Use of horses for entertainment
Ratification Date: 19 Oct 2018
Horses can participate in public entertainment provided their needs for shelter, exercise, transport, rest and basic husbandry are met, and their welfare is a priority during training and performance.
Performance events that use horses include circuses, rodeos, film, television, stage and theatre. Other peripheral performance events could include transport for marriage engagements and tourist horse-drawn carriages. The welfare of horses may be compromised by any of these events with respect to housing, handling, exercise, travelling, training, injury, rest periods and incorrect use of equipment.
‘Horses’ includes donkeys, zebras and other equids.
The minimum standards necessary for the care and welfare of performance horses used in entertainment are as follows:
Adequate housing must be provided that includes shade and protection from inclement weather. A temporary shelter, such as a tent which contains prefabricated, demountable stables or pens of adequate size is a basic requirement. Adequate area to avoid being cast must be provided for animals to lie down and roll to allow normal expression of horse behaviour. Horses are herd animals and it is important for horses to be housed adjacent to other horses or appropriate companion animals.
In fine weather, horses may be maintained outdoors in pens or yards and again these pens must be of adequate area. Temporary electric fencing may be used for containment. Prolonged tethering of horses is not acceptable as a method of restraint. There must be an evacuation plan in place to protect horses from any adverse weather event or other natural disaster.
Horses should be exercised for at least half an hour daily.
Horses must be permitted to rest in an area that is large enough to allow them to move around and lie down in comfort. This area should not be adjacent to an area of major activity.
Horses should be trained by skilful and competent trainers using positive reinforcement techniques such as encouragement and reward for successful performance. Techniques that use punishment and inappropriate, excessive or severe negative reinforcement are unacceptable.
Horses should be trained to a level of proficiency above that required for performance. They should be used for performance only when fully and adequately trained for the task required.
Only horses that are fit and healthy should be permitted to participate in performances. Horses that are distressed, sick or diseased, sore, lame or injured must not be used.
Medicines, other than electrolytes or vitamins, should not be used to modify the behaviour of horses during training or performance, unless these medications have been prescribed by a registered veterinarian.
Horses should be inspected before each performance to determine that they are fit to perform. Further inspection should follow each performance to check and treat any injury. A healthy horse is one that is mentally and physically fit to participate regularly in the full range of required activities free of pain.
Whips, spurs and other equipment
Limited and humane use of whips and spurs during performance and training is acceptable. A whip may be used as a cue and training aid during training sessions and for sound effect only during performance. Spurs must have blunt rowels.
Whips should not be used to discipline unruly or poorly performing horses during performance. Such horses should be immediately removed from the performance area. The suitability of such horses for future performance must be reassessed by the trainer to ascertain whether rest; further training or permanent retirement is needed.
Equipment or gear used during training, performance and competition should not cause distress, pain or injury to the horse on which it is used.
The safety and welfare of horses performing stunt work should be paramount in the planning of performances. It is unacceptable to put the lives or limbs of horses in jeopardy for a spectacular stunt scene. A veterinarian should be consulted prior to the stunt and be present while the stunt is being performed.
Responsibility for husbandry
A nominated person should be responsible for the daily management of performance horses. This person should ensure that the animals are:
- fed and watered each day at regular intervals
- housed adequately under sanitary conditions
- wormed and vaccinated regularly
- receiving regular hoof care
- given first aid or veterinary attention promptly when required
- receiving adequate rest periods between performances, and
- have an up to date health record.
Other relevant policies and position statements
Date of ratification by AVA Board 20 January 2012
Updated 19 October 2018