THE Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (ITBA) and Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (TBA) have shared their sales and preparation guidelines with Horse Sense, invaluable support for anyone heading to the sales in the next months. Produced in consultation with industry participants and the support of both Goffs and Tattersalls, the guidelines set a useful benchmark for best practice.

Sale entry and demonstration of high health status

i. The pre-sale requirements detailed in the Conditions of Sale or sales documentation information respective to the health certification, blood testing, swabbing and vaccination status of horses, should be checked and arranged within the time parameters outlined in the rules for each sale.

The appropriate certificates and evidence should then be submitted to the sales house prior to the arrival of horses on the premises. This may include the uploading of vaccination records to the horse’s e-passport via the Vaccination App.

ii. The sales houses have their own rules pertaining to the maximum age of a mare on the date of the sale; the maximum stage of gestation permitted; and the minimum age of any foal being sold. These restrictions, introduced solely to safeguard the welfare of horses going through the ring, should be checked before horses are entered to be sold at public auction.

iii. Consignors and prospective purchasers are advised to read the Conditions of Sale and to familiarise themselves with the definitions, allocation of responsibilities and any restrictions relating to the administration of medications; health certification; declaration of stable vices; and any circumstances, health conditions or positive post-sale health testing, which may mean that the horse is returnable to the vendor. Purchasers may wish to engage the services of a bloodstock agent.

iv. Repeated endoscopic examination at the sale can be distressing and suboptimal in terms of infection. Vendors may wish to arrange for their horses, especially foals, to be video endoscoped shortly before the sale, recording the identification of the individual; the nostril used; and ensuring good quality imaging of the larynx and pharynx. This video should then be left at the repository for examination by the vets representing prospective purchasers. Full video endoscopy guidelines and repository rules are available from the individual sales houses.

v. When selling entire male horses, especially foal colts and rigs, the advance examination and palpation of the testicles by a veterinary surgeon may avoid repeat manual examinations during the sale, which the horse may start to resent. The veterinary certificate can be presented to prospective purchasers or displayed on the stable door.

Preparation for the sale

i. The appropriate preparation in terms of nutrition, exercise, farrier work and veterinary care is required, to ensure the healthy presentation of horses, especially youngstock and pregnant mares. Additionally, the horse should be taught to stand correctly for physical inspection; become accustomed to being taken in and out of the stable to be shown; and become familiar with loading on and unloading from the horsebox.

ii. A busy sales complex can be a stressful environment for all horses, especially pregnant mares, and this does place some risk on the unborn foetus. Pregnant mares should therefore be prepared adequately for sale, so that they are able to be presented to purchasers for inspection, without impacting their wellbeing. Sales preparation for pregnant mares will usually involve some in-hand walking exercise, so that they are fit enough to walk and have their action and conformation assessed by potential purchasers.

iii. Any foals being sold will be prepared according to their age and developmental stage, with some in-hand walking likely. Care should be taken to ensure foals do not become footsore.

Preventative steps should be taken well in advance of the sale to prepare the hooves and soles for presentation at public auction, with regular trimming, balanced nutrition and topical ointments commonly used to achieve strong feet and prevent bruised soles.

iv. Yearlings are generally prepared with a combination of in-hand walking, long reining, or automated horse walker exercise. Some trot and canter work on the lunge is also recommended, with equal amounts of work performed on each rein. Post-sale wind (respiratory) testing does require the yearling to be exercised on the lunge in both directions for veterinary panel assessment.

v. Care must be taken not to let sales horses carry too much condition – they want to look well rather than heavy; juveniles are future athletes and excess weight is detrimental to their development, putting excess strain on their joints and organs.

vi. The trimming of sensory hair, around the eyes, nostrils and muzzle, is strongly discouraged. Sensory hairs are required by horses for spatial orientation when in darkness, to familiarise themselves with surroundings, mangers and water troughs. The removal of these hairs reduces the horse’s ability to adapt to new environments.

At the sale

i. Any equine welfare concerns while on site at thoroughbred public auction houses should be reported in a timely fashion to the welfare officer, who can be contacted via the Control Office at Tattersalls; or the ID veterinary surgeons at Goffs. All participants are reminded that sales complexes are public spaces and the presentation and sale of thoroughbreds serves as the racing and breeding industry’s ‘shop window’.

ii. If a veterinary surgeon recommends that a horse requires medicinal treatment, which would require declaration at the rostrum immediately prior to sale, then this should not be withheld from the horse.

ii. Vendors, consignors and breeders should monitor all horses in their draft for signs of fatigue or being footsore, especially foals. They should be managed to preserve energy levels, where possible. A minimum of at least one uninterrupted rest period of 30 minutes daily, taken during normal working hours, for every full day the horse is resident at the sales complex is recommended, so that horses are able to rest and potentially lie down; have free access to hay and water; and be able to urinate on straw. If foals are becoming tired and/or footsore, then additional/a longer rest period(s) should be given. The bit should be removed from the horse’s mouth during this rest period and at frequent intervals during the day. This should optimise the welfare, demeanour and sale expectations of every horse.

iii. If horses begin to resent the frequency at which they are being shown, taken in and out of their stable, or are reluctant to load or unload horseboxes, only reasonable and sympathetic measures should be used to encourage them. Where space constraints, layout of facilities and staffing levels permit, a dedicated member of staff may hold horses who are reluctant to enter stables outside, or allow them to graze in-hand for a short period.

iv. Staff should be suitably experienced at handling young and fit horses, particularly where colts may be stabled and shown in close proximity to fillies in oestrus. Particular care is required in congested areas for people and other horses, such as the chute to the sales ring and in the queue for the lunging rings.

Following the sale

i. Horses should be left with adequate water and hay, and with a headcollar left on.

ii. Purchasers must complete the Transfer of Ownership process with Weatherbys within 30 days of the sale taking place.