Buying a yearling is a big investment, and everyone has high hopes that their purchase will go on to be a successful racehorse. Obtaining veterinary advice is an important step in ensuring you have all the relevant information at hand before the horse steps into the ring.
Sales time is one of the busiest times of year for our equine veterinarians, with clinical examinations, radiographs to interpret, and videoendoscopic examinations of the upper airway to assess.
The clinical examination initially involves evaluation of conformation, gait and symmetry. The eyes will be checked for abnormalities (such as cataracts), and that both eyes are visual. Any evidence of disease such as a high temperature or cough are noted, and the mouth will be examined for undershot jaw (parrot mouth).
The heart and lungs will be auscultated with a stethoscope, and the limbs will be inspected for swellings and thickenings. The horse may also be stepped back and watched while turning to detect signs of Wobbler syndrome, which is a developmental disorder of the neck vertebrae causing spinal cord compression and a clumsy gait. Checking that both testicles have descended is also important.
Most yearlings (all Premier lots, and generally all Select colts) will also have had a series of radiographs taken to identify bony abnormalities which may impact racing performance. When a vet is asked to read a set of radiographs, they request and then view the images in the repository. Vets then advise the potential purchaser on whether there are any abnormalities noted and the risk apportioned to these abnormalities. Some changes have been shown not to affect future racing and earning potential, and some are associated with a risk of future unsoundness.
Lastly, subsequent to the sale of a horse, the purchaser can request an endoscopic examination of the upper airway. This is done by a veterinarian who is a member of the official scoping panel. The sale can be cancelled in writing if the horse has any of the abnormalities listed in the conditions of sale.
While there are no guarantees of success when purchasing a potential racehorse, veterinary advice at sales time may help avoid spending a large amount of money on a horse with performance limiting problems. If you are considering buying a yearling at the sales, contact Cambridge Equine Hospital to find out how we can assist you in this process.