Showjumpers have welcomed the news that Chinese quarantine restrictions have been eased, allowing the Global Champions Tour (GCT) to take place in Shanghai from 4-6 October.

Earlier this month (10 June), the European Commission and Chinese authorities signed off legislation that allows for the temporary importation of elite European sport horses to Shanghai.

Ireland’s Cian O’Connor told H&H it was “fantastic for the sport”.

The Olympic bronze medallist was the first non-Chinese rider to win the FEI World Cup qualifier in Beijing last October, but the restrictions meant he had to compete on a borrowed horse.

“To break into Shanghai and overcome all the restrictions is a masterful piece of work. It is obviously a big market for the future,” he added.

Although European horses have been allowed into China, EU quarantine requirements mean they have not been permitted to return home — the reason why equestrian events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics had to be held in Hong Kong.

FEI veterinary director Graeme Cook said the development was a landmark.

“This provides for the creation of a disease-free zone that the EU is happy with,” said Mr Cook.

“The horses are channelled into this bubble, to the event, then back to the airport.”

GCT founder Jan Tops has been trying to bring the series to China for some time. He could not be reached for comment, but the GCT website promised “one of the most stunning events of the circuit”.

It will be held next to the China Pavilion, which was built for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.

But the disease-free zone does not allow China-based horses to compete as they cannot come into contact with European horses.

Sarah Noble, adviser to the Chinese Equestrian Association, told H&H that the simplified import rules were “only a start”. More needed to be done to help Chinese riders compete freely internationally in the future, she added.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (27 June 2013)