The push for global recognition of an elite level of performance horses receiving the highest standards of health care is on, with hopes the animals will soon be able to travel more freely to international competitions.
An important three-day workshop to get the so-called “high health, high performance horse” (HHP) concept recognised began in Hong Kong this week.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is hosting the three-day regional workshop for Asia, the Far East and Oceania.
It is the first of its kind in Asia, and is co-organised by the FEI, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of the Hong Kong Government, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The last decade has seen significant worldwide growth in the sport horse industry. This growth, however, faces a number of challenges, one being impediments to the free and safe international movement of competition horses.
Supporters of the HHP concept say these obstacles include inconsistent approaches to the application of health regulations and quarantine, leading to excessive and irregular health requirements over horse importation.
The OIE, with the contributions of a range of experts and organisations, is developing the HHP concept, based on existing OIE standards.
To identify the concrete nature of the impediments to movement of competition horses, which covers all forms of equestrian sport, including horse racing, the OIE organises dialogue in various regions of the world, aimed ultimately at harmonising national health requirements for horse importation.
This week’s workshop is the latest stage in that process.
The advantages of the HHP concept in meeting global requirements for horse importation will be presented to government experts from Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam in three months.
It will be put to the new OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code Chapter during the 2014 OIE General Session on May 25-30 in Paris for a vote by all 178 member countries.
FEI president Princess Haya, in opening the conference with a video message, said: “The single objective of this week’s session is to establish a better approach to the temporary importation of high performance horses, which is in line with established OIE principles and acknowledges that they present a low risk.
“This approach needs to be transparent, consistent, fair, efficient and safe.”
FEI Secretary General Ingmar de Vos said: “The acceptance of the HHP concept in May will be a major milestone in the history of horse sport development.
“The growth of horse sport around the world has already created a lot of awareness and understanding of the issues we are facing, and it is encouraging to see that this has had a major positive impact on nations on many levels, on the horse sport industry and of course on athletes who are striving to represent their country at key international events, including the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
The chief executive of the Hong Kong Jockey Club and vice-chairman of the IFHA, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, said it was vital for the growth of horse racing and equestrian sport internationally that the movement of horses became smoother, without jeopardizing the health status of horses around the world.
“From the IFHA’s perspective, we want to enable the world’s best horses to participate in the world’s leading events.
“Cross-border competition is, of course, good for the sport, but it also improves the breed, as increased global competition helps to identify the best horses, many of whom are then involved in the breeding cycle.”
OIE Director General Bernard Vallat said: “The OIE recognizes the value of the equine industry, not only because of the increased number of equestrian events worldwide, but also in terms of creating employment.
“However, we recognize that much of the growth in the horse industry is taking place in the traditional horse sport regions of the world – Europe, North America, Canada and Australia. So facilitation of international horse movement would also allow for emerging countries and regions to tap into the economic potential associated with an increase in numbers of equestrian events, be it horse racing or FEI sport.”