More than 60 government representatives and veterinary and horse sport experts from 23 countries are in Panama City this week for a summit on the international movement of horses.
The talks have been convened by the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and the FEI at a time when participation in equestrian sport has reached a record high in South America, and with the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon.
The summit, from December 11 to 13, will centre on finding a solution to current import and export procedures, which do not take into consideration the lower risks of “high-health” sport horses, and which are restricting the growth of top-level equestrian sport in the region.
This year, more than 300 equestrian events governed by the FEI have taken place in South America, with worldwide competitions growing by 27% since 2008 to more than 3000 a year.
The clock is also ticking towards Rio 2016, when in just over 1330 days South America will host its first Olympic and Paralympic Equestrian competitions.
The experts heading to Panama City will focus on updating their current biosecurity protocols, which exist to protect animal and human populations against the risk of disease spread, in order to allow “high-health, high performance” sport horses to travel safely and swiftly across borders.
“Horse sport in South America already has a huge economic impact, creating tens of thousands of jobs and sustaining many industries associated with the sport,” said Princess Haya, FEI President and OIE Goodwill Ambassador.
“In the run up to the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, there will be several thousand more equestrian events across South America but to sustain and promote this growth, horses must be able to move without difficulty across borders to compete while we ensure biosecurity protocols are adhered to.”
Canada is represented at the summit by Vel Evans, Equine Canada Industry consultant, and D. Mary Bell, a practising veterinarian and chair of the Equine Canada Health and Welfare committee.
“In the case of Canada, success of this initiative should smooth the way for horses competing in the Pan-Am games in 2015 in Toronto, Ontario,” said Dr. Bell.
“It will be of value for FEI competitions in Canada and for Canadian horses competing in FEI competitions throughout the Americas.”
The OIE and FEI organised a joint conference during the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2011, focusing on the international movement of horses. They have since worked with a global network of government, veterinary and horse sport specialists to help improve the movement of high-health, high-performance sport horses.
Of the summit, Princess Haya said: “Together, we will establish a better system that works for everyone before Rio 2016 and that will ensure that horse sport continues to flourish in the region.”