Health and management

“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.”

We consider racehorse injuries and fatalities as an important issue that require research and understanding to minimise problems for our Standardbreds.

New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust

“We believe every person involved in horse racing and equestrian sports have a responsibility for the welfare of the animals in their care. This takes priority over all other considerations. The New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust was established in 2016 for the sole purpose of funding, procuring and operating a national fleet of horse ambulances.” 

The purpose of the New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust is to assist horses injured while competing at race meetings and equestrian events through the provision and operation of a national fleet of horse ambulances. To protect the well-being of horses competing at race meeting and equestrian events in New Zealand. To promote the animal welfare standards that must be achieved for participants to exceed their obligations under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

With animal care very much in the news and the concept of racing and equestrian organisations now requiring a ‘social license’ to operate; being at the forefront of an entity that responsibly champions animal welfare within the racing industry and equestrian sports should only be seen as a positive experience and public message.

The New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust intends on buying ten horse ambulances and ten towing trucks over the next three years.  There are already three horse ambulances each with its own tow vehicle, attending race meetings, with a fourth horse ambulance due to be completed in December 2019. Once all of the horse ambulances are deployed, a horse ambulance will be available at harness race and Thoroughbred race meetings, many Thoroughbred trials and premier non–racing equestrian events. The horse ambulances will provide significant care benefit to horses that need assistance with light or moderate survivable injuries.  

Harness Racing New Zealand will:

  1. Continue to maintain a Racing Incident Database. Since August 2014 New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and HRNZ have, with the cooperation of race day veterinarians employed by the Racing Integrity Unit, recorded the details and circumstances of any race day injuries, fatalities and pre- or post-race inspections of horses
  2. Extend the Race Day Injury reporting App used for the two equine codes, to non race day injuries
  3. Ensure that the Rules of Racing reinforce compliance with care regulations and appropriate sanctions applied to owners or trainers who are non-compliant. 


Drugs and prohibited substances

New Zealand is a signatory to Article 6 of the International Agreement on Breeding Racing and Wagering, which sets out provisions governing the use of prohibited substances and recuperation:

  • Racehorses are prohibited from racing with any prohibited substance in their bodies
  • All therapies for horses involved in racing or race training, including rest periods, treatments, and pharmaceuticals, should be based upon a specific diagnosis, administered in the context of a valid and transparent owner-trainer-veterinarian relationship, and given in the interests of the horse’s health and welfare
  • Following any therapy given to a racehorse, a sufficient period should elapse prior to racing such that any therapeutic pharmaceuticals are no longer present and are not capable of giving the horse an advantage nor potentially detrimental to its welfare.

Harness Racing New Zealand bans the use of any substance that influences a horse’s speed, stamina or courage in racing.  Drugs must not be allowed to modify the racing performance of the horse, adversely impact on its welfare or conceal genetic or acquired conditions. This includes substances such as alkalinising agents (bicarbonates), hormones, peptides and anabolic steroids that could be administered in ‘out of competition’ training periods to improve a horse’s physique and conditioning.

Any confirmed detection of prohibited substances or metabolites of prohibited substances will result in the horse being disqualified from the race and, in most cases, will result in sanctions on the trainer. These sanctions are usually a combination of suspension and fines.

Horses are inspected pre- and post-race by Stipendiary Stewards and the race day veterinarian to ensure they are fit to race. Horses must not race under the effect of any painkiller, in an effort to avoid prevent horses racing while injured.

After any veterinary treatment, horses must have sufficient time to recuperate before competing

HRNZ Regulations

Harness Racing New Zealand will:

  1. Maintain currency and knowledge about international drug regulations
  2. Support the Racing Integrity Unit
  3. Support ‘out of competition’ sampling
  4. Support NZ Racing Laboratory Services Ltd to maintain its ISO accreditation rating and independent operation for sample testing



Maintaining a healthy and disease-free Standardbred population is good for the overall welfare of the horses. Certain exotic equine diseases pose considerable welfare and economic risks to Standardbred racing and breeding in New Zealand.

Biosecurity measures are the best protection against exotic diseases.  Harness Racing New Zealand is a member of the New Zealand Equine Health Association, which is mandated by equine sector groups as a signatory to the Government Industry Agreement biosecurity deed with the Ministry for Primary Industries.  These organisations work together to ensure that the welfare of horses in New Zealand is not affected by such diseases. This enables New Zealand Equine Health Association to enter into operational agreements regarding readiness and response for exotic equine-related diseases.  These agreements will help equip the industry with tools to support the quick and efficient control of exotic disease outbreaks.

There are nine equine specific diseases that are notifiable in accordance with the Biosecurity (Notifiable Organisms) Order 2016:

  • Equine influenza
  • Contagious equine metritis
  • Equine infectious anaemia
  • Equine viral arteritis
  • African horse sickness
  • Glanders
  • Equine encephalitis viruses (various forms)
  • Epizootic lymphangitis
  • Equine piroplasmosis.

In addition, there are endemic and usually dormant diseases such as Strangles and Equine Herpes Virus, which occur from time to time, are highly contagious and can have severe effects on our equine population.  Tetanus is a constant risk; Salmonella and Rotavirus are also of particular concern to the breeding industry whoever these can be managed and controlled by a vigilant vaccination regime.

New Zealand Equine Health Association, New Zealand Equine Veterinary Association and the New Zealand Equine Research Foundation have jointly provided vaccination guidelines for managing infectious diseases endemic in New Zealand (last published 2014).

Importing Horses

There are special procedures for importing horses, donkeys, and their cross-breeds into New Zealand, to help reduce any biosecurity risks. You can only import from approved markets. The markets are:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • European Union member states
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Macau
  • Singapore
  • United States of America.

Harness Racing New Zealand will:

  1. Continue to support New Zealand Equine Health Association activities as a signatory to Government Biosecurity Agreements and initiatives
Industry Information