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National Council




Every now and then, an idea or proposal emerges from the shadowy halls of the Racing Industry administration that makes you sit up and take notice, then think, what a great idea. The following is a great example of one of those:

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.

See, told you.

Pete Cook

Clerks of the Course – A Positive Spin

Over the years, there has been a fair bit of criticism (including from this source) of the performance of some Clerks of the Course, and much of it has been justified. So I figured, to be fair and balance the ledger a touch, I would relate a recent experience at the Geraldine TC meeting last week.

First of all, credit must go to the Geraldine Club for providing two of these officials instead of the normal one for many meetings. I know it’s an extra expense, but that extra person and horse can be very valuable on occasions.

To say it was a rather forgettable day personally would be an understatement, with one horse failing to score up and the other retired due to injury! However, in the next boxes to us were two gentlemen who were there to perform the duties of Clerks of the Course, and during the preparations and aftermath, we got to know them a little. The two guys, Messrs. Phiskie and Wiggins, were professional, courteous, and friendly, and provided much needed assistance to their ‘neighbours’ when it was required, both on and off the track.

It is to be hoped that my experience with these gentlemen is a sign that Clerks are becoming more professional and efficient nationwide, so that they instill confidence in the participants they are there to help and protect.

Pete Cook

Double Standard?

An interesting and most unusual scenario unfolded at the recent Cambridge meeting when, during the course of a Junior Drivers event, the ‘lap to run’ signal was given one lap too soon.

The Stewards on the night looked into the possibility of declaring the race null and void, but common sense prevailed and the result was declared as they passed the post. Discretion was apparently given to the drivers who may have made moves at the wrong time due to their inexperience, however “Drivers were reminded that ultimately it is their obligation to be aware of the distance of any race that they participate in.”

This raises two points to me, what would have happened if the same set of circumstances had occurred in a race involving senior professionals? Would they have treated in a similar fashion? It would take Hercule Poirot to successfully investigate whether each driver had either heard the signal and/or reacted to it, and it would be very easy to fabricate answers to any relevant questions. Even if such investigations were successfully carried out, what would they be charged with? Incompetency would be pretty difficult to prove, given the circumstances.

If however, charges were brought against drivers concerned and they were fined or suspended, surely some action should be taken against the official who caused the confusion. Apparently he was severely reprimanded, which while obviously not a pleasant experience, carries no financial penalty whatsoever.

Double standard…you decide.

Pete Cook

Handicapping Changes

As those of you who take any interest in the murky world of handicapping will know, it is often pointed out that it is a living beast, which should always be subject to alteration and (hopefully) improvement, when necessary.

At the Association’s last National Council meeting, delegates came up with three proposals that they considered were necessary to streamline the recently established points system. These suggestions were placed before the HRNZ Handicapping Committee and have subsequently been approved, albeit with slight alterations.

The changes, which come into force on 1 February, are as follows:

- Horses placing second, third, fourth or fifth in an Official Race will have no change made to their Rating.

- - Horses placing sixth to last will lose at least one point.

- - Only race winners and horses placing sixth to last may be subject to Handicapper's Discretion.

Pete Cook







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