The horse ambulance fleet is complete

New Zealand can now boast the world’s first dedicated national horse ambulance service, following the commissioning of the country’s ninth and final horse ambulance.

The ambulance is being unveiled by the NZ Horse Ambulance Trust today in Karaka, where sponsors and supporters of the Trust are celebrating the achievement.

“We’ve been on a mission to deliver a national fleet of horse ambulances and today we are proud to say we’ve done it!” says Martin Burns, Chair of the NZ Horse Ambulance Trust and General Manager of Welfare & Sustainability for NZ Thoroughbred Racing.

The NZ Horse Ambulance Trust was established in 2016 as a charity with the objective of funding a fleet of equine ambulances to help improve the health and welfare of horses across New Zealand. Since then, the Trust has raised $1.25m, including a successful fundraising campaign in 2021 raising more than $100,000 to ‘Complete the Fleet’.

“Having our fleet complete means we have the capacity to ensure all race meetings and equestrian events in New Zealand have a horse ambulance in attendance. This is truly world-leading, as we are the only country that boasts a nationwide dedicated horse ambulance service, and puts equine welfare at the very heart of the industry,” says Martin.

The horse ambulance plays a vital role in equine welfare, giving horses that are injured on the racetrack or in training safe transport to specialist diagnostic assessment and treatment at local equine clinics. The Trust is also called upon by the SPCA and the police to pick up sick or mistreated horses and transport them for treatment.

One of the advantages of the locally-designed state-of-the-art horse ambulance is a hydraulic system that lowers the ambulance to the ground and other innovations such as the quick assembly of the crush that ensure rapid and versatile capability. It means if a horse is injured and cannot walk up a ramp it can enter, and exit without turning, at ground level, which is more manageable for a sedated horse and minimises the risk of further injury.

“Without the horse ambulance, the consequences can be dire. If a horse is injured to the extent it cannot walk up a ramp, sometimes the only option has been to euthanise the animal. With a horse ambulance in attendance, we can lower our entire ramp to the ground so we can transport our horses for specialist treatment, then walk them out the front of the ambulance, giving them the best chance of recovery.”

The NZ Horse Ambulance Trust relies on sponsorship and charitable donations, with the ambulances transported around the country by driver/operators and accompanied at events by specialist equine veterinarians. Thanks to the work of the Trust an ambulance is on track

at every thoroughbred race meeting, all thoroughbred trials, and harness race meetings in New Zealand. It is intended that the ninth horse ambulance will and others in the fleet will benefit equestrian sports including three-day eventing, show jumping and polo.

Martin says while New Zealand is now leading the world in equine welfare, they want to set the standard even higher.

“You wouldn’t run a sports event without St John being there. We want the same expectation for our horses. Every equestrian event should have a horse ambulance in attendance, every time. It’s a world-leading stance to take and we’re proud of the support we’ve had from the industry that will make it happen.”

“We also have to recognise the support of our National Equine Welfare Sponsors and the significant grants received from NZ Community Trust and One Foundation. Without their help, achieving the vision of having a national horse ambulance fleet would not have been reached at such an impressive pace,” says Martin.


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