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Olympic horses trapped in lockdown in equine flu outbreak

August 31, 2007

Equine flu Q & A

Vet Janine Dwyer treating a horse at Morgan Park, Warwick.
Photo: © Julian Willmore/EFA
Australian preparations in all three equestrian sports for the 2008 Olympic Games have been seriously disrupted by to the outbreak of Equine Influenza and may face more challenges after the discovery of more infections at Randwick Racecourse.

Australia's Equestrian Federation is asking its members and others to participate in an impact survey, which aims to get a better picture of how the current emergency and its restrictions is impacting on them. This information will be used in dealings with Government authorities to get financial and other support. Clubs that have no formal affiliation with the EFA are also invited to take part.

Some of the nation's top Eventing horses are trapped in quarantine after Warwick's FEI World Cup qualifier was cancelled last weekend. All horses on the site are expected to become infected and remain in quarantine. They will return to work only after recovering and completing the required quarantine.

The Sydney International Three-Day Event scheduled for mid-September has been cancelled. This is a blow to the plans of a number of potential Olympic riders who are seeking qualification and would also use Sydney as a lead-up event to Adelaide International four-star event. Both the Sydney and Adelaide events are major qualification and selection events for the Olympic Games next year in Hong Kong.

At this stage, Adelaide International will still run as scheduled in November. If this event was to be cancelled, it would be a major blow to Australia-based riders as this is one of only six four-star events in the world, with all other five held in the Northern hemisphere (Britain, France, Germany and USA). This could potentially disadvantage Australian based riders compared to the Britain-based Australian riders who will have significantly more opportunities at this level leading up to the Olympic Games. Olympic Dressage Team qualification for Australia rests on the Regional Olympic Dressage Team Qualifier scheduled for October 25-28 in conjunction with the 2007 Australian Dressage Championships. New Zealand and Japanese teams are to compete in this event. There are no import restrictions on horses from New Zealand; however, the Japanese horses based in Germany will need to undertake the quarantine process in time for the event. This is now in some doubt due to delays in quarantine and the current lockdown.

The EFA is working hard to enable the Japanese horses to still travel and undertake the quarantine process in time for the competition.

A National Squad Training Clinic with National Dressage Trainer Ralf Isselhorst from Germany, originally scheduled from September 3-6, has been cancelled. Special events in preparation for the Regional Olympic Dressage Qualifier, such as the Invitational Dressage Grand Prix, to be held in conjunction with the Sydney International 3DE have also been cancelled. The NSW Dressage Championships, another preparation event, has now been postponed to October.

The 2007 Australian Showjumping Championships scheduled for October in Canberra are also in some doubt if the current crisis continues. These Championships are a major Olympic qualifying event for Australian Jumping Riders. An International Jumping Delegate from Germany will attend to ensure this Event meets International Qualification standards.

While the Australian Sports Commission supports the EFA High Performance Programme with about $1.6 million per year, riders still have heavy financial commitments to meet the training and competition costs of an Olympic campaign. Most Elite riders get their income from activities within the Equestrian industry, through coaching other riders and breeding, breaking, training and selling horses. Their business has already been affected by the crisis and will take some time to recover.

Others hit by the current crisis include high performance personnel such as coaches, vets and other support staff. As most competition and training is now suspended, these crucial personnel, most of whom are contracted on a "fee for service" basis, face significant loss of income and earnings due to the crisis.

High Performance management and coaching staff are constantly monitoring the situation and are examining the possible impact on the programme caused by EI. Once the situation settles and the implications to the Program become clearer, these key personnel including the Riders' representatives from each of the sports will meet to work out a plan that ensures the impact of EI on the Equestrian Olympic campaign is minimised.



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