International events in 10 countries on the European mainland have been cancelled until March 28 following the rapid evolution of a very aggressive strain of the neurological form of Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1), which originated in Valencia, Spain, and has already resulted in related outbreaks in at least three other countries in Europe.
This decision applies to all FEI disciplines, but in order to prevent huge numbers of horses simultaneously departing the jumping tours on the Iberian Peninsula, tours in Italy (San Giovanni in Marignano and Gorla Minore), Portugal (Vilamoura) and Spain (Vejer de la Frontera) will be allowed to continue as individual “bubbles” on the condition that no new horses are allowed to enter the venues and no positive cases of EHV-1 are confirmed.
All will have stringent biosecurity protocols in place and additional FEI Veterinary Delegates onsite. Horses will be permitted to leave these venues only when they are in possession of an official health certificate from the local veterinary authorities. Any horses leaving these venues without this documentation will be blocked on the FEI Database. It is also illegal to transport a horse without an official health certificate.
Oliva Nova in Spain has cancel the rest of its scheduled competitions in the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour III, and Opglabbeek in Belgium has cancelled its March events.
Several countries, including France, have already cancelled all their events to minimise transmission of the virus.
“This was not an easy decision to block events in mainland Europe, particularly after the major disruption to the FEI Calendar caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”, FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said, “but this EHV-1 outbreak is probably the most serious we have had in Europe for many decades and our decision is based on clearly identified epidemiological risk factors.
“This strain of EHV-1 is particularly aggressive and has already caused equine fatalities and a very large number of severe clinical cases. We need to keep our horses safe.
“We are also aware that a large number of horses left the venue in Valencia without an official health certificate, meaning they had an unknown health status. Some horses were already sick, and the risk of transmission from these horses is a major concern,” Ibáñez said.
“Cancelling these competitions in mainland Europe, with the exception of the ongoing Jumping Tours in the Iberian Peninsula and Italy, limits the number of horses travelling internationally and therefore reduces the likelihood of this very serious virus being transmitted on an increasingly wider scale. We also strongly recommend that the affected member Federations should also cancel their national events.
“We are very conscious of the fact that this is a very stressful and distressing time, and that this is potentially hugely disruptive for those athletes aiming for their Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MERs) or confirmation results for Tokyo, but we are looking at ways to alleviate that in order to assist athlete/horse combinations in getting their MERs or confirmation results once the events in mainland Europe are allowed to resume.”