AAEP Convention Forum: Purchase Exams at Public Auction

One of your top clients wants you to look at a filly he has his eye on at the sales. You must give him your honest opinion on the horse by looking at radiographs taken by another veterinarian and housed in a repository.

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One of your top clients wants you to look at a filly he has his eye on at the sales. You must give him your honest opinion on the horse by looking at radiographs taken by another veterinarian and housed in a repository. Unfortunately, they aren’t the finest films you’ve ever seen and time is short, but from what you can tell, the horse is radiographically normal. What happens if the horse comes up with an obvious lameness in two weeks after your client makes the purchase? This scenario is not foreign to the horse industry, so liability and ethics in a sale situation were hot topics in the Forum for Purchase Exams at Public Auction at the AAEP annual convention.


Most of the veterinarians in the forum were top practitioners who handled pre-purchase examinations of racehorses at public auction and are faced often with the responsibility of making recommendations based on radiographs taken by another veterinarian. Some of the veterinarians work out of clinics that require signing a disclaimer to minimize the risk of litigation. Repositories were designed to cut down on the repetitive use of radiography on the sales ground, but in this imperfect and sometimes dishonest world, not all radiographs are meant to show imperfections in sale horses.


“Part of the problem of reading the radiographs is the quality of the radiographs,” said Jim Becht, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM of Colorado State University. “If you don’t know what you’re doing (taking radiographs), you should leave your equipment in the car.”


Most of the veterinarians agreed that they take risks when they give an assessment on someone else’s radiographs, but not all agreed on what kind of assessment should be given to the buyer based on those radiographs. Some veterinarians recommended a lengthy report on what was seen in the radiographs and another report interpreting them or telling the client what the findings could mean for the future of the horse. This could minimize the chance for surprises and litigation following the sale. Other veterinarians feel that giving too much information in a report might be a bad idea, as the information might get passed around and shared freely with other potential buyers, resulting in too much weight put into one veterinarian’s opinion of the horse

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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