Australia Bans Horses from European Union

Not that it wasn't already very serious, but the implications foot and mouth disease could have on the Thoroughbred industry became scary business Wednesday when the Australian government placed an indefinite ban on the importation of horses to that country from the European Union.

Should the ban remain in place until the breeding season begins in Australia this summer, shuttle stallions from any European Union country would not be allowed to stand in that country. Stallions generally fly to Australia in July for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season that begins in August. Last year, roughly 70 stallions shuttled to Australia.

Also, if the ban imposed by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service remains in place, it can be expected that more stallions will shuttle to Australia from the United States and Japan.

Last breeding season, 37 stallions shuttled to Australia from Europe, 23 from the U.S., and eight from Japan. The big name from Europe was Danehill, the Coolmore stallion who covered 130 mares in Australia at a fee of $200,000 (Australian, about $115,000 U.S.).

Coolmore, based in Ireland, is the leader in shuttling stallions, the others sent to stand at their Australian base including Peintre Celebre and Fasliyev from Ireland and Southern Halo, Thunder Gulch, and Woodman from their Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky. Other stallions who traveled from England or Ireland to Australia last year included Barathea, Desert Prince, Xaar, and Anabaa.

The ban, originally on just horses from England and Ireland, now includes all European Union countries following news of outbreaks in France. The disease was found in cattle in France on a farm located across the road from recently imported sheep from England.

According to the Australia Quarantine and Inspection Service, the measures are consistent with the country's approach to quarantine and will be reviewed on a daily basis and modified as necessary.

"This is not a scientific decision, this is a political decision, International Racehorse Transport chairman Quentin Wallace said. Last year, IRT flew about 85 horses, including stallions, to Australia.

The Racing Post reported that racing will continue in France and there are no immediate plans to stop the transport of horses between France and England, as long as disinfection takes place.

Dr. Roland Devolz, France Galop's chief veterinarian, told The Racing Post racing is not permitted in Mayenne and Orne, but "racing is continuing elsewhere (in France) for the time being. There are no restrictions on horses travelling between England and France as long as disinfection takes place."