'Confronting' video highlights horse jumps racing harm

A "confronting" new video has highlighted the harm caused to horses involved in jumps racing, although a racing organisation says they have high standards set for the care of horses.

The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR) released the video on Thursday, which shows horses during the 2020 jumps racing season falling, going into cardiac arrest, and sustaining critical and often fatal injuries.

CPR NZ spokesperson Frances Baker said many Kiwis are "completely unaware" that jumps racing (which encompasses steeplechases and hurdle races) persists in New Zealand.

"From May to August 2021, 23 cruel jumps events will be held across New Zealand racetracks, forcing 500kg horses to jump hurdles whilst travelling at high speeds and being flogged by the jockey on their back," she said. 

"Four horses were reported to have been killed in the 2020 NZ jumps racing season. Many more suffered painful injuries and have not been seen on the racetrack since - their status unknown."

Will Appelbe, the spokesperson for New Zealand animal rights charity SAFE, said the video is "confronting" - but presents "the honest truth of jumps racing".

"Jumps racing is inherently dangerous, resulting in horrific injuries," he said. 

"Horses are forced to jump barriers at high speeds, which they would never do naturally. As a result, the industry has an appalling rate of death and injury. Jumps racing has already been banned across the Tasman in New South Wales because of the risk to animals.

 "The reality is, when you bet on animals, their welfare suffers. It's time New Zealand moves past abusing animals for fun and bans horse racing."

CPR is calling for supporters to protest upcoming races.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) admitted that horses had suffered injuries.

"The video which the Australian-based protest group has obtained from Stewards' footage on our website includes footage of the four horses which died during jumps races in 2020," general manager of welfare Martin Burns said.

"It also includes footage of horses which, while injured, have made full recoveries to allow them to either return to racing, or live out their retirement in a paddock or pursuing other equestrian sport."

He said the organisation accepts CPR and its supporters' right to protest, but added the NZTR is also committed to keeping horses safe.

"New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) is committed to the welfare of our horses and we have set high standards for the care of our horses. Our Welfare Standards have been adopted as the basis of standards introduced this year by the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities (IFHA)."

Burns pointed out that during the NZTR general meeting in November, the organisation introduced a levy of 1 percent of prize money to go towards welfare issues, including the funding of the Horse Ambulance fleet and the creation of a network of rehomers for retired horses.