TOBA Survey Calls for More Disclosure

More than two-thirds of respondents to a Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association survey of auction buyers indicated they are less likely to purchase a horse that has undergone a surgical procedure prior to being sold.

Based on the survey, officials said they will seek to have the disclosure of conformation-altering procedures included as part of the Sales Integrity Program.

The survey, conducted by the Matrix Group, was sent to 4,000 buyers of weanlings, yearlings, and 2-year-olds, with more than 700 responses received. The effort was part of the continuing work of the Sales Integrity Program.

Buyers indicated disclosure of surgical procedures by the seller is very important. However, whether or not such disclosure influences a buyer's purchasing decision varies with the number of years in the business, number of horses purchased, and the value of the horses purchased.

Among the respondents who had purchased a weanling, yearling, or 2-year-old at auction in the past two years, 65% indicated they were at least somewhat familiar with periosteal elevation (PE) and transphyseal bridge (screws and wires) procedures. Familiarity was higher among those that had been purchasing horses for a longer time, those who purchase greater numbers of horses, and those that have a higher overall investment in young horses.

Of those responding, 28% indicated knowing that the surgical procedures have been performed greatly influences their purchasing decisions, while 15% said it has no influence on their purchasing decisions. The average response was 6.6 on a 10-point scale, with 10 the highest extent of influence. As the total number of horses purchased and the overall purchase value of the horses increased, so did the likelihood that knowledge of these procedures being done has no influence on the decision to purchase a horse.

Slightly more than two-thirds of respondents indicated that if a horse had one of the surgical procedures, they would be at least somewhat less likely to purchase the horse. Survey respondents who indicated they had purchased six or more Thoroughbreds in the past two years, as well as those whose total purchase value of horses exceeded $100,000, were more likely to indicate that if a horse had these procedures done, it would make no difference in how likely they would be to purchase the horse.

More than half of respondents indicated that in the past two years, they have asked a seller about corrective surgical procedures in at least some cases. Of those that asked, 62% felt the seller provided satisfactory responses.

Of those responding, 70% indicated that they consult a veterinarian when making purchasing decisions. As the number of horses a respondent had purchased and the purchase value of the horses increased, so did the likelihood the respondent would seek the advice of a veterinarian.

"We have always maintained that the Sales Integrity Program was a work in progress and that we would carefully take under consideration all concerns from industry stakeholders," Reynolds Bell, TOBA trustee and vice president who also serves as the chairman of the Sales Integrity Program's monitoring committee, said in a release. "The sales buyer survey results underscore the market's expressed desire to have disclosure of these conformation-altering procedures. We are fully committed to implementing this aspect of the code of ethics as soon as it can be done correctly."

"The CBA would like to thank TOBA and the Sales Integrity Program for their continued willingness to work together on this issue," said Bayne Welker, president and chairman of the Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association. "The CBA's primary platform has been education and this survey has further reinforced our belief that a better educated and informed consumer is a better customer. We hope this effort will continue to pull industry organizations together with the sales companies to increase buyer awareness and education and improve the overall climate of the public auction process."

A copy of The Matrix Group's report may be obtained at

The survey was discussed at the sparsely attended TOBA meeting at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Friday. In other matters, Dr. Scot Waterman gave an overview on the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and their four areas of concentration: uniformity, research, security, and testing.

During the meeting, it was also announced that Steven Duncker would not seek a second five-year term as chairperson of the American Graded Stakes Committee. He will be replaced as chairperson by Dell Hancock for 2006-07. Fred Seitz will replace him as a member of the committee. As well, Dave Bailey was named to replace the late Bob Umphrey on the panel. The AGS committee will hold their meeting to assess and assign grades Nov. 30 in Lexington.

Changes to the TOBA board were also announced at the meeting. Returning to the board are Bill Casner, Trudy McCaffery, Stuart Janney, and Duncan Taylor. New members include Roy Jackson, Robert McNair, Seth Hancock, Richard Klein, and Mike Levy.