International Movement of Horses Focuses on Latin American Competitions

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Jose Ortelli of Argentina, Tim Dutta of the United States and FEI Veterinary Director Graeme Cook. © 2011 Ken Braddick/


GUADALAJARA, Mexico, Oct. 24–An international effort aimed at easing a patchwork of burdensome regulations in much of Central and South America to streamline the transportation of high performance show horses was the focus of a conference Monday organized by the International Equeastrian Federation (FEI) and the World Organization for Animal Health.

The conference organized in conjunction with the Pan American Games in Guadalajara heard reports from experts around the world on international movement of horses and health, transport and customs issues.

Dr. Graeme Cook, the FEI Veterinary Director and one of the organizers of the event at the Guadalajara Country Club, gave a rundown of primary health concerns affecting top competition horses in geographic locations.

The growth of horse sports in the past 10 years showed globalization of the top competitions not only in Europe, the Middle East and North America but also Central and South America and between the different regions, he said.

Over the past 10 years, the number of jumping events increased to 1,200 from 387 a year, dressage events to 300 from 85 and eventing to 500 from 167.

In the Americas from 2006 to 2011, the growth was 35 per cent.

A growing number of five-star events in the Americas and the Olympics scheduled for Rio de Janeiro in 2016 could accelerate the growth.

Tim Dutta of the Dutta Corp., the primary shipper of competition horses from North America to Europe and the Americas, cited examples of the different regulatory requirements in Mexico where the Pan American Games are being held, Chile where the Pan American endurance championships just finished and Argentina which will host a Nations Cup jumping competition to which the United States and Canada have been invited to participate.

For the Pan Ams in Mexico horses from the U.S. and Canadian teams and of other riders based in the North America were provided the easiest health cerificate of any country, the horses were offloaded at Guadalajara faster than any event except at Cincinnati for the World Equestrian Games last year and customs officials were “fairly friendly.”

In Chile, arrangements for shipping horses took a year and changes were still being made by Chilean regulators up to eight hours before horses were to ship to Santiago.

In Argentina, the rules keep changing although the U.S. has competed in the Nations Cup in Buenos Aires for several years and health certificates have still not been approved just three weeks before horses need to be shipped.

Dutta cited rules requiring tests for mares and stallions being applied to geldings with no explanation. Veterinarians allowed to travel with horses but not allowed to take with them any drugs to treat a horse in an emergency.

“To keep the sport going we need easy in and easy out,” he said. “The chances of any disease from these top performance horses are slim to none.

“If you are going to have a sporting event and invite the world, you have to allow us in.”

He said he understood the need for rules for the export and import of animals on a permanent basis.

But for sport horses for top international competition, he suggested 30, 60 or 90 days certificates that would make it easier for the horses to travel around the world to compete.

Martin Atock whose Peden Bloodstock has been the official horse transport company for most recent Olympics and World Equstrian Games , said that as a result of coordination of health and customs requirements in the European Union plus Norway and Switzerland shippers could transport horses easily relative to pre-EU days of each nation imposing their own laws at every border crossing.

Consistent requirements and a pre-movement computerized certification process simplified horse transport in Europe, a model that central and South American government agencies could consider.

“We have no borders but we do have standards of welfare common to the region,” he said.

The population of Central and South America is as dense as in North America and Western Europe and the growing movement of equines makes “it crucial that this movement is simplified.”

Unification and consistent application of health and customs rules are necessary to deal with the growth. The rules need to allow veterinarians to travel with the horses and have drugs essential for treatment of equines at their disposal at all times, as well as allowing the same feed horses are used to to be carried with them.

“We need to be able to treat the horses by providing vets with access to the horses and drugs while traveling as with all athletes,” he said.