The horse flu virus Down Under is destroying the Australian equestrian industry and urgent government injections of cash are still required, according to the Equestrian Federation of Australia (EFA).

The EFA has sent to the federal and state governments an outline of action it thinks is needed to revive the equestrian industry.

EFA president Geoff Sinclair said yesterday: “At stake is the future of more than 14,000 equestrian businesses, employing 30,000 staff.”

The proposed programme, called “Back in the Saddle” (BITS), would cost the government AUS$20 million. It would attempt to boost participation in equestrian events from grass roots to Olympic and Paralympic level after the cancellation of thousands of events and shows.

The programme would involve immediate vaccination for all horses if the flu outbreak “has not been brought under control by November”. It would also include an interest relief scheme to fund 50% of the cost of business and private loans “for those whose incoming is suffering”.

Mr Sinclair added that Australia’s standing as a leading equestrian nation was under threat.

“The three Olympic equestrian sports and Paralympic competitions in Australia are now at risk,” he said, “especially for the 2008 Games and beyond.”