New Code for horse care in Canada

Lynsey Kitching


The BC SPCA is launching a series of workshops across BC to bring horse owners and interested members of the public up to date on Canada’s new Code of Practice for the care of horses. The free workshops will be held in Prince George, Fort St. John, Kamloops and Nanaimo, beginning Sept. 23.

The BC SPCA’s Dr. Bettina Bobsien, an equine veterinary specialist, will visit the four communities to provide information on Canada’s new Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines, which was recently updated. Topics will include nutrition, health management, breeding, housing, humane training and other requirements and recommendations included under the new code.

“The new Equine Code is an excellent educational tool to help both new and experienced horse owners understand the new minimum standards of care for horses,” says Dr. Bobsien. “It does away with all the myths and opinions about horsekeeping in Canada and goes back to the science to tell us what is in the best interest of the animals.”

Local horse owner and president of the Grizzly Valley Saddle Club Gary Doonan says, “We’re up to snuff on it. Out here it’s kind of above and beyond. It’s good for the new owners to go to the workshop. We had one lady two years ago go buy a horse from someone. They had just bought that horse and already they were trying to see it. They said it’s really good with kids so their kids didn’t ride it,” he continues asking, “If it’s well broke like they say then each kid should be able to ride with a halter.”

“It will take a while to get used to you,” the sellers said.

Doonan continues, “I would not have bought the horse, but they did and sure enough, the horse didn’t listen at all out of pen. Many of them are like that. We have inexperienced people buying horses.”

He advises those who are looking to buy a horse, “Tell them to get on it. Let me see you ride it, and then I’ll ride it.”

He explains the stables here in town have about 30 horses at the moment, but there used to be more. Doonan worries about some horses that are always in their stable and not out being ridden. He calls them corral ornaments. Those horses who just always seem to be in their corral, but he says these horses living conditions, “still live up to the requirements. If someone’s horse is thin, there is usually a reason why. Hay is hard to get out here. A fat horse is unhealthier than a skinny horse. Who’s going to regulate how mean you can be to a horse?”

“The BC SPCA is committed to prevention and education programs that improve the welfare of animals in BC,” says Craig Daniell, chief executive officer of the BC SPCA. “We are delighted to be working with Dr. Bobsien and with organizations like Horse Council BC and Equine Canada to promote the progressive new standards of care adopted by the horse industry earlier this year.”

Doonan explains one way local horse owners can maintain the welfare of their animal. He says, “If someone is going to take their horse out on the trails in the mountains, they should get their horse a pair of horse shoes called shods to protect their feet.”

It is important for new riders to learn from a mentor says Doonan. “Learning together doesn’t work,” he says, “you need mentorship. A horse learns too quick and figures out how to get you off. Beginners should always get a broke older horse they can learn on. Horses can tell when you’re scared,” he continues with a giggle, “They’ll just put their head down and eat…they don’t care.”

In closing, Doonan offers his two rules when it comes to horses. He says, “You have to be the boss, that’s how you motivate them, it’s as simple as that. If you can keep one leg on either side and your ass in the middle you won’t fall off. Finally it’s time; if you ride every day, they get used to it. I’m kind of old school when it comes to horses.”

He also asks people at the stables to turn their water hose off and take off the spigot in the winter time, and in the summer time, to take the hose out of the water, because it siphons back down into the main line.

The BC SPCA workshops on horse care are in Prince George (Sept. 23), Fort St. John (Nov. 13), Kamloops (Nov. 21) and Nanaimo (Dec. 3).

Interested participants can register online at, request additional information by emailing or call 1-800-665-1868. All workshops are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.

The Equine Code of Practice ( was developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council in partnership with Equine Canada. The BC SPCA’s participation was funded by the Vancouver Foundation. The BC SPCA’s Dr. Bobsien represented the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies on the Equine Code Development Committee.