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FEI and OIE announce an action plan for the international movement of sport horses

17 February 2013

Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) President HRH Princess Haya and OIE Director General Dr Bernard Vallat, pictured at FEI headquarters in Lausanne (Switzerland) celebrating the start of a three-year plan for the safe international movement of sport horses
Edouard Curchod/FEI

On 17 February 2013, the international equestrian sports federation Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) and the OIE embarked on a three-year plan (2013-2016) for the safe international movement of sport horses. 

The international movement of sport horses is now common and widespread. The number of equestrian events has grown significantly, with millions of horses every year being moved from one country to another to participate in various events. 

Requirements for the importation of sport horses vary from country to country

An analysis of the number and geographical distribution of Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) events reveals that equestrian sport has grown mainly in Europe and North America but has faced obstacles to expansion in other regions of the world. This is due in part to animal health measures that make it difficult to import sport horses into some countries even temporarily and to barriers to the free international movement of sport horses. While national rules on the movement of horses diverge, in many cases they fail to provide countries with additional security. 

OIE and FEI join forces

The FEI and OIE therefore decided to launch a joint project to meet demand from a growing number of countries for international transport conditions governing the participation of horses in top-level equestrian competitions to be facilitated in compliance with inter-governmental standards already adopted or in the process of adoption by OIE member countries.

This project follows on from the cooperation agreement between the FEI and OIE concluded in 2002. 
For a reminder

Facilitating the international movement of sport horses

Why?

To resolve problems arising from the international movement of sport horses:

  • cumbersome national animal health regulations that contravene OIE Standards;
  • unwarranted quarantine measures;
  • unnecessary repeat laboratory testing;
  • lack of specific regulations for temporary importation (requirements for temporarily imported horses similar to those for horses imported permanently);
  • difficult relations between some countries’ competent authorities and the private sector.

While a number of countries are already implementing rules consistent with OIE Standards, difficulties are still encountered in other countries.

How?

By establishing a specific framework consistent with OIE Standards for the temporary export of horses specially selected for this purpose by the private sector under the constant supervision of Veterinary Services. This will enable countries and regions to harmonise their provisions while minimising the risk of transboundary disease transmission.

Towards the development of specific Standards for top- level sport horses

The growth in international equestrian sport and resulting socio-economic benefits provide a compelling reason to develop standards and recommendations specifically for the elite sub-population of competition horses with above-average health status.

The OIE, FEI, International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) – with which the OIE has also concluded a cooperation agreement – and other experts are in discussion to develop an international biosecurity standard applying to this horse sub-population, together with procedures for overseeing it.

The OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code already contains standards on zoning and compartmentalisation, a model passport for international movement of competition horses (Chapter 5.12) and general principles on the identification, traceability, trade and health certification of live animals (Chapter 4; Chapter 5).

The development of a specific standard on the temporary international movement of “high health, high performance” sport horses and on the establishment of equine disease-free zones in countries infected with certain diseases is a logical progression from existing standards. 

Ongoing work

Since discussions began in 2011, a number of expert seminars and conferences have been held on the theme of international movement of sport horses.

It was also the subject of a technical item at the 81st OIE General Session in May 2013, based on a questionnaire sent to all OIE Member Countries.

Regional seminars have been held to address specific regional needs, the latest of which was staged for the Asia, Far East and Oceania region from 18 to 20 February 2014.
Regional workshop for Asia, Far East and Oceania

Read more

An Ad hoc Group on equine diseases was established in 2013 and meets on a regular basis. One of the group’s tasks is to draft a specific standard laying down the principles for the definition of a sub-population of high health status horses. A first draft was circulated to the 178 OIE Member Countries for comment prior to review by the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission in February 2014. It will be submitted for adoption by the OIE World Assembly of OIE Delegates in May 2014.

The Ad hoc Group will go on to develop detailed biosecurity guidelines for this sub-population of horses and for international equestrian events and equine disease-free zones for future publication by the OIE.

Defining a sub-population of sport horses

High health, high performance sport horses

High health, high performance horses in Member Countries are an elite sub-population, kept under continuous veterinary supervision, that are moved temporarily to compete in international events graded by international federations under specified conditions. They are not used for breeding during their sporting career and only come into contact with horses of the same status. This means they pose a lower health risk than other horses. 

High health, high performance sport horses pose a lower health risk than other horses.
carterse on flickR, original name : GO Spring Equitation ©

The health status and management of such horses are well understood, with established record keeping, identification and certification systems that comply with OIE Standards. This high health status must be maintained at all times to permit safe temporary export to competitions and safe return arrangements across the world with a reasonable degree of certainty that host countries will not apply health conditions that contravene OIE Standards.

Collaboration among Veterinary Services, public authorities and the horse industry to facilitate the safe movement of sport horses 

Collaboration between various public and private actors has led to the definition of this high health, high performance status and to verification of the criteria to be met. The crucial importance of Veterinary Services in facilitating the international movement of horses, in compliance with OIE standards, should be emphasised, as should the importance of organising the project constructively around global, regional and national horse industry organisations (FEI, IFHA), together with all relevant professionals, including veterinarians and other experts.

Public-private partnerships play a key role in this regard:

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