The new year has brought some new ideas from some breeders about the possible negative impact of sales repositories and vetting of yearlings on the Thoroughbred breed. Two breeders have spoken out about how this practice may be impacting horse breeders and the future of the industry.

Arika Everatt-Meeuse, who runs Shannondoe Farm in St. Thomas, ON, had some strong words regarding sales vetting in a recent issue of The Blood Horse (Dec. 21/28) and this week, Mark Taylor of Taylor Made Farm seemed to echo much of Everatt-Meeuse’s concerns at Thoroughbred Daily News in Friday’s news.

Everatt-Meeuse and her parents James and Janeane Everatt (who started Shannondoe nearly 50 years ago) have built the breeding, sales and boarding establishment into one of the top nurseries in Canada. They have raised champions such as Sand Cove and Horse of the Year Caren and sold high priced yearlings throughout North America.

Everatt-Meeuse expressed frustration and concern, however, about the vetting at sales and the repository and how it seemingly has taken over the industry of breeding, and selling of Thoroughbred much to the detriment of breeders and the breed.

She expressed these concerns in a feature on Shannondoe in The Blood-Horse and expanded on those concerns in a recent interview with Canadian Thoroughbred:

“All weanlings and yearlings have to go [to a sale] with a full set of x-rays and a scope. Then you are put through the same thing on the sales grounds and I think the vetting at the sales level is getting ridiculous.

[Breeders] evolved when they introduced the repository, learning what can and can’t pass. You don’t show up with a poor horse physically or on vetting. But still you wind up getting your horse scrutinized and turned down by so many vets [at the sale].

My vet here at the farm, Dr. Wayne Carroll, or my vet in Kentucky, they are an asset they are part of the team. You trust your vet, they are on your side, you work with them. They know what they are doing and they are right. And I have been on the end of the shank of each horse since the beginning. We know if our horse has an issue. 

Horses are developmental and years ago we never knew what an OCD lesion or sesamoiditis was. We didn’t didn’t know what they were until we started doing films on babies and yearlings for sales purposes. Then everyone had to go through the learning process of what that was but then you don’t see it at 2, 3 and 4-years-old. Most of these things are no big deal.

It’s my horse, my set of films on my horse that I have had taken since they were weanlings and again before we bring them to the sale. I turn the films into sales company and some complete stranger makes their living off of my product. These vets will come to the sales barn, perhaps put a scope down your horses throat while they are still eating or just finished eating, then the horse gags, displaces their palate and then they turn the horse down. Your horse doesn’t get sold.

The opinions are too vast and it’s unfortunate that our buyers now, they don’t understand that there used to be a better way to pick out an athlete. It didn’t start with a vet reading a set of films it started with a horse trainer picking out an athlete.”

Everatt-Meeuse also believes there is a wider impact that sales vetting has on raising a Thoroughbred.

“I raise my horses the old-school way. They stay out in paddocks as young horses. They rough-house with each other, they get tough. A little scar here and there and nobody cared.

But some are raising them differently now;  more and more breeders are being forced to leave them in a stall because they can’t be out there running and getting sesamoiditis so they are swimming and living in a stall because you have to show up with clean x-rays. They are getting all these operations as babies, they are hand-walked and treated like show horses.

Then we send them to the racetrack where they pound on their bones that are not ready. We all know what kind of scrutiny horse racing is under now with all the breakdowns. [Sales vetting] has altered the way a lot of Thoroughbreds are being raised and its showing up on the racetrack.”

Everatt-Meeuse calls for a move doing away with submitting films. If a prospective buyer or their trainer is concerned about something they see on a yearling, then they can pay for the various films. “If all the breeders banded together and refused to submit films, what a wonderful sale it would be. I say to prospective owners, just go with your trainer. If you see a bump or a scar and you want to check it out, go check it out but why light the whole horse up?”

Similarly, Mark Taylor of Taylor Made spoke to the issue on a podcast, calling for the end of the repository, at least for some sessions of the large Keeneland September sale:

“The correlation between what the X-ray report says and how they run is very unpredictable. The vet reports have become the most important component of the sales process and that’s a case of the tail wagging the dog. When you go the sales that paper better be clean or else you are completely up the creek.”

Click here to read more of Taylor’s comments.