The Dec. 5 open forum discussion of pre-purchase exams at sales covered several topics critical to consignors, buyers, and veterinarians at the 50th anniversary meeting of the American Association of Equine Practitioners in Denver, Colo. A task force headed by Dr. Criag VanBalen has created a video of endoscopic exams of throats showing what has been agreed upon as grades 1-4 relating to arytenoid function. When one (usually the left) or both of these arytenoids don't abduct out of the airway, they can block airflow and restrict a horse's racing ability.

However, there is controversy surrounding how to consistently judge airway function. "What is a 2a versus a 2b?" asked program co-chair Dr. Scott Pierce by way of explaining what the video would show.

The AAEP wants to get feedback from its members on this information, then make a DVD copy available to veterinarians to help them use the same terminology when discussing horses.

Pierce did a study three years ago with 800 horses that showed no statistical difference in racing ability between horses graded 1, 2a, and 2b. He since has added 500 horses to the study, but still sees no statistical difference. He and colleagues are now doing 2,000 yearling airways to see how those relate to performance.

A question from the audience asked: "How many horses will it take in a study before people start accepting not-perfect airways?" In other words, a horse that has a 2b throat is statistically as likely to make it as a racehorse as a horse that has no throat problems, but buyers aren't as willing to purchase that horse.

Dr. Steve Conboy said this is a serious issue for our industry because of attrition to consignors. "How many horses go down the tubes (are rejected at sales) because the horse ‘fails' the endoscopic exam? We are losing too many horses."

Along these same lines, veterinarians are worried that sale weanlings are being held to the same "wind" standards of sales as yearlings, even though conditions of sales for weanlings don't generally cover wind conditions.

"I see buyers holding weanlings to the same conditions of sales as yearlings," noted Dr. Stuart Brown.

Dr. Roger Murphy, the other chair of the forum, said he has scoped many weanlings and is surprised at the number that have poor airways that get better with maturation. "Those that are paralyzed stay paralyzed," he noted.

There was a question of whether consignors are selling weanlings in November sales that might have "weaker" immature throats instead of holding them until the yearling sales, when they would be held to stricter conditions of sale.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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