Later this year the equine industry will be presented with a new evolution in horse care technology.

Thanks to the generosity of the equine industry, and also the efforts of the New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust (NZHAT), five custom built horse ambulances are on target to be rolled out by December.

The New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust was established after meetings between vets, equine codes and the Racing Integrity Unit established that welfare outcomes for horses would be improved with the provision of appropriate custom built horse ambulances.

The Trust itself was formed by members of the New Zealand Equine Vet Association, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, Harness Racing New Zealand and the Racing Integrity Unit.

NZHAT Trust Chair Martin Burns is also General Manager of Racing and Equine Welfare for NZTR and is extremely grateful for the support the Trust has received.

“When established in mid-2016 the initial goal was to have the first five equine ambulances delivered by July 2018. Thanks to the generosity of donors, sponsors and grant providers, we have raised sufficient funds though manufacturing lead-times mean we now expect to meet this goal by December 2018. But we are happy that this is not a big miss in terms of our intended timing.”

Burns noted that the evidence has been present in recent news and media around the importance of the equine ambulance.

“The first aid provided by an equine ambulance to Gingernuts when injured last year at Flemington, and his subsequent progress to recovery, indicates the improvement to welfare outcomes that may be provided by having this technology available.”

 “It’s most important to ensure the best chances of recovery for horses, whether racing injuries or when necessary to transport for surgeries or treatments,” said Burns. “Beyond that, it’s also important to help demonstrate the deserved levels of care our horses should be provided.”

The inclusion of the equine codes along with the RIU and Vets association has been crucial in ensuring all bases are covered.

“None of us really has the knowledge or resources to make this a success alone. The combination among trustees of Vets and racing authorities has been essential in building the necessary momentum and in considering the planning and logistics. The Trust is also open to the future direct involvement of other equine sports,” explained Burns.

Fellow NZHAT Trustee Dr Peter Gillespie who with Dr Bill Bishop represents the New Zealand Equine Vet Association says the fact that the ambulances are made in Dunedin is also a huge benefit.

“It’s wonderful that we can have these ambulances made locally, not only for the local economy but also the fact that they are costing close to half the price to be made here, rather than having them built offshore,” Gillespie said. “We can be involved in the process each step of the way and speak to the engineer about what will work best. It also means that they will be designed specifically for New Zealand conditions.”

“The engineer building the ambulances was involved in making the new starting gates at Wingatui and has been instrumental in designing a full suspension system for the ambulances, which means they can be dropped right to the ground and then raised again. This is really important as it means when a horse is injured on the track it will put far less stress on the animal than having to walk up or down a ramp,” explained Gillespie.

Gillespie also said the New Zealand Vets Association have investigated and sourced the very latest technology in supporting injured horses, and have sourced full limb supports that will work in conjunction with a support stall in the ambulance. This will take pressure off the injured area and support the horse as it is transported for further care or surgery.

“That’s the main purpose of the equine ambulance. To make the process as less stressful as possible for the animal, and ensure that it is supported and safe during the process of transportation off the track,” said Gillespie.  “With the first five ambulances due to be delivered this year, the Trust will now aim to attract funding for a further three which will enable more comprehensive deployment to equestrian sports events up and down the country.”

The New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust thanks the following sponsors for their generous support: Racing Ministers Safety Development Fund, Bendigo Valley Sports Trust, Salient Trust, Charlie Roberts, NZRB Animal Welfare Fund, Rodmor Trust, Kevin & Jo Hickman/Valachi Downs, NZ Bloodstock and Cambridge Equine Hospital.

For further information please contact:

Martin Burns
Chair – New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 027 511 0348