FEI Discusses High-Performance Horse Movement

Facilitating the international movement and harmonizing biosecurity measures for the import and export of high level sport horses was, for the second year in a row, a major topic of discussion at the 2013 Sports Forum of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) April 8-9 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Declared a “top priority” for the FEI already last year by the organization’s president HRH Princess Haya, and fully supported by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the project was met with encouragement and enthusiasm by forum attendees, according to Graeme Cooke, MA Vet MB MBA MCIM MRCVS TD, FEI veterinary director.

“It went extremely well, and once again it was confirmed that this is a real concern that needs to be addressed,” Cooke told The Horse. “It was the first time that the national federations were exposed to the concepts in depth. And overall, there’s a general feeling that what we are looking to do is something that’s very deliverable.”

The need for improved processes to move high-level sport horses across international borders appears to be well recognized with no voiced opposition to the concept, Cooke said. The challenge now, however, is to put a practical system into place that will make such movements easier while still protecting horses from the possible spread of disease. As each country has different risks and concerns, the FEI must take each situation into careful consideration in its effort to globalize simple biosecurity processes.

“We have taken the opportunity at the FEI Sports Forum to outline a road map for our national federations, to enable them to take concrete steps to help bring about that change,” said Cooke.

A primary step in the process is to establish a clear definition of what categorizes a horse as “high-health, high-performance,” and which disciplines and levels would be initially included, he said. Horses that do not fall into that category would not benefit from the facilitated transfer process.

“High-health, high-performance” horses are like “frequent flyer” horses, according to Susanne Münstermann, DVM, PhD, chargée de mission for the OIE.

“From a regulatory point of view, these competition horses enter countries as temporary imports to compete,” she said during the forum on April 8. “The OIE and FEI are seeking to establish a global protocol for the movement of these horses, categorizing them separately from other horses and other animals, to make this temporary importation procedure much easier.”

The need is arising in particular as equestrian sport is currently in rapid expansion leading to more international events, according to Cooke. FEI events have increased 30% over the past five years, he said. A video describing this expansion and the subsequent need for an improved system for the international movement of competing horses was released by the FEI and presented during the forum.

“One of the reasons the representatives of the OIE and the European Union were present at the forum was to take a temperature gauge as to whether the proposals were going in the right direction (with the forum participants),” Cooke said. “And there was a resounding yes.”

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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