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AAEP Position on Therapeutic Medication to Horses for Sale at Public Auction (2020)

To conceptually evaluate the interaction of medication used in the sales horse, its healthcare and public auction implications, the AAEP evaluated the peri-sales timeframe in three time periods and assessed the effect of medication as a part of the horse’s healthcare in each time period.  

Times Period I: The Pre-sale Period. This is the interval from the time the horse enters sales prep until its presentation at the sales ground. The principal stakeholder in this time period is the owner and/or consignor of the horse to public auction. They should be allowed to care for the horse in the best possible manner to safeguard its health while fairly representing the true status of the horse.  

Time Period II: The Sales Period. This is the time that the horse is on the sales ground at the auction site. The stakeholders in this time period expand from owner/consignor to also include the auction company, potential buyers and their respective agents. The philosophy of medication use during this period must contemplate the horse’s medical needs as well as the importance of allowing potential buyers the opportunity to formulate an accurate assessment of the horse. In addition to evaluating the health of the horse at the time of sale, there is an obligation to foster future health of the horse going forward. 

Time Period III: The Post-sales Period. The purchaser is the stakeholder. It is the purview of the purchaser to ensure that they have bought a fairly represented sales horse, but it is not under the purview of the purchaser to return the horse for anything other than a definitive violation of the published Conditions of Sale.  

Guidelines for Treatment: In the interest of the ability of the purchaser to evaluate a potential purchase in a fair and uncomplicated manner, it is recommended that:  

  • All treatments administered while the horse is on the sales grounds must be properly documented, the documentation to include the results of a veterinarian’s examination and justification for treatment.

  • The treatment records should optimally be housed in the sales office or the repository and be made available to potential buyers and/or their agents and veterinarians. This procedure will require the cooperation of the sales companies to implement these policies for the sake of integrity and transparency.

Medication Recommendations: As a general recommendation for medication of sales horses, the AAEP recommends that no medication be given within 24 hours of the start of a horse’s sales session, except in such situations as where certain medications can facilitate a fair and safe sale for both parties’ benefit. An example could be the administration of acepromazine to facilitate safe handling. To the extent that this administration would be permitted, the AAEP recommends the recording and disclosure of this and all treatments.

These administrations are to be performed in compliance with the Sales Company’s Conditions of Sale relative to medication.

The AAEP recommends that therapeutic medications be permitted only at concentrations below the thresholds prescribed in the ARCI’s Schedule of Controlled Therapeutic Substances. In the event of conflict with this recommendation, the Sales Company’s Conditions of Sale supersede the ARCI’s schedule and the AAEP’s recommendation.

Note: Regarding the medications listed below, it is recognized that corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can exert a potent clinical effect and have the potential to mask clinical conditions and thereby not allow an accurate pre-sale appraisal by potential buyers. Intrathecal (joint and tendon sheath) injections of a corticosteroid for the purpose of masking clinical signs related to an underlying defect at any time would be considered an ethical breach.

The common medications given to horses intended for sales have been divided into categories. The categories are listed as generic classes of medication, and medication actions, to prevent the need for continually updating an exhaustive list of specific compounds.

Category 1: Permitted Medications. Horses can be medicated after an appropriate diagnosis during the pre-sale and sales period as long as they comply with ARCI Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule for Horses Version 4.0 or its current ARCI approved version. All medications must be detected at or below these threshold concentrations at the time of a breeze and/or at the time of sale. All medications—administered by any route—must be declared and transparent to potential buyers. Any medications not on the Schedule will be regulated by the testing laboratory’s Lower Limit of Detection. Exceptions to this medication rule would require an approved therapeutic exemption for that individual horse. Such approval for the exemption would be the responsibility of a sales company-appointed veterinarian. An example would be Progestins (Regumate, etc.) which would be allowable with veterinary documentation in fillies for estrus suppression and mares for pregnancy maintenance but banned in all other categories of horses due to its anabolic effect. Additionally, horses that have been medicated with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory must have no detectable level of a second non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and horses that have been medicated with a corticosteroid must have no detectable level of a second corticosteroid.  

Category 2: Medications Not Allowable on the Sales Ground. These are medications that may be administered in advance of a horse’s presentation at the sales grounds. Examples of these medications include (but are not limited to): antiprotozoals, bronchodilators (e.g. clenbuterol and albuterol), diuretics, and vasoactive drugs (e.g. aspirin, isoxsuprine or pentoxifylline). The detection of one of these medications in a post-breeze or post-sale sample may result in the return of a horse per the Conditions of Sale. Individuals administering these substances in advance of a sale are advised to conduct clearance testing before presenting their horses at the sales grounds.  

Category 3: Banned Substances. Substances on the ARCI’s List of Prohibited Substances are in this category.  

With respect to the use of bisphosphonates the AAEP Board of Directors has issued the following statement:  

In the absence of research to refute the anecdotal observations of deleterious effects of bisphosphonates on immature skeletons, the AAEP recommends that veterinarians follow the manufacturer’s labeling recommendations for administration, particularly with regard to age. Also, because of the unknown duration and effect of bisphosphonates in horses, these drugs should be considered inappropriate for any horse, regardless of age, that is intended to be offered for sale at public auction as an athlete.  

Anabolic steroids are banned substances, and veterinarians should be aware that it is not advisable to administer anabolic steroids to horses of any age intended for public auction. AAEP members should be aware of the following sales policies for each of the three major US Thoroughbred auction companies. Buyers of young horses may request testing for bisphosphonates and/or anabolic steroids to be performed at the time of purchase. If the sale horse tests positive, a buyer has the right, within 24 hours of notification, to initiate the return of the horse. The details of that process are defined in the Sales Companies’ Conditions of Sale. 

Category 4: Medications that must be declared in the Repository or announced by the Auctioneer. These medications may be administered as a component of the horse’s ongoing health care but may affect the purchaser’s decision as to the suitability of the horse, and therefore must be publicly declared for assessment by potential purchasers. Medications in this category include cyproheptadine, pergolide and antibiotics. (Note: Regarding any drugs found in Categories 2–5, the recommendation in their category will supersede the ARCI CTS.)  

Enforcement: AAEP does not have the power of enforcement. The principal enforcer must be the sales company, and the principal action should be the rescinding of the sale and return of the horse to the consignor. It is the desire of the AAEP to discourage legal action by any parties. The AAEP encourages the sales companies to make a concerted effort to be the power of dispute resolution for the fair and equitable protection of the purchaser and the seller. This may be done through a panel of experienced veterinarians or some other means outlined by the sales company. However, the sales company must take an active role in promoting the fair and equitable transaction, as indicated by their taking of a commission for facilitating the sale of the horse.  

The ultimate goals of these recommendations are (a) to establish what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable, for presentation of a horse at public auction (b) to have all consignors and veterinarians abide by those “best practices” in “good faith,” and (c) to have any disputes resolved without litigation. These guidelines are presented as a best practice for the mutual establishment of a fair value of horses at public auction. In the event that drug testing will be used in support of sales medication regulations, the sampling of the horse’s blood and/or urine must take place on the sales ground, by or under the direction of a licensed veterinarian and with the integrity of the sample maintained consistent with practices used in the management of post-race samples. Sample collection, processing, shipping and analysis protocols are defined in the Sales Companies’ Condition of Sale. In sales where horses must sell after a timed performance, such as a “two-year-old in training” sale, such performances are normally 
governed by the rules of racing in the state of the sale. To the extent they differ, those regulations supersede the recommendations outlined here. Likewise, in these sales where performance is part of the sales process, medications are sometimes allowed after exercise, if disclosed on the treatment sheets on file with the sales company, and accessible to the purchaser or the purchaser’s agent. The recommendations outlined here would also be superseded by these regulations. The AAEP recommends 
adoption of the above-described recommendation for all sales venues. These recommendations will be superseded by specific sales conditions and can be modified as needed for specific sale sites and situations. It is hoped that the sales companies will take active roles in facilitating the implementation of these recommendations and that they will be maintained and updated as required.  
To reiterate, the primary objective is to establish “best practices” to serve as guidelines for the presentation of horses at public auction for fair and equitable establishment of the horse’s value, and to deter the use of medication that may cloud the horse’s true status.  
Approved by AAEP board of directors in 2020. 

Cryptorchid – Definition (1998)

The AAEP has adopted the following definition of retained testicle or cryptorchid.

Cryptorchid: Any animal that does not have two testes palpable in their entirety below the external inguinal rings. In the event of a dispute, the matter should be referred to a panel of veterinary arbitrators.

Reviewed by AAEP board of directors in 2010.

Dental Malocclusions (2009)

Madibular brachygnathism (“parrot mouth” or MAL2) is the condition in which the upper incisors protrude more rostrally than the lower incisors resulting in no occlusal contact between upper
and lower central incisor teeth. Mandibular prognathism (“sow mouth,” “monkey mouth” or MAL3) is the condition in which the lower incisors protrude more rostrally than the upper incisors
resulting in no occlusal contact between upper and lower central incisor teeth. The AAEP (and many breed organizations) consider these conditions undesirable traits.

Reviewed by AAEP board of directors in 2010.

Protocol for Pre-Sale Videoendoscopic Examination of the Upper Airway at Public Auction (2016)

Equipment must be capable of producing a digital video image of excellent quality.

Horse must be identified appropriately, and that identification must be in digital format with character generation on the screen, and/or video of the catalog page, followed by unbroken video of the face prior to introduction of the scope into the nares (right or left) and up to the larynx. This is a single stream video with no editing. The veterinarian performing the video or the consignor will submit each upper airway video on an individual flash drive or CD. Upper airway videos should be stored in a file separate from the radiographs in the repository in case of client request for one or the other.

Standard technique must include maximal abduction of arytenoids induced by swallowing (multiple times) and nasal occlusion. The duration of the video must be sufficient to identify all laryngeal and pharyngeal structures as well as observing their maximal function within the context of a resting exam.

The interval between the pre-sale videoendoscopic exam and the selling session will not exceed (10) days.

Approved by AAEP board of directors in 2016.

Recommended Guidelines for Post-Sale Examination of Horses Intended for Racing (1991)

(Guidelines pertain only to the Upper Respiratory Tract)
These guidelines are for post-sale examination and the reporting of upper respiratory endoscopy evaluations. For the purpose of this examination, “upper respiratory endoscopy” does not include the trachea.

1. Endoscopy of subject horse will be done at rest in the stall.
2. Restrain with a twitch or lip chain; if restraint is removed during the examination, make notation on certificate and document any differences in function observed.
3. Pass the endoscope up either nostril.
4. Stimulate a swallowing reflex and/or perform nasal occlusion to assist in evaluation of pharyngeal and laryngeal function.
5. Observe for anatomical form and function of upper respiratory structures.
6. If a chemical restraint is needed, document the drug and dosage. Re-examination of the horse is suggested if chemical restraint has been used or is suspected.
7. Document endoscopic observations and other pertinent findings on an appropriate certificate or suitable reporting form. 

Conditions which should be considered unacceptable and should constitute grounds for rejection on the day of examination include, but are not limited to:

1. Laryngeal hemiplegia.
2. Laryngeal hemiparesis with incomplete abductor function.
3. Epiglottic entrapment.
4. Persistent DDSP.
5. Arytenoid chondritis.
6. Subepiglottic cyst.
7. Soft palate cyst.
8. Rostral displacement of the palatopharyngeal arch.
9. Nasopharyngeal cicatrix.
10. Space occupying lesions or malformation which compromise the diameter of upper respiratory tract.
11. Cleft palate. 

In the event of a dispute between the buyer’s veterinarian and the consignor’s veterinarian, the AAEP recommends that three veterinarians without conflicts of interest be drawn from an arbitration panel to adjudicate such dispute. The arbitration panel should consist of a pool of eight or more veterinarians and could be established in specific geographic areas by local equine practitioner organizations or equine sales companies. Criteria for selection would be based upon experience and expertise. The three veterinarians mutually selected by the buyer and consignor would have no knowledge of either the horse, buyer, or consignor. 

Another acceptable method is to have five veterinarians selected from the pool; three examiners would then be picked from these five by a blind draw. They will examine the horse together and collectively determine the acceptance or rejection of the subject horse. Concurrence by two of the three examiners will be conclusive in such cases. Some conditions are generally considered an acceptable variation of normal, but at times may be viewed to affect the ability of the horse to perform its intended use.

Conditions that may elicit concern regarding suitability for racing include the interpretation of:

1. Intermittent DDSP.
2. Hypoplastic epiglottis.
3. Larygeneal hemiparesis with complete (full) abductor function.
4. Variations of epiglottic contour.
5. Pharyngeal lymphoid hyperplasia.
6. Mucopurulent discharge from guttural pouch.
7. Nasal septum deviation.

Detailed diagrams and descriptive terms of the pathology noted should be a part of the examining veterinarian’s records only. The certificate issued by individuals or the arbitration team to the sales companies or owners should be a generalized statement of the condition without implied warranty for future athletic potential of the subject horse at the time of the examination and should be prefaced by the phrase “In my opinion.” 

Other recommendations from the AAEP include:

1. That sales companies obtain a consent form signed by both consignors and buyers to agree to the consent of an arbitration panel and their binding conclusion thereof. 
2. That sales companies attempt to institute a uniform agreement among consignors regarding pre-sale examinations on the sales grounds. It was the consensus of the subcommittee that either pre-sale examinations be uniformly allowed or
disallowed, so as to establish conformity for consignors and buyers without allowing a selective advantage in the sales process to selected individuals.

Reviewed by AAEP board of directors in 2010.

Guidelines for Reporting Purchase Examinations (2009)

The AAEP has approved the following guidelines for reporting equine purchase examinations. The spirit of these guidelines is to provide a framework which will aid the veterinarian in reporting a purchase exam, and to define that it is the buyer’s responsibility to determine if the horse is suitable. These guidelines are neither designed for nor intended to cover any examinations other than purchase examinations. (e.g. limited examinations at auction sales and other special purchase examinations, such as lameness, endoscopic, ophthalmic, radiographic, reproductive examinations, etc.). While compliance with all of the following guidelines helps to ensure a properly reported purchase examination, it remains the sole responsibility of the veterinarian to determine the extent and depth of each examination. The AAEP recognizes that for practical reasons, not all examinations permit or require veterinarians to adhere to each of the following guidelines.

1. All reports should be included in the medical record.
2. The report should contain:
      a. A description of the horse with sufficient specificity to fully identify it.
      b. The time, date and place of the examination.
3. The veterinarian should list all abnormal or undesirable findings discovered during the examination and give his or her qualified opinions as to the functional effect of these findings.
4. The veterinarian should make no determination and express no opinions as to the suitability of the animal for the purpose intended. This issue is a business judgment that is solely the responsibility of the buyer that he or she should make on the basis of a variety of factors, only one of which is the report provided by the veterinarian.
5. The veterinarian should record and retain in the medical record a description of all the procedures performed in connection with the purchase examination, but the examination procedures need not be listed in detail in the report.
6. The veterinarian should qualify any finding and opinions expressed to the buyer with specific references to tests that were recommended but not performed on the horse (x-rays, endoscopy, blood, drug, EKG, rectal, nerve blocks, laboratory studies, etc.) at the request of the person for whom the examination was performed.
7. The veterinarian should record and retain the name and address of parties involved with the examination (buyer, seller, agent, witness, etc.).
8. A copy of the report and copies of all documents relevant to the examination should be retained by the veterinarian for a period of years not less than the statute of limitations applicable for the state in which the service was rendered. Local legal counsel can provide advice as to the appropriate period of retention. 


Recommendations for Purchase Exams at Public Auction

  • Radiographic interpretation for potential buyers should be performed by a veterinarian retained to represent that buyer’s personal interest with their particular needs and level of risk tolerance in mind.
  • Use of radiographic reports composed by the sellers’ veterinarian for proposed buyers has the potential to jeopardize all parties involved. The buyer may not be represented adequately, the seller incurs greater risk by potentially misrepresenting the horse and the veterinarian does not have the opportunity to explain his/her findings and their relevance to resale or training, in their opinion.
  • Veterinarians are encouraged to report all radiographic findings when interpreting radiographs for either the seller or buyer at public auction, with particular emphasis on those areas where pathology would commonly occur.
  • Modifying or altering radiographic reports, including deleting findings by either the veterinarian or anyone with access to the report, so that they might be used as a positive marketing tool in the auction venue is considered unethical and fraudulent.
  • Veterinarians with ownership in horses being presented for public auction should avoid being involved in the representation of those horses to potential buyers including, but not limited to, performing a radiographic or endoscopic assessment.
  • Veterinarians involved in performing radiographic examinations on horses for sale at public auction should strive to provide optimum radiographic quality with respect to proper positioning and appropriate exposure of all required views to ensure accurate and reliable determinations of findings.

Radiographs – Custody and Distribution

The AAEP recommends the retention of all radiographs on file for a period of three years. The AAEP and AVMA consider this essential for protection against litigation. The assertion of legal precedent is that radiographs are the property of the veterinarians who produced them, and only the information interpreted from the radiograph is the property of the client. In extenuating circumstances a copy of the radiograph can be made for distribution, including for referrals and consultations. Distribution of the original radiographs risks loss or misplacement such practice should be restricted to use in referrals and consultations, and then released only upon proper request.

Reviewed by AAEP board of directors in 2010.

Position on Sale Disclosure (1998)

AAEP supports the position that when a horse is sold, any known invasive surgery, disease, injury, or congenital defect which is not apparent, should be disclosed to the intended buyer by the owner and/or agent.

The AAEP supports disclosure of ownership by single or multiple owners of a horse at the time of offering for sale. 

Reviewed by AAEP board of directors in 2010.