FEI President and OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) Goodwill Ambassador HRH Princess Haya opened a special session by video message on the air transportation of sport horses at the 7th World Cargo Symposium, organised by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Doha (Qatar) earlier this month. The session, attended by global air transport experts, focussed on the regulatory and logistical challenges of transporting horses as the growth of international equestrian sport reaches a record high. “The work of IATA is vital to ensuring that the rapidly expanding and increasingly competitive air transport industry develops in an appropriately regulated manner, meeting future challenges and grasping new business opportunities”, explained HRH Princess Haya.
“Naturally, as President of the FEI, the world governing body of equestrian sport, and as Goodwill Ambassador of the OIE, my focus is on the need for a consistent, global approach to high welfare standards, complying with OIE global standards on animal welfare during transport by air, for live animals when they are moved over distance.
“In the case of international sport horses, these needs are very specific, and it is vital that the air transport community evolves in tandem with the rapid global expansion of equestrian sport, so that all welfare and logistics needs are met.
“During the last five years, we have seen the number of equestrian events rise by almost 30 per cent, and this year we are expecting to see the busiest event calendar in the history of equestrian sport. Some of the most valuable horses are now competing for the most valuable prizes in parts of the world where this would have been unimaginable twenty years ago, thanks to advances in the air transport industry.”
FEI Secretary General Ingmar de Vos, who addressed the delegation alongside air transport executives from Emirates SkyCargo, Cathay Pacific, Cargolux, the Symposium’s sponsor Qatar Airways and the OIE, explained: “Our sport is growing faster than ever before, and the role of air transport professionals as we go through this growth spurt is very clear.
“In the equine sector, there is great potential for the air transport industry, particularly for carriers that are modernising their aircraft fleets so they can carry horses, and for those that are investing in suitable new aircraft specifically for moving horses safely, cost effectively and efficiently.
“We are looking forward to working closely with IATA and the air transport community to ensure that everyone has the necessary know-how and capabilities to deal with the growing needs of the equestrian sport industry.”
Dr Derek Belton, Head of International Trade at the OIE, highlighted the current regulatory challenges of international horse movement and its future developments: “The FEI has been working with the OIE since 2002, joining the likes of the World Health Organisation, World Trade Organisation and the International Federation for Animal Health.
“The FEI and the OIE recently embarked on a three-year action plan in response to growing demand from countries for help in improving cross-border movement of top-level sport horses competing in international events.
“The action plan marks a milestone in the FEI’s 10-year working relationship with the OIE, and will focus on harmonising import and export procedures for ‘high-health, high-performance’ sport horses that are extremely fit and enjoy close veterinary supervision, and so present a lower disease risk.
“Together with the FEI, we are working on a global protocol for the movement of these horses, so we can ease the process of what is effectively temporary importation of equine athletes into countries to compete, and then ensure their safe return or onward passage.”