Major changes in the approach of many government authorities need to occur in order to sustain the level of growth in top-level equestrian sport, the FEI Sports Forum has heard.
The FEI, World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and the European Commission addressed delegates in Lausanne, Switzerland, on improving the international movement of top-level sport horses at the afternoon session of the FEI Sports Forum this week.
The session was opened by FEI vice-president John McEwen, who also chairs the Veterinary Committee. He introduced a specially commissioned video focusing on the rapid growth of equestrian sport and the progress being made in improving the regulatory approach to the international movement of horses.
FEI veterinary director Graeme Cooke highlighted the significant socio-economic effects of the sport’s growth, and the major changes in the approach of many government authorities that need to occur in order to sustain these effects.
“The number of FEI events around the world has risen by almost 30 per cent during the last five years, and in 2013 we expect to see the busiest event calendar in the history of equestrian sport,” he said.
“Our sport is opening up to new athletes and mass audiences like never before, and with this expansion comes jobs and revenues across continents.
“In order to maintain this, competition horses need to be moved across many borders more easily, and we are working closely with the OIE and governments to establish a commonly recognised biosecurity approach to these ‘high-health’, ‘high-performance’ horses.
“We have also taken the opportunity today at the FEI Sports Forum to outline a roadmap for our national federations, to enable them to take concrete steps to help bring about that change.”
The Chargée de Mission at the OIE, Susanne Münstermann, explained the need to introduce a special official category for equine athletes.
“Many competition horses are now ‘frequent-flyers’, just like their human counterparts,” she explained.
“From a regulatory point of view, these competition horses enter countries as temporary imports to compete. The OIE and FEI are seeking to establish a global protocol for the movement of these horses, categorising them separately from other horses and other animals, to make this temporary importation procedure much easier.
“We are also proposing a unique system of identification for these horses that governments can trust – a system that clearly shows they are dealing with a lower risk competition horse.”
Dr Alf-Eckbert Füssel, deputy head of unit of the European Commission Health and Consumers Directorate-General, spoke about the regulations for the movement of horses within the European Union, where FEI competition horses are already effectively categorised.
“Over the last 10 years, the FEI and OIE have been working together to pinpoint how best to move sport horses, against the backdrop of international Veterinary Services requirements and biosecurity measures that must be applied,” Graeme Cooke concluded.
“In February, we embarked on a three-year plan, which sees the FEI commit resources in the spirit of a public-private partnership with the OIE, to bring about fundamental changes as quickly as possible.”