Canberra currently has the highest number of horse owners per capita of any city in Australia with over 1000 horses currently kept on agistment centres (both public and private).
Many horse owners spend a lot of time with their horses, and in doing so are placing themselves in locations of high risk from bushfire.
This, coupled with the tragic first hand experiences at horse agistment properties during the 2003 bushfires led the ACT Rural Fire Service (ACTRFS) to commission a study into the bushfire operational planning of ACT horse agistment properties (Hightailing it into the fire – Bushfire planning on ACT horse agistment centres).
The study aimed to provide the ACTRFS with a better understanding of this industry and their needs, based on knowledge of their current bushfire planning practices. In doing so the ACTRFS plans to provide more relevant and effective support and assistance to this key stakeholder group, provide accurate and helpful information to its members on bushfire, as well as investigate how it can better engage and work with horse agistors /owners.
The findings clearly demonstrated that horse agistment managers face a complex task in preparing and planning for the event of fire on their properties. However, it was not only their responsibility but a shared one across the industry; from horse agistment owners/managers, horse owners and the ACT Government through the ACT Rural Fire Service and Government horse paddocks.
Recommendations have been divided into three sections:
- Agistment owners and managers;
- Agistors; and
The study has identified the need for a more thorough approach to bushfire planning for lessees/managers. This could be done through improvements to the Farm Firewise program so as to better meet the specific needs of this industry, including investigating ways for the ACTRFS to provide targeted bushfire information sessions to horse owners and the provision of more formal bushfire training opportunities for all involved.
The ACTRFS will also provide information from this report to Brigade members so that when they are sent out to help protect these establishments and community members they have a better understanding of how to work with horse agistment managers to protect people, properties and horses from bushfire.
People who agist their horses on fire prone land need to plan for their own safety in the event of bushfire.