers that the health and animal welfare standards in the industry should exceed those standards legally required in New Zealand, to ensure the ongoing sustainability and integrity of the New Zealand Harness Racing industry.

Prior to the retirement of horses from the harness industry, Harness Racing New Zealand encourages owners to consider all available retirement options, and if applicable to speak with their trainer about potential options, which will provide the retiring horse with continued good welfare for the rest of its natural life.

Harness Racing New Zealand is currently in the process of launching an exciting new initiative; Harness Education & Rehoming Opportunities (HERO). HERO was initially launched in July 2015 as a joint initiative of Harness Racing Victoria and the State Government via the Victorian Racing Industry Fund and Harness Racing New Zealand are proud to be joining this venture. HERO promotes life after racing options for retired Standardbreds, with an emphasis on developing positive pathways for horses exiting the competitive environment and encouraging industry participants to factor retirement into their day to day welfare programs.

On retirement from the industry, the owner is responsible for notifying Harness Racing New Zealand of what has happened to the horse on leaving the industry. Harness Racing New Zealand requires a greater understanding of what happens to horses when they leave the industry, and is in the process of updating its procedures and New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing to improve the retirement process.

Harness Racing New Zealand will review established legal and scientific information on at least a six monthly basis, relevant to health and animal welfare to make or amend standards, regulations and rules as necessary. Harness Racing New Zealand will work as applicable, for the benefit of any Standardbred with the:

  • Ministry for Primary Industries
  • Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Racing Integrity Unit

As part of our duties, we will, as necessary, make standards, procedures or rules regarding health and animal welfare in a range of areas as outlined in the Health and Animal Welfare Policy.

Where possible, we will incorporate health and animal welfare matters into all training material presented to industry participants. Matters covered will include general horse welfare, ill health, emergency situations and injury prevention. 


Harness Racing New Zealand will:

  1. Continue working with animal welfare experts to improve our understanding of animal welfare
  2. Improve collection and analysis of welfare-related data for New Zealand Standardbreds
  3. Enforce the Harness Racing New Zealand Health and Animal Welfare Policy
  4. Review established legal and scientific information on at least a six monthly basis, relevant to health and animal welfare to make or amend standards, regulations and rules as necessary
  5. Launch the life after racing initiative HERO
  6. Have active involvement and representatives on:
    1. New Zealand Equine Health Association
    2. New Zealand Equine Research Foundation
    3. New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust


Code of Welfare Horses and Donkeys

Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018

New Zealand Equine Research Foundation

NZ Equine Health Association