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What is the RSPCA position on horse jumps races?

Article ID: 234
Last updated: 06 Jul, 2018
Revision: 10
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RSPCA Australia is opposed to jumps races (steeplechasing and hurdling) because of the high probability of a horse suffering serious injury or even death as a result of participating in these events. Despite at least seven separate reviews into the sport and numerous recommendations and modifications to the design and conduct of jumps races, deaths and injuries have continued to occur.

A 2006 study by researchers at the University of Melbourne found that a jumps horse was 18.9 times more likely to die than a flat racing horse [1]. The main reasons for this are:

  • Length of races -  the average jumps race is at least 1 km longer than flat racing; in some cases races are nearly 5 km long
  • Weight -  horses in jumps races carry a heavier weight than those in flat races
  • Obstacles – horses in jumps races must negotiate obstacles which are at least 1 m high
  • Collisions – jumping in a pack puts horses at significant risk of collision with each other.

Serious injuries incurred by horses include long-limb fractures and head/neck injuries including vertebral fractures. Jumps race injuries cause considerable pain and stress to affected horse. Sometimes the injuries are so severe the horse will die or will have to be euthanased.

It is difficult to calculate the true animal welfare costs of jumps racing as public information regarding injuries and deaths associated with training, trials or post-racing is not available. In addition, rules of racing, especially those relating to horse safety, are not consistent between Victoria and South Australia, which is concerning given that many Victorian jockeys and horses travel to South Australia to race.

Jumps racing events also place the jockey at a high risk of serious injury, with one study showing that jumps jockeys were 41% more likely to suffer fractures than jockeys in flat racing [2].

In 1991, the the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare recommended that governments should phase out jumps racing within three years [3]. The NSW State Government banned jumps racing in 1997 under animal welfare legislation and Tasmania ceased jumps racing in 2007. Victoria and South Australia are the only states that continue to support jumps racing.

In November 2016, a South Australian Parliamentary Select Committee tasked with investigating welfare concerns for horses used for jumps racing released a report containing 28 recommendations. The report identified several areas where improvements were required to achieve accountability, transparency and to meet community expectations. Key recommendations included ensuring public availability of data pertaining to all falls, injuries and fatalities in jumps training, trials and races; reporting outcomes from non-fatal injuries sustained from jumps racing; that the industry investigate and address the high attrition rate and disclose the final fate of retired horses and that the industry develop and fund a retirement plan for each racehorse. However, without government pressure, the industry is not compelled to implement any of the recommendations.   

For further information about what you can do to help stop jumps races, please visit RSPCA South Australia's website: 
Ban jumps racing

References

[1] Boden LA et al. (2006) Risk of fatality and causes of death of Thoroughbred horses associated with racing in Victoria, Australia: 1989-2004. Equine Veterinary Journal 38:312-318

[2] Curry BA et al. (2015) Workplace injuries in Thoroughbred racing: An analysis of insurance payments and injuries amongst jockeys in Australia from 2002 to 2010. Animals 5:897-909

[3] Commonwealth of Australia (1991) Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare Report: Aspects of Animal Welfare in the Racing Industry

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