During these uncertain and unprecedented times that Covid 19 has brought to the world, there may be no better place to be residing than New Zealand. As an Island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, we have been easily able to close our borders and thus become the envy of many a European Nation as we continue to live our “normal” lives Covid free.
New Zealand boasts some of the best and most economical growing conditions for young horses in the world. We have green grass that rivals that of Kentucky and Kildare, and great weather conditions that mean young horses can live all year round in large pastures with their friends. Mares are foaled down outdoors, and the NZ Thoroughbred horse provides some great blood for mixing with the Warmblood to produce the ultimate athlete.
We produce some of the world’s best riders, particularly in Eventing. It is one of the few places in the world where nearly any child can afford a pony, and you learn to ride by clinging to your galloping steed on the hills and beach with not a riding school in sight.
But spare a thought for our horse breeders in New Zealand, where our isolation and small population (5 Million at last count) can really count against us on the world stage.
We have never had an outbreak of Equine Flu in New Zealand - this means we have no need to vaccinate. However, this also means that horses do not require passports, nor is microchipping or any form of identification necessary. There is no national database of horses bred, and in fact the Government has no idea how many horses are even in New Zealand or where they might reside, although some have reported a figure of 120,000 give or take…
Horses are not viewed as farm production animals by the Government of New Zealand, nor are they slaughtered for human consumption. Thus, the recording of the use of veterinary drugs for the food chain is not seen as important.
There are no Government or Regulatory Body laws (other than the Animal Welfare Act) pertaining to Stud Books nor the recording of births of horses. This has led to a lackadaisical approach to the registration of sport horses bred in New Zealand with an estimated 70% of eligible sport horse foals having no Stud Book papers. This was the case with the eventer Balmoral Sensation, who only a few years ago led the WBFSH World Rankings with no stud book beside his name.
We do indeed breed some eye wateringly good horses down here, but with many breeders seeing no value in Registering their foals, many of our top horses in international competitions show no trace of their country of origin.
Even the governing body for Equestrian Sport – the ESNZ- does little to encourage the correct recording of birth dates and bloodlines of the horses it registers for sport. There is at this stage no need to provide birth papers or passports to prove a horse’s date of birth for age group classes and the breeding is more often than not recorded with no DNA testing or proof of sire or dam. Indeed, most horses here are bought and sold with only the seller’s word as proof of parentage and age – leading to court cases on more than one occasion.
20 years ago, we had a fairly strong market exporting sport horses to the USA. However, the NZ dollar is now quite strong against the US Dollar. When you add in the cost of import to North America, and the fact we are at the mercy of the freight companies and airlines who no longer fly horses direct to Los Angeles from Auckland, our export opportunities are limited.
Another issue is the cost of importing horses from Europe or North America. On top of a five-week quarantine, the fees to import will set you back Euro 21,500 or approx $26,000 USD. Disease control at our borders is very strict, with no horses allowed to be imported that have EVA, EIA, CEM, Piroplasmosis or the like.
Our strict borders also make the importation of semen very difficult with strict protocols meaning stallion stations in Europe often have to quarantine the stallions and release special batches of semen to meet the NZ Government protocols.
So, whilst New Zealand really is a paradise on earth for both people and horses in these tough times, spare a thought for our WBFSH Member Stud Books. We have access to the very best stallions and mare lines in the world, along with some of the best reproduction vets. But getting our top sport horses onto the world stage to represent us is a real and ever-present challenge.
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