Do you know what you will do to look after your horse in a bushfire?

With the season already upon us, now is the time to make those plans.
Here are some key points for you to consider.

Planning before there is a fire near you.
As with your general bush fire plan, you should make a decision to stay or go early? Your own personal safety is paramount.

Talk with all members of your family about your plan so they are familiar with it and understand their roles. Practice and revise your plan before each bushfire season.

Ensure your horses are readily identifiable - have a record of their brands and microchip numbers. Keeping photos with this information also can help identify your horse. Keep this record electronically in the cloud. (In case in an extreme event your computer and paper files are lost in a fire or not accessible) Make sure your Property Identification Code (PIC) details relevant to your state are current.

Do you have enough feed and water for at least three days?

Ensure you have sufficient Veterinary medical supplies to treat injured horses. Discuss with your vet well in advance what you may need as a basic emergency kit.

If you have horses on agistment, ensure that the property owner has a bush fire plan for your horses, find out what it says and know if you are expected to do anything. If there is no bush fire plan in existence, engage with the property owner about creating one.

Prepare a “safe” paddock.

Plan where you will put your horses when a fire event is in your area. Evacuation may not be safe or possible so this might be vital for their survival.
A safe paddock should be:

  • One that is large and heavily grazed.

  • Is easy to access and well fenced.

  • Has access to a water source that does not rely on electricity. Also consider what you

    will do if you have plastic water tanks and water troughs.

  • Is not surrounded by heavy vegetation.

  • Ideally, it is a paddock your horses are familiar with.

  • Ensure that the paddock is easily accessible - gates not locked or blocked in anyway.

  • Tell your neighbours what your plans are for your horses in the event you are not


    In the event of a fire threat - high or catastrophic/Code red fire danger days

    If your plan is to leave

    If you plan to transport your horses to another area, do this well before fire or smoke arrive. Travelling on roads with horses in a float or horse truck in the midst of a fire emergency can be very dangerous to yourself and emergency services.

    As part of your plan you would have already identified and arranged a place to move your horses which is better prepared than your own – or out of the immediate fire danger area. This could include:

  • A neighbour or friend’s property

  • Local showgrounds

  • Saleyards

  • Racetracks

  • Pony club grounds

  • Commons
    You will need to check that these places are open and willing to take horses prior to arriving.

    You may also be expected to stay with your horse in some places. Arrange a group strategy with friends, other agistees or club members.

    If your fire plan is to stay - Move your horses to the safe paddock area early – it can be dangerous to yourself, your horses and emergency services if you are trying to move horses that are panicked in the midst of a fire emergency.

    Remove anything from your horses which might be flammable or melt- rugs, halters, fly veils.

    Write your contact information on your horse - on their hooves with marker pen or on their body. Remember to have your address or property name included – in a fire emergency it is highly likely that mobile communications will be compromised.

    If there is time, plait and tie up their mane and tail to reduce the chance of them catching fire.

    Check that water troughs are full. Fill additional containers as a back-up. You may lose power and water supply during a fire emergency. Plastic troughs and water tanks may melt.

Open any internal gates to give your horses as much available space as possible. Ensure thathorses can’t get trapped with paddock layout.

Do not turn your horses out on the road, they will be a danger to themselves and emergency vehicles.

After the fire has passed

When the fire threat has passed, inspect your animals for burns or injuries.

A horse suffering from burns or smoke inhalation or both requires prompt veterinary attention. Until the vet arrives, you can:

  • Hose affected areas with cold water or sponge if hosing is not available

  • If legs are affected, try standing your horse in a bucket of water

  • Any first-aid administered should be anti-inflammatory.

    Continue to monitor horses closely for several days as some injuries (to feet especially) may not be immediately obvious.

    Move horses away from hot ground as this can lead to further injuries including laminitis.

    Look for hot spots in the paddock such as tree roots which may still be burning and could cause injuries to feet and legs.

    Check that the water supplies are adequate and haven’t been contaminated by falling ash orfire-fighting foam.

    Have a look at fencing and shelters and any other structures in the paddock to ensure their integrity.

    Do not feed hay on burnt ground covered in ash if possible.

    Preparation is key for the survival of your horses in the event of a bushfire. There are many additional resources available to help you and tailor this information to your area. Contact your local Rural Fire or CFA Services and State Primary Industry Departments.

    Information for this article has been sourced from -

    Lecture by Courtney Stevens, veterinary nurse, farmer and former RSPCA inspector, at the St Albans Rural Fire Service “Get Ready”weekend October 19.
    NSW Department of Primary Industries publication – “Emergency Management – Horse Safety in Disasters”
    South Australian Country Fire Service publication - “Looking after Horses in Bushfires”

    NSW RFS and NSW Fire and Rescue publication - “Information for Rural Landholders and Farmers – Livestock and Large Animals” Victorian CFA publication – “Horses and Bushfires”

Appearance before the Senate Committee looking into the Feasibility of a National Horse Register.

The second public hearing into the feasibility of a national horse register was held at Parliament House Canberra on Friday, September 20.

You can read the Committee Hansard of the day here.

The AHIC would like to thank the committee for the opportunity for our President, Mark Burnell to appear today. This is the opening statement from the AHIC to the hearing.

There is a great deal of interest in the register from across the equine community and the AHIC undertakes to continue to consult with our members and the wider industry.

Prior to the commencement of public hearings, organisations and individuals had the ability to make a submission for consideration. You can find the AHIC submission and all submissions here.

The AHIC holds a number of Industry Advisory Committee meetings throughout the year, the next one will be in November and the Senate Inquiry will once again be a major agenda item for discussion for our members.

We will let you know where and when that will be shortly.

National Horse Traceability Register

The second Public Hearing by the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport will be held at Parliament House Canberra on Friday, September 20.

Mark Burnell, President of the AHIC will appear before the committee at 10am.

The committee is examining the feasibility of a National Horse Traceability Register for all horses, with particular reference to:

  1. the existence and adequacy of state or industry-based registers;

  2. the benefits of a national register, including for animal welfare, biosecurity safety (including for the prevention and management of Emergency Animal Diseases, such as equine influenza and African Horse Sickness), backyard breeding and the integrity of trade in horses;

  3. overseas models of national tracking systems for horses;

  4. funding, enforcement and penalty implications; and

  5. any related matters.

A number of submissions have been made to the committee, including by the AHIC. The committee will report back by December 5.

Welcome to the new Australian Horse Industry Council website!

This is just the beginning of our new website. Over the next few months, this will grow and evolve into something we hope is a useful place for you to bookmark and visit regularly,

The website is just one outcome of a reinvigorated AHIC.

A lot of work has been going on quietly in the background this year as we relaunch the AHIC to better serve our members and the broader horse industry.

As you probably know, the AHIC is made up of a number of volunteer Board members with interests across a wide spectrum of the horse industry. This ranges from dressage, Australian Stock Horses, racing, endurance, pony club, showing, eventing and many breed societies.

The underlying connection is a passion to promote and support the Australian Horse Industry, animal well- being and the people involved in equine activities.

In the last 12months, some of our long-standing Board members have retired from the AHIC. We want to acknowledge the great work and years of dedication of Dr Roger Lavelle, Hunter Jones and Nina Arnott.

Another big change for the AHIC was the retirement of our secretary of more than 15 years, Judy Tainch. We know that we speak on behalf of many, many members when we say thank you to Judy for everything that you have contributed. A shout out also to Edwina Boase-Stratford who stepped in as interim Secretary after Judy retired. 

We welcome Ned Patterson as our new part time secretary. The way of contacting the secretary remains the same -

We also welcome new Board members who have generously agreed to volunteer their considerable expertise - Katya Ellis, Linda Bracken, Mark Ewing and Rachael Tricarico

Find out more about them here.

Our other major priorities for the rest of the year for the Horse Council -

  • Reconnecting with our members, member organisations and affiliate members and improving our communication with you.

  • Representing the Horse Industry and being a conduit to members with various Government activities including the Senate Inquiry into a National Horse Database and Traceability System; proposed changes to Urban Planning – already flagged in Victoria and potentially other states; Emergency Preparedness – covering disease and natural disasters.

This is an exciting time for the Horse Industry Council, it’s your Council, so please engage with us and let us know how we can best work together to promote the Horse Industry in our country.

Industry Advisory Committee Meeting Highlights - August 2019.

We had another very successful IAC meeting in the Boardroom of Racing Victoria with representation from a wide range of member organisations.

Here is a high-level summary of the main things discussed and some thoughts about how you can help us or be involved in progressing some of these areas.

Whole of Industry Survey.

As a Council, we have often discussed the benefits of having an accurate overview of the numbers of horses and people and therefore economic benefits of the Equine Industry in Australia. This helps all of us in making representations to Government about the scale and importance of not just the racing industry, but importantly the entire Equestrian Industry across the country. Many sports have done similar work to quantify the level of engagement with their sport as a solid basis for advocacy for their area of recreation.

Because of the disparate nature of equestrian pursuits, this has been harder to collate.

The AHIC have been in discussions with Paul Limoli, an experienced researcher to scope what doing something similar for the Horse Industry may involve. I attach some information on his proposed approach for your interest and feedback.

The survey isn’t cheap and it isn’t something that the AHIC can afford to commission. We had a good discussion at the IAC about the importance of such a survey and ways it may be able to be done and if there are other approaches (that are cheaper.)

One thought was to see if there could be a question included in next year’s National Census by the ABS. Preliminary research looks like submissions for potential questions have closed. We are investigating if there is a way of purchasing a question in the Census.

Where you come in

Would you consider adding in a few questions to your membership renewals/competition entries as a way of starting to collate some data renewals?

These could include;

• How many horses do you own?

• Do you have horses that have multiple registrations across performance or breed societies (eg; a quarter horse might be registered with the AQHA as well as a number of Western riding competition organisations.)

If we start to collect and retain that information across our member organisations, it would give the survey a head start.

We will be continuing to talk with the survey company on ways to improve their approach and we welcome your suggestions and input. We are also interested in your feedback about how as an Industry we might be able to afford to undertake the survey.

Diana McNaughton – Industry Engagement Manager - Skills Impact.

The meeting had a chance to hear from Diana McNaughton from Skills Impact. Skills Impact’s role as a National Skills Service organisation is to work in collaboration with industry, Government and training providers.

There was discussion around VET training in the Equine sector and the current challenges.

While there are TAFE’s delivering some training, it seems that the way the modules and courses relating to our Industry and split across three areas, rather in one coherent stream.

Skills Impact are looking to us as the representatives of the Horse Industry to give them feedback about what we need and want from the VET sector.

There was considerable discussion around the proliferation of “on-line” training being offered including coaching qualifications. The wide range of non-accredited training was a concern to attendees at the IAC particularly the potential safety issues which may arise from people completing unregulated online courses.

Where you come in

Can you please have a conversation in your Societies and organisations around these questions?

• How important is it to have qualified people employed working in your businesses, competitions and training days?

• Do you find there is a shortage of staff, especially qualified staff?

• Do they know how many people as a % are employed within their membership group that have an equine qualification?

• How important is it that people have a qualification?

• What gaps are there in the VET training that is currently available? Eg; saddle fitting, remedial therapist, nutritionist, trainer/coach.

We would love to hear that feedback at our next IAC as we continue to engage with Skills Impact to advocate for improved training for our industry.

In Brief

Harness Racing Australia notified IAC attendees that they are introducing some serious regulation around the use of the bisphosphonate class such a Tildren for participants of the Harness Racing Industry.

Updates from last IAC

1. Senate Inquiry into the Feasibility of National Horse Register.

It was noted that the Senate Inquiry has invited the AHIC and other organisations that made a submission to address the Inquiry in September.

2. Large Animal Rescue.

Mark Burnell updated the meeting with some excellent progress in being able to create a recognised Large Animal Rescue course adapting the best practice work of Anton Phillips for Australia.

And finally, we acknowledged the sad passing of Alex Morgan, a founding member of the AHIC, Victorian horse council, Life member of the Aust Pony Stud Book society and a passionate advocate of the horse industry.

“Have your say” - Industry Advisory Committee meeting – 16th August

All members and affiliate members are invited to come along to the next IAC in August at Flemington Racecourse.

It’s a packed agenda with some interesting speakers and topics (oh and you get lunch too!)

Some of the things we will be discussing include:

  • The Federal Senate Inquiry into the feasibility of a national horse database

  • EU Recognition of Australian Studbooks

  • We will hear from respected Equine Industry market researcher, Paul Limoli on a whole of Industry Stocktake.

  • A session on equine spinal health and new innovations in saddle making and fitting from Peter Horobin.

Please come along and join the discussion.

Where – Board Room of Racing Victoria, 400 Epsom Rd Flemington
When - August 16th

Please register with our secretary so we know how many to cater for (did I mention there is lunch?  - please let her know if you have any dietary requirements) and she will send you all the details on final agenda, timing and speakers.

Hendra case in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley

You may have caught up on the news that there has been a confirmed case of Hendra in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley.

The NSW DPI confirmed that this was found in an unvaccinated mare on a property near Scone, one of the major centres of Thoroughbred breeding in Australia.

Further information from the NSW DPI -

“The horse developed neurological signs on Friday, 7 June, three days after being confined to a yard. It was euthanased by the owners after becoming unresponsive. As the horse was unvaccinated and had a sudden onset of neurological signs, the owners contacted the animal diseases hotline.

A District Veterinarian from Hunter Local Lands Services visited the property on Sunday 9 June to collect samples for Hendra Virus testing. Hendra virus infection was confirmed by the State Veterinary laboratory at Menangle on Wednesday, 12 June.

No other horses on the property are showing any signs of ill health. Their health status will be monitored daily. Officers from NSW health are undertaking risk assessments of people who have had varying degrees of contact with the affected horse to determine their risk.

Tracing of horse movements in the previous 16 days will be undertaken and a Biosecurity Direction is in place to control the movement of animals and people on and off the property.

Hendra virus infection is notifiable in NSW under the NSW Biosecurity Act. Most cases in NSW have been on the north coast, with a case at Kempsey in 2013 being the most southern case prior to the current case.

In NSW to date there have been 22 horse deaths as a result of Hendra virus on 20 properties since the first NSW case in 2006. There have been no human deaths from Hendra virus in NSW. Vaccination of horses is the most effective way to help manage Hendra virus disease.”

Further reading
Hendra virus

If you have any questions relating to Hendra vaccination, The Australian Horse Industry Council suggests that you consult your Specialist Equine Veterinarian to discuss your circumstances.