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CBA Symposium Covers Wide Swath of Topics
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 RSS Feeds

For the third time in as many years, the Consignors and Commercial Breeders’ Association (CBA) hosted its Educational Symposium in Lexington, Kentucky, touching on topics ranging from sale yearlings, early syndication, large stallion books, breeding maiden mares, breaking yearlings, and microchips.

The organization’s new president, Joe Seitz of Brookdale Sales, welcomed the several hundred attendees who gathered at the Keeneland sales pavilion for the symposium. Seitz is taking over for outgoing president Craig Bandoroff of Denali Stud.

“Craig’s put a lot of time and effort into this organization over the last three years,” said Seitz. “I personally am grateful, and I know the board and the membership is grateful.”

The symposium was designed as a service to its members and any interested industry professionals.

“The CBA is an organization that works democratically on behalf of all of its members,” said Seitz. “Anybody who raises, breeds, and sells thoroughbreds, and makes their living in this game belongs in the CBA. We are your seat at the table. Your concerns, your worries, your livelihood are our concerns.”

Former Governor Steve Beshear was invited to give the opening remarks of the symposium. Beshear, who served as Kentucky’s governor from 2007-2015, discussed how much respect he has for the horse industry and its importance to the state.

“I wanted to come here and say thank you,” said Beshear. “Thank you to this group of breeders and consigners for continuing to make our horse industry the signature industry that it is, not only in this country but all around the world.”

Examining Sale Horses…

The first panel of the day covered sale exams and how the resulting reports can be used in positive and negative ways. Headed by Dr. Jeffry Berk, endoscopic exams and repository radiographic reports were explained as well as how subjectivity can leave both veterinarians and sellers open to legal problems.

When it comes to endoscopic exams of the upper airway, there is a standardized grading system that is recognized by the AAEP. Grades are assigned from one to four, with one being ideal and synonymous with the word symmetric.

“It is a standardized system,” said Berk. “That is very valuable. It is something we can all agree upon. Statistically there is no difference in the racing performance of horses with Grade 1, Grade 2a and Grade 2b function. They are all variations of normal throat function. Grade 3 function and Grade 4 are not normal. Those throats do not meet conditions of sale at all four of the thoroughbred sales companies in the U.S.”

There is another grading system that is used but it is not recognized by the AAEP, and the information is not transferable between veterinarians.

“It is subjective and only has meaning to the veterinarian who scoped the horse,” said Berk. “The other system is much more specific and has transferable, meaningful information.”

While the AAEP recognized method of scoping contains transferable information, repository radiographic reports do not.

“The basis of the problem is that these reports are by nature subjective, and as such, only have meaning in the context of a vet/client relationship where level of risk and intended use is clearly communicated and understood,” said Berk. “It is not like Carfax. We wish it was, but it’s just not.”

Radiograph reports are designed to disclose any finding that is significant to a horse’s ability to perform as an athlete. No veterinarian or consignor knows in advance of a sale what are significant issues (or not) to a person looking at a horse if they no relationship with that person.

“There are some real issues trying to standardize these reports,” said Berk. “You can never get to level of objectivity to make it a useful report. It’s a pretty tough situation.”

As such, Berk and his fellow panelists, attorneys Mike Casey, Mike Meuser and William Hoskins, led the audience through examples of legal responsibilities veterinarians, sellers, and consignors face under the current system and discussed if the system should be changed.

How to Handle Stallions…

The keynote event featured Ric Waldman, John T.L. Jones Jr. and John Williams, who shared their experiences with stallion syndication and also discussed the popularity of larger books.

“A lot of it has to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time and not making the wrong move,” said Waldman. “When you make a mistake and overprice a stallion in the first year, you are dead. If you are smart enough and take your ego out of it, you realize you have to backpedal. You have to overcompensate on the downside. You have to get numbers, you have to get mares to him.”

The panel also gave the men a chance to discuss their personal experiences with such legendary horses as Storm Cat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Nureyev, Alleged and Deputy Minister.

“Seattle Slew was the smartest horse I have ever been around, but he would have nothing to do with mares at first,” said Williams, who made the decision to have the horse ridden in retirement. “All he wanted was his job back. He loved it. He got to where he would start accepting mares. He felt good about himself. He was back as racehorse, even though he was on the farm. That is one of the ways we nursed him through.”

The fact stallions all have different personalities was also discussed, as there is no one way to handle a breeding animal. Temperaments and libidos vary drastically.

“Alleged was a horse that had a mind of his own and really didn’t want to be fooled with,” said Jones. “Horses to a certain extent are like people. They are all different. You have to do different things with them to get the best out of them.”

The Holy 100…

The afternoon kicked off with a discussion of breeding maiden mares and how to most successfully transition them into their new life.

“The main watchword here is horsemanship,” said Dr. Steve Jackson. “The main thing is just basic horsemanship and continuing to evaluate fillies when they come off the track. Make management decisions based on your observations.”

Dr. Laurie Lawrence presented four factors that impact a maiden mare’s ability to successfully transition from racemare to broodmare: change in management, abdominal capacity, growth/maturity, and endocrine adaptations.

“There are a lot of really large changes in their management,” she said. “There is a gradual decrease in concentrate, a gradual increase in forage, and a gradual adaptation to life in the field. Additionally, here in the U.S. it is not uncommon to breed 3 and 4-year-olds. They are not mature. They may have reached their mature height, but if you were to measure those mares, they get wider over time. Mares that are bred at 3 and 4 and maybe 5 will still be growing while pregnant.”

Determining the optimal time to retire a mare has been a focus of Dr. Stephen Duren’s work. In his experience, he has found more success retiring a mare either earlier in the year, around September or October, or keeping the mare in training until January or February and sending her straight to the breeding shed.

“Retiring early doesn’t mean early in their life, this just means early in the year,” he said. “The middle ground, that is the tough part. Those mares that retire in November and December are a nightmare. They come to the farm and undergo a lot of stress.”

In addition to the common sense aspect of wanting a mare to transition well, statistics from Jackson showed the importance of foal size. Although first foals are typically smaller, it is important to give the mare her best chance of producing a good-sized foal.

“You don’t want a 90lb foal,” said Jackson. “The data says that it is very rare that you are going to have a foal born under 100 pounds that will win a Grade 1. We haven’t finished analyzing all the data, but it appears Grade 2s and Grade 3s are not going to be far behind. Secondly, if you look at all the data on the sales, big horses bring more money.”

Getting a Good Start…

Embracing the day’s overarching concept of the individuality of horses and the importance of horsemanship, another panel tackled the various ways to break yearlings.

Matt Hogan (Blackwood Stables), Terry Arnold (Dixiana), Michael Hardy (Margaux), and Richard Budge (WinStar) discussed how their operations approach different stages of teaching a yearling its early lessons.

“You can’t put your time schedule onto a horse, you have to work with them,” said Hardy. “The first aspect is mental. They are young horses who are growing and going through a lot of change. It is managing that mental transition and making that mental stress as easy as possible. It is a process where you have to work with each individual horse. Horses have their own timeline.”

The other panelists echoed that many of the challenges with breaking yearlings have to do with mental issues more than physical. It is important not to push a horse too fast. Relying on rider feedback and observing how easily a horse is adapting to different parts of training are key to proper development.

“You get to watch these guys blossom, and you can see that confidence come in,” said Hogan. “It’s not what the calendar says. No matter what we do, we can’t make it any faster. It is knowing when to take that step forward as they grow and develop. Doing something too early can cost you a year.”

When to send a horse to the track is also a big part of early training. Sometimes what goes into that decision has less to do with the horse and more to do with the training program he or she will be entering.

“We want it to be a seamless move from farm stock to athlete,” said Arnold. “They are going to have a lot of changes happen to them when they get to the racetrack. When you are starting to think about when to send a horse to the track, there are a couple of things you have to consider. Number one is the relationship you have with the trainer and relationship and the expectation the owner has.”

Horses will sometimes enter official training and then suffer setbacks. Budge discussed how WinStar handles horses that are sent to the operation for rehabilitation purposes.

“I think the key is diagnosis and developing a plan,” he said. “Step number two is communication. They come from all different trainers, and it is good to know the history on a horse. Sometimes it comes in with one problem but it has other issues. One thing rehab has really taught me is patience. Not every horse will rehab 100 percent.”

Update from The Jockey Club…

Anchoring the symposium was Jamie Hayden, the manager of industry initiatives for The Jockey Club.

Hayden first discussed microchipping, which will be a required part of foal registration starting in 2017. Breeders can voluntarily start microchipping this year as a way to learn the process.

“This requirement will bring U.S. registration in line with other major breeding countries who require chips as part of registration,” he said.

He also briefly discussed the growth of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity. A bill was introduced in July 2015 that would create a single rule book for testing and enforcement of equine medication rules. The bill currently has 21 congressional sponsors, and the coalition has grown to 14 industry members.

A video of the day’s presentations will be made available online by the CBA in approximately 7-10 days.

Courtesy of The TDN

Our Mission

The CBA works democratically on behalf of every consignor and commercial breeder, large and small, to provide representation and a constructive, unified voice related to sales issues, policies, and procedures. The Association’s initiatives are designed to encourage a fair and expanding market place for all who breed, buy, or sell thoroughbreds.