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. 

Resource Type

  • Position Statements


  • Medication
  • Purchasing a Horse

Publish Date

April 1, 2020