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Towards a new concept of “High Health, High Performance Horse”

Regional Workshop for Asia, Far East and Oceania
Facilitation of International Competition Horse Movement
Hong Kong, China (18 - 20 February 2014)

The Regional Workshop for Asia, Far East and Oceania of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) regarding the facilitation of International Competition Horse movement was hosted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) from 18 to 20 February 2014 with the support of the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) and in collaboration with the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities (IFHA). The objective of the Conference was to discuss and identify possibilities to harmonise the existing regulations regarding the movements of International Competition Horses. In this framework, the application of the new concept “High Health, High Performance (HHP)” for horses was also discussed.

20 February 2014 - The sport horse industry has developed significantly, in the last decade, leading to great socio-economic benefits to the national economies, the horse industry and other stakeholders. Presently, the region of Asia, Far East and Oceania has a substantial horse industry, and yet faces a number of challenges that impede the free and safe international movements of competition horses as well as the expansion of the equine industry. Some of the measured obstacles are inconsistent approaches to the application of intergovernmental health regulations and quarantine, leading to excessive and irregular health requirements for importation of horses, without benefit for horse diseases prevention and control.

In order to address these constraints, the OIE, together with the FEI, the IFHA and other experts are elaborating the “high health, high performance horse (HHP)” concept. It is based on existing OIE Standards - regarding zoning and compartmentalisation, biosecurity, identification and traceability, health certification – which are described in the OIE’s Terrestrial Animal Health Code (Section 4; Section 5), and which will be adapted for application to a sub-population of high health status horses.

To identify the concrete nature of the impediments to movement of competition horses, the OIE has gathered government officers from all OIE Member Countries of the region who deal with the horse import/export requirements, and representatives of the National Equestrian Federations and of the National Racing Authorities of those countries. The overview of existing import regulations in the region of Asia, Far East and Oceania has clearly revealed their diversity and has led to proposals for harmonisation of regulations in the region for temporary importation of horses for the purpose of competition. The establishment and follow-up of the HHP horse sub-population within countries has also been discussed.

The critical importance of Veterinary Services, their reliable health certification in accordance with OIE Standards was emphasised. Furthermore, the new concept embraces a Public-Private-Partnership approach in which the equine industry bodies such as FEI and IFHA work closely with the Veterinary Services. For instance, the FEI and the OIE have yet initiated a three-year plan (2013-2016) in response to growing demand from countries for help in improving cross-border movement of top-level sport horses, as participation in equestrian competitions reaches a record high worldwide.

This common work of the OIE and stakeholders, intending to assure the maintenance of the high health status of a specific horse sub-population, will eventually lead to the presentation of a new OIE Standard to the 178 OIE Member Countries for adoption and publication of supporting documentation such as OIE Biosecurity Guidelines for the HHP horse and equestrian events and Guidelines on how to establish Equine Disease Free Zones, allowing competitions open to all countries.

The opening ceremony took place under the presence of Dr Ko Wing Man, Secretary for Food and Health of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and Dr Thomas Sit, Hong Kong’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Vice Chairman of the IFHA and Chief Executive Officer of The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), Mr Ingmar de Vos, Secretary General of the FEI and Dr Bernard Vallat, Director General of the OIE with collaborators for OIE Headquarters and Regional Offices.

Dr Bernard Vallat declared: “It is a great step forward to be able to establish with our Member Countries from all regions in the world a new approach facilitating the international movement of beautiful horses for competitions. The OIE is happy to contribute to that objective.”