FEI, OIE Unite to Improve High Performance Horse Transport

FEI, OIE Unite to Improve High Performance Horse Transport

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

In a major step towards worldwide policy change, the World Animal Health Organization (OIE) has announced its solidarity with the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) in seeking to improve the international movement of high-level performance horses.

Speaking at the opening of the OIE's annual assembly in Paris last week (May 20-25), director general Bernard Vallat, DVM, said his organization recognized "important constraints to the movement of horses" that have come to their attention as international equestrian sport--which has grown 34% over the past three years--continues to expand.

"It is clear that there is a need to define the criteria for healthy, high performance horses as a subpopulation, which reflects the low level of disease risk involved in their movement," Vallat said.

At the 2012 FEI Sports Forum, which took place in early May in Lausanne, Switzerland, the international movement of high performance horses was a hot topic of discussion. It was concluded that having globally standardized testing and quarantine requirements--which currently is not the case--for this particular group of horses, which by necessity must be in impeccable health, would facilitate easier and more streamline international movement.

This definition of a subpopulation of very healthy and high performance level sport horses is the next critical step in affecting real change among governments, according to FEI veterinary director Graeme Cooke, MA, VetMB, MRCVS. Following the OIE's announcement--which Cooke called a "quantum leap" on the road to policy change--the organizations must now work together to present the OIE's 178 member nations with concrete proposals that include clear definitions, he said.

"The challenge now is to identify what the subpopulation is, which must be recognised as a lower risk, and then to identify the criteria, meaning the way these horses are managed and the way the events they're going to are managed," Cooke told The Horse.

"We don't have a solution for the problem yet, but the important thing is that now we have the OIE, backed by the World Trade Organization, working with us," he said. "This is not an end but rather the beginning of the work needed to create a positive change for horse welfare and overcome barriers to the development of the sport."

The OIE's announcement resulted from initial discussions between the two organizations last fall in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the reports of a subsequent task force made up of key players in the high performance equestrian industry, including veterinarians, laboratory directors, and disease and trade experts, Cooke said.

OIE members present at the General Assembly were, for the most part, optimistic, Cooke added. "These are people whose job it is to represent their governments in the handling of animal trade, and overall they were supportive," he said. "But now we need to move into the next stage which will be producing something they can agree with."

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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