June 10 - The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) has welcomed the passing of a resolution by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to develop new standards and guidelines for the temporary international movement of high level sport horses and the establishment of Disease Free Zones in its member countries.
The move designed to address "the benefits and challenges posed by the worldwide expansion of equestrian events" was passed unanimously by more than 800 delegates, including Government representatives, Ministers of Agriculture, livestock and fisheries, and chief veterinary officers from 178 nations, attending the 81st OIE General Session in Paris.
The initiative comes as the European Commission and Chinese authorities jointly signed off amended legislation allowing for the temporary importation of EU horses to Shanghai for the * Longines Shanghai Masters - similar to that which was passed for the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou province.
"The OIE resolution and the recent agreement between the EU and China demonstrate a significant shift in the approach to the international movement of horses, which is being driven by the FEI's desire to find a better system," FEI secretary general Ingmar De Vos said.
"This is an ongoing process, but clearly there is a willingness from all parties for change to come about, and this is a change that will benefit our sport enormously."
A group, chaired by OIE special advisor Gardner Murray, is currently working to develop the definition and principles applied to the temporary movement of lower risk healthy sport horses for further consideration by its member nations.
At last week's session, Murray gathered support from the delegates of the OIE and FEI three-year plan to improve cross-border travel for top-level horses, which was unveiled in February, and welcomed the concept of the lower disease risk high health high performance (HHP) horses.
The participants also supported a proposal to see separate guiding principles for the movement of these horses to be entered into the OIE's reference document, the "Terrestrial Animal Health Code".
"The response to the various proposals on high-health high-performance horses was very positive and constructive, and all regions of the world supported the general principles, which was tremendous," Murray said.
"The key issue from now on is to translate the principles into practical application.
"That is, how to define an HHP horse or the specific standards applied to them, and how to take them to the next stage of practical implementation."
It is hoped the new developments will help boost progression in areas across the globe where equestrian sport is ruled by overly strict import and export procedures, such as in Africa where the FEI has 19 member nation federations.
Zimbabwe's Unesu Ushewokunze-Obatolu spoke on behalf of the 52 African member countries, congratulating the OIE on its work to date saying: "During last year's General Session, Africa requested the OIE to consider the inclusion of the concept of the temporary movement of horses in the relevant chapters related to equines in the Terrestrial Code and we are pleased, as a continent, to see that progress has been made in this regard."
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February 2013: FEI and OIE unveil international movement action plan for sport horses
May 2012: FEI calls for modernisation of international sport horse transportation standards