Global backing of the concept of the High Health, High Performance Horse (HHP) is a step closer, after the idea was embraced by delegates to a regional conference in Dubai.
More than 120 government representatives, veterinarians, equestrian sport and racing experts from across the Middle East, Africa and around the world, backed the HHP concept at the three-day Regional Conference for the Middle East and North Africa on the Facilitation of International Competition Horse Movement.
The HHP proposal is seen as crucial to lowering barriers to allow easier movement of the world’s elite sport horses to competitions around the globe.
The objective of the conference, organised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and officially opened by the Minister of Environment and Water in the United Arab Emirates, Dr Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, was to discuss and identify ways of harmonising existing regulations on the movement of international competition horses in line with OIE standards and the HHP concept.
The conference was backed by the FEI, as part of its public-private partnership with the OIE and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA).
The conference brought together a diverse expert group of public and private representatives interested in the health and welfare of the horse.
The conference gathered government representatives and veterinary specialists from more than 19 OIE member countries in the Middle East and North Africa who deal with horse import/export requirements, and representatives of the FEI’s national federations and national racing authorities.
The countries in this region that belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council have already engaged in the promotion of regional harmonisation by agreeing on a temporary multi-movement health certificate, which closely mirrors what the HHP concept tries to achieve at a global level.
However, the review of existing import regulations in the region has clearly revealed their diversity, and has led to proposals for harmonisation of regulations in the region for temporary importation of horses for competition.
The establishment and follow-up of the HHP horse sub-population within countries was also been discussed. The critical importance of veterinary services, and their reliable health certification in accordance with OIE standards was emphasised.
The new concept of the public-private-Partnership approach, in which the equine industry bodies of the FEI and IFHA working closely with the veterinary services, was endorsed by participants.
FEI first vice-president and FEI Veterinary Committee chairman John McEwen, FEI secretary general Ingmar De Vos and FEI Executive Board member Sheikh Khalid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa played leading roles at the conference, chairing and taking part in sessions covering wide-ranging subjects that included biosecurity, regulatory collaboration, import and export requirements for international sport horses and the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014.
“Equestrian sport, and the horse industry that supports it, is undergoing huge expansion around the globe, and especially in Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa,” the FEI’s president, Princess Haya, said in her opening address, delivered on her behalf by Sheikh Khalid, who is chairman of FEI Regional Group VII.
“Across the [Middle East and Africa] region, there has been huge investment in equine facilities for equestrian sport and racing, and with this growth has come job opportunities and tax revenues, as well as a strengthening of the rural economy and its social fabric.
“However, international equestrian sport will not and cannot take place without the temporary importation of High Health, High Performance horses across borders, and this gathering is perhaps the most important meeting on this subject that has ever been held in the region.
“I congratulate and thank the OIE and its member countries for taking action and bringing everyone together to find a solution to this very real issue.”
OIE director general Dr Bernard Vallat explained the importance of the conference in a video message to delegates.
“Besides developing the HHP concept through discussions at regional conferences like here in Dubai, at other public fora and in the OIE Expert Group, we have also had the opportunity to use a major equestrian event, the Asian Games currently ongoing in Incheon, Korea, to field test some of the HHP principles, particularly the Equine Disease Free Zones, and a waiver to quarantine requirements pre-export and post-arrival,” he said.
“This has allowed several countries, including emerging partners in equestrian sport such as China and India, to take their horses to Korea directly from home base, rather than from Europe, and most importantly it has increased the number of participating countries by 100 percent compared to the last Asian Games held in Korea.”