Activities with horses

Information about the approved activities that may be carried out using horses in schools.

Horses – introduction to activities

As required by the Animal Research Act, the Schools Animal Care and Ethics Committee have prepared a list of approved activities. These activities are those that may need to be carried out in the school setting and have been deemed appropriate, when carried out by a person with the appropriate skill and experience and educationally justified.

The activities have been organised into categories 1-5. The category reflects the potential impact on the animal and requires a greater justification and expertise of those carrying out the activity. Visit Categories of activities for further explanation.

Taking measurements from horses.

Horses – non-invasive measurement

Approved activities Category
1. Body weight 2
2. Body condition – visual assessment 2
3. Growth 2
4. Body proportions 2
5. Pulse or bloodflow 2
6. Respiration 2
7. Temperature 2

All these procedures should be able to be carried out with the horse held or tied up with a headstall and lead rope. The use of a crush or nose twitch should not be necessary. Choose a horse that is accustomed to these procedures and has a quiet disposition. Measurement can be made before and after exercise.

In order to weigh horses they will need to be walked onto horse scales by a handler. Some vet clinics have scales combined with a horse crush to easily weigh horses. Routine weighing is generally done to:

  • Monitor growth rates
  • Calculate medication dosage
  • Accurately assess nutrition requirements
  • Provide data for analysis and planning.

Collecting samples from livestock.

Horses – collection of samples

Approved activities Category
1. Wool/hair 2
2. Faeces and urine (non-invasive) 2
3. Faeces (invasive) 3
4. Measurement of body temperature (invasive) 3

Collection of faeces and urine will require minimal restraint of a horse. Blood samples must only be taken by a veterinarian.

Horse husbandry practices

Horses – husbandry

Horses must be suitably identified applicable to their type and the discipline that they are used for.

Schools that keep horses must be assigned a PIC. The school must record the identity of the horses kept at the school and the movements to and from this PIC with dates.

Microchipping of horses must be carried out by a veterinarian.

Approved activities Category
Hoof trimming: cattle and horses 3

Routine husbandry activities for horses that may be carried out by school staff and students include:

  • Internal parasite control
  • External parasite control
  • Vaccination
  • Hoof trimming
  • Clipping.

Information about internal and external parasite control and vaccination for horses can be found in the disease prevention section.


From 1 September 2012, anyone who keeps livestock in NSW is required to obtain a PIC for the land on which the livestock are kept. This includes all horses within NSW. A property identification code or PIC is a unique identifier for land used for keeping livestock. PICs are assigned to individual properties and allocated by Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA). Schools that keep horses will need to be assigned a PIC and each horse should have the PIC on its registry papers.

Property Identification Codes

Branding is one of the most common forms of identification of horses in Australia. Horses are branded on the shoulder, neck or rump, usually with their stud/breeder brand on the near side and the year of foaling and foal number on the offside. Different breed and sport organisations require branding of horses in addition to microchipping. Branding is also a practical method of identification for station managers as it is easily visible and some sites do not have access to a scanner. Freeze branding is preferred over hot branding on horses.

Branding (freeze or hot) of horses is not included as an approved activity as appropriate and safe restraint is required. This level of restraint for horses is usually only available through an equine veterinary practice or specialised equine technician.

Branding Horses

Since the outbreak of Equine Influenza in 2007, microchipping has increased in popularity as a method of identifying horses. Microchip numbers are used to identify horses that are lost, stolen or escaped and can track movements in the case of emergency disease outbreak. Different registry organisations such as Equestrian Australia require a microchip number in order to register horses. Many organisations will also require a microchip number for registration and competition.

Microchips must be administered by a veterinarian and can be carried out when young horses are weaned as well as at any time throughout the horse’s life if a horse is purchased without a microchip. Microchip numbers are used in combination with PICs so that each horse on a property is recorded and movements between properties can be recorded.

Dental care

Modern feeding practices can be detrimental to dental health as grain/concentrate based diets reduce overall dental wear and promote the formation of sharp dental overgrowth. Horses require attention by a qualified horse dentist at least once a year. Young growing horses or horses with existing teeth problems should be seen to by a dentist up to 3 times per year depending on the dentist’s advice. Some horses will require sedation to have their teeth treated. In this case a veterinarian should always be present and administer any sedation. Some signs that a horse may require dental treatment include:

  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath/thick discoloured saliva
  • Bleeding from the mouth/nostrils
  • Nasal discharge
  • Abnormal eating habits
  • Sipping water frequently while eating
  • Dropping food while eating
  • “Chipmunk cheeks” – packed food in cheeks while eating
  • Large forehead muscles
  • Head tossing/head tilting/bolting/strange behaviour while riding.

The Equine Dental Association of Australia

Hoof trimming/shoeing

All horses require regular hoof trimming approximately every 4 – 6 weeks. Some horses require shoeing if they have badly formed feet or are in heavy work. A qualified farrier will be able to assess whether or not a horse requires shoeing and will also be able to assess how often each horse requires trimming or shoeing.

It is important to consider that horses with access to high nutrient pasture or supplement feeds will have faster growing feet. Seasonal change can also influence hoof growth as pastures become more nutritious during spring months. Horses kept on soft ground or in stables will also need more regular trimming in comparison to horses on harder ground as their feet will naturally be worn away. In some cases where horses have very poorly formed feet, laminitis, leg problems or have been neglected may need corrective shoeing to reduce and problems.

Master Farriers Association of NSW

Image: Regular hoof maintenance is an important part of horse husbandry

Horse breeding activities.

Horses – breeding

Breeding activities in horses (artificial insemination, semen collection and pregnancy diagnosis) must be carried out by a veterinarian

Stallions must not be kept at schools and the collection of semen must not be carried out at schools.

The horses’ rectal tissue is much more delicate than that of cattle. This makes the mare much more risky to palpate. Therefore, rectal palpation for pregnancy testing and artificial insemination should only be carried out by a veterinarian.

Humane treatment of sick, diseased and injured animals.

Horses – euthanasia

Approved activities Category
Slaughter/euthanasia of stock 5

Where an animal has become so sick, diseased or injured that recovery is unlikely or undesirable on humane grounds, euthanasia must be arranged with a local veterinarian.

Humane killing of animals must not be demonstrated to, or carried out by, students unless it is required:

  • To achieve a curriculum outcome or competency, or
  • As part of veterinary clinical management of an animal, under the direction of a veterinarian.

Students are permitted to watch a post-mortem of a euthanised animal provided there is no disease risk posed.


Horses may be sold privately, at auction or consigned to an abattoir.

Carcases must be disposed of in accordance with local council regulations.

Keeping clear and accurate records.

Horses – record keeping

Teachers who use animals must keep clear and accurate records of:

  • The number of horses owned or kept at the school
  • Identification of individual animals (name, brands, microchip number and identifiable features)
  • The dates and sources of acquisition of each animal
  • Disposal details and dates for each animal
  • For student owned horses, the dates of arrival at the school PIC and date of departure from the school PIC
  • Diet details for horses kept in intensive conditions with no access to grazing
  • Complete breeding records
  • The dates and types of husbandry practices carried out
  • The name, dosage, batch number, expiry date, withholding period and dates of any chemicals administered
  • Any accident, illness or injury involving horses held at the schools and the veterinary treatment provided (if required)
  • Any significant occurrences that adversely affect the welfare of horses held at the school, such as vandalism, dog attack, outbreak of disease etc.

The type and format of the records maintained will vary from school to school and be dependent on the number of animals kept, number of staff involved in maintaining the records and the layout and location of the school farm.

The minimum requirement is a daily diary that is accessible to all staff that are involved in the care and use of the animals.

Where there are several staff members involved in the care of animals it is essential that there is a mechanism for each staff member to document notes about the general health status of school animals and that these notes are available to all other staff members who may be involved in animal care.

Where horses are student owned, the students should be encouraged to participate in the record keeping for their horse(s). Supervision of this record keeping must be carried out by staff and it is the responsibility of the School Animal Welfare Liaison Officer to ensure that these records are maintained.

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