Equine competitive events (other than jump races and rodeos)


Ratification Date: 04 Dec 2014


Organisers of competitive events involving horses must strive to ensure the health and welfare of the horse is not compromised. Responsibility lies with the rider (or competition team) and the event organising committee.


Equine competitive events range from pony club events, which are low risk, to endurance events and bush races, which pose higher risks to horse welfare. The range of necessary supervision and veterinary involvement will vary according to the particular event, its duration, the terrain over which it is conducted, and the relative risks involved.


Organisers of competitive events should:

  1. Understand and apply the relevant state Acts relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.
  2. Give a clear definition of the age of horses permitted to compete and the criteria relating to the horses’ level of fitness and training before competition.
  3. Have a defined veterinary management plan – in many sports, this will involve the attendance of a suitably experienced veterinarian at the event, with provision to ensure that the veterinarian is engaged on a professional basis.
  4. Establish a process that ensures that horses do not compete when lame, ill, unfit, or injured.
  5. Make arrangements to treat injuries or illness promptly and effectively.
  6. Provide a statement to competitors that horses competing should be presented drug- free. For some events, there should be a process to ensure compliance.
  7. Establish procedures that ensure that riders, drivers and handlers are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol when competing and do not subject their mounts or horses to undue risk.
  8. Require all horses attending the event to be individually identified and the details recorded in an appropriately accessible database
  9. Design a course that tests the skill of the horse and rider, driver or handler, but does not place unreasonable demands on the horses for each given level of competition. The course should be checked by the organisers, with veterinary involvement if available, to ensure that adverse conditions (such as heat, humidity or heavy-going and slippery conditions) will not place unreasonable demands on horses. Course organisers have the final responsibility for course design and suitability of the conditions.
  10. Ensure financial or commercial pressures do not interfere with or override safety of the horse or rider.
  11. Encourage riders and drivers to use aids, including whips and spurs, as sparingly as possible, and prohibit their use when horses are at maximum performance. Any aids should comply with industry standards to ensure no damage to the horses.
  12. Inspect horses and brief riders before the event to ensure compliance with the requirements documented above and to ensure that riders understand the rules of the event.
  13. Investigate and prepare a report if a horse dies or is injured during an event. Reports should include proposed corrective action to prevent the incident occurring again.
  14. Establish a plan to execute biosecurity measures and notify relevant state authorities in the event of a disease outbreak. Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be available to all people directly in contact with sick horses.
  15. Ensure horses are required to be vaccinated against contagious diseases where a vaccine is available, particularly for diseases which can infect humans. This is particularly important in the case of Hendra virus, but should also include strangles and could include equine herpesvirus.
  16. Supervise all parts of the event to ensure compliance with event rules.

Other relevant policies and position statements

Use of whips at competitive events

Use of horses in entertainment

The provision of optimum veterinary services to the horse racing industry

Date of ratification by AVA Board: 4 December 2014