SITA's New Mare Policy Causes Confusion

Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland executives are raising questions about the the Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers' new guidelines for older mares and barren mares, saying the policies they had agreed to support differed on one key point from what has appeared in recent published reports.

According to the stories, SITA adopted guidelines during a June meeting in England that included a ban on selling mares 18 years old and older. But Keeneland’s director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, who participated in the meeting via telephone, said July 7 that he thought SITA had ended up backing a policy similar to Keeneland’s that prevents selling mares of that age unless they are in foal.

“Is it (the SITA ban) for mares 18 years old (and up) or is it for mares 18 years old (and up) that are not in foal?” Russell said. “We felt it was for mares 18 years old (and up) that are not in foal. That has been our policy since before I came to Keeneland, and we’re going to (continue to) go with that in 2009.”

Russell said that he and European auction company executive Henry Beeby, who is SITA’s chairman, had discussed the confusion over the new guidelines “fleetingly” and that it probably would be addressed during SITA’s next meeting, which is scheduled for November.

“There are a couple of guys who didn’t show up (for the June SITA meeting) or didn’t call in, and they have raised some questions that they need clarification on,” Russell said.

Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning also wasn’t exactly sure where SITA stands on the issue of older mares, saying what had been reported differed from the policy that he thought the organization had adopted.

“There appears to be some confusion or misunderstanding at this time with regard to the published reports,” Browning said. “We are communicating with other members of SITA to clarify the position that was adopted at the meeting before we have any official comment.”

Not in dispute, according to Russell and Browning, is the part of the new SITA guidelines that bans the selling of mares that have been barren for three consecutive years.

Bans on mares 18 and up that are not in foal and mares that have been barren for three consecutive years are conditions in Keeneland’s consignor’s contract, according to Russell, “because the welfare of the animal is of paramount concern to all parties within the industry.”

Fasig-Tipton did not have formal policies concerning older mares and barren mares prior to the issues being addressed by SITA, according to Browning.

“The market has dealt with those situations in the past pretty effectively,” he said. “If people would call us and ask us about it, we would say, ‘You’re not likely to be in a position to have a positive experience at the sale.’ ”  

Under the new SITA guidelines, the policies concerning older mares and barren mares can be waived when there is a dispersal, Russell said.

“If somebody is getting out of the horse business and has sold their farm, they have to sell all their stock,” he explained.