Longstanding sanctions

Basra equestrian committee aims to lift international ban

BASRA — The head of the Horse Description Committee at the Basra Agriculture Directorate is optimistic about lifting the international ban on Iraq’s participation in global equestrian events. Despite acknowledging the limited support for breeders from the Ministry of Agriculture, he noted that Basra now boasts 599 horses and seven officially registered breeding stables.

Mohammed Habib Khalil, the committee’s head, shared with 964media the initiatives undertaken since 2019 to compile crucial information on horses and breeders. This effort includes conducting field visits to stables and creating identification forms that detail each horse’s age, color, breeder’s identity, and quantity. Based on these forms, a veterinary health booklet is issued for each horse, ensuring they receive regular medical treatment and vaccinations.

The lifting of the international ban is contingent on completing these identification efforts across all provinces. Subsequently, efforts will shift toward obtaining international participation by issuing passports for the horses through the Directorate of Animal Resources in Baghdad. The committee is hopeful about Iraqi horses soon joining international competitions.

Since the inception of this project in 2019, the horse population in Basra has increased from an initial count of 261. Despite delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number reached 557 in 2023 and 599 in the current year. The registered stables in Basra include notable names such as Al-Fidak and the Equestrian Club Stable in Shatt al-Arab, the Tourist Resort Stable, Al-Mallah and Al-Baraka in Zubair, Owaisan in Abu Al-Khaseeb, and Al-Khaima in the Al-Madinah District.

To date, the Ministry of Agriculture’s involvement has been minimal, presenting challenges for breeders such as high feed costs and low subsidies, the lack of specialized veterinary facilities for horses, and a shortage of government-supplied treatments and vaccines.

Despite Iraq’s longstanding tradition of breeding purebred Arabian horses and a resurgence in professional and amateur equestrian activities, the ban has persisted since the early 1990s. This situation stems from sanctions following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, subsequent regional instability, and a failure to address an equine glanders epidemic affecting the region’s horse population. The resolution of this issue demands concerted action involving multiple international stakeholders, underlining that this challenge extends beyond national borders and requires a collaborative approach.

The Iraqi Equestrian Federation’s efforts to enforce standards have caused a stir in recent months. It denounced the Baghdad’s Sumer Arabian Horse Festival last month for not adhering to medical examination guidelines.