Topics on Racing, Breeding, Sales, and Health Covered at Breeders Meeting

Note: The bi-annual International Breeders Meeting was held on May 30, 2006 in Tokyo, hosted by the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders' Association. Delegates from 16 countries along with each country's associated veterinarians and observers met to exchange information pertaining to Thoroughbred racing, breeding, sales and general equine health. The following report on the meeting was compiled by the two U. S. delegates representing the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association – TOBA director John Phillips, of Darby Dan Farm, and Dr. David Powell, of the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center.

The IBM has two components: The formal delegates meeting and the veterinarian's pre-meeting session, where new medical developments are shared, disease reports are submitted and information is reviewed from the IBM's International Collating Centre based in Newmarket, England. The ICC is a real-time collection of information on disease outbreaks or time sensitive health issues that is accessible online by all IBM member countries.

Delegates to the IBM, spouses, veterinarians and guests were shown incomparable hospitality by the JBBA and the JRA. The professionalism, precision and thoroughness of their organization explain the ascending fortunes of Japan breeds on the world stage. Their facilities, commitment, and attention to detail were only exceeded by a most genuine and generous hospitality.

As a point of interest, the Japan Racing Association presented a fascinating analysis of the running form of their most recent Triple Crown winner Deep Impact. The motion analysis examined such things as stride length, duration of ground contact and the respective positioning of each limb. A summary of the research may be obtained by contacting the JRA directly.

Following is an overview of the topics discussed during the two IBM sessions.

Pre-Meeting Veterinarian's Session
Several issues arose from the pre-meeting veterinarian's session. Of particular note were the following:

Contagious Equine Metritis. Considerable concern was expressed by delegates regarding the recent confirmed reports of CEM among non-Thoroughbred horses in Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom. Foci of infection exist among the Warm blood horse population of Europe but there is little effort to identify, treat and control the disease within this population. The education of horse owners who breed Warm bloods with regard to the serious consequences of CEM is imperative. This is necessary both in respect of the reproductive health status of their animals and the detrimental impact of the disease on the export of horses. The latter particularly applies to Warm blood stallions (in which CEM is particularly common) sold to compete in equestrian events around the world. In addition laboratories in Europe undertaking bacteriological screening tests to identify the causal agent, Taylorella equigenitali,, have frequently failed to isolate the bacteria from swabs taken from the reproductive tract of Warm blood stallions subsequently found to be positive for CEM.

Equine Herpes Virus-1. The increased incidence of the paralytic form of EHV-1 among horses of all breeds in North America and Europe was noted. Collaborative studies undertaken at the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, Lexington and the Animal Health Trust, Newmarket have identified a virulent mutant strain of EHV-1 giving rise to neurological disease. Early diagnosis by laboratory based PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing followed by isolation of confirmed cases has proved effective in controlling the spread of the disease and reducing the number of clinical cases.

Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome. A small number of cases were reported in Florida during the spring of 2006 with no cases reported in Kentucky for the third consecutive year. The extensive use of insecticides coupled with a reduction in the number of host trees on horse farms have contributed to controlling the eastern tent caterpillar population.

Laparoscopic surgery for castration of horses. The delegate from Switzerland, Dr. Hanspeter Meier, discussed this technique of castration for inguinal cryptorchids and normal stallions. Studies at the Veterinary Clinic of the University of Berne indicate the surgery cannot be recommended as a trustworthy method of castration.

West Nile Virus. The recent reports of clinical cases of WNV among three horses in Argentina confirms the continuing geographical spread of the disease in South America as a consequence of migration of wild birds. The disease is now endemic in North America with a large number of human and equine cases reported in California during 2005. The number of cases in the eastern states of the United States has abated partially as a consequence of widespread vaccination among the equine population. There may also be less vector transmission by mosquitoes as a result of a reduction in the prevalence of WNV in the reservoir population of wild birds.

Formal Breeders' Delegates Meeting
The formal breeders' delegates meeting covered a wide range of topics.

Codes of Ethics
Of particular interest is the trend of Breeders' Associations to develop national Codes of Ethics which expressly articulate rules of conduct primarily relating to Equine Agents. England, U.S., Japan and South Africa have formally adopted Codes of Ethics while the French Breeder's Association is currently in the process of drafting one. There is no uniform code to date. Indeed, the codes vary greatly in scope, detail, and enforceability. For the most part they serve as guidelines establishing a standard of conduct for principals, agents and veterinarians. For specifics one should inquire directly to the TBA of the subject country. Of particular interest was the recent Kentucky legislation (HB 446 - aka The Jess Jackson Legislation) dealing with dual agency issues. The operational impact of this legislation remains to be seen but with treble damages plus cost it is sure to be watched closely.

Southern Hemisphere Birth Date
Another matter of considerable debate and disagreement is the Southern Hemisphere birth date. In the Northern Hemisphere, January 1 is universally recognized and generally accepted without argument as the best and simplest method to synchronize the racing crops. Not so in the Southern Hemisphere where Australia and New Zealand allow a foal born before August 1 to be registered, provided the dam was covered after September 1 of the previous year. South Africa is considering the application of the same principal, only the foal cut off being July 1st (not August), provided the breeding date was June 1st or later. Although this debate is under the jurisdiction of a country's respective stud book, breeders and owners worldwide need to be aware of the differences and the potential changes.

Microchip Identification
Microchip identification is now common practice in the European Union and in some cases the near exclusive means for horse identification. Commentaries by delegates in those countries employing microchip technology assert that it has been generally satisfactory but that it is not without hazard. A confirmation or a double check protocol needs to be adhered to in order to prevent problems, as was evident in the well publicized stallion mix-up between Ukraine and Australia.

Issues in New Zealand, Australia
Further, New Zealand reported sweeping changes in tax law as it related to Thoroughbred breeding. The highly favorable changes illustrated the effectiveness of a motivated and cohesive Breeders Association. Australia highlighted a non-payment of service fees problem resulting from the "mare return" clause commonly utilized Down Under. Although peculiar to Australia, the report did illustrate the rapidly changing practices of an increasingly competitive international stallion market and the unforeseen consequences they can create.

South African Breeders Air Frustrations
South Africa reviewed recent cases of African Horse Sickness and the present protocol for exporting horses from their country. AHS has effectively isolated South Africa from participating in the global thoroughbred market. Delegates from that country were highly critical of what they believe are overzealous import requirements imposed by the European Union and USDA. Although clearly outside the purview of the IBM to participate in the international regulatory process, the IBM afforded a stage for South Africans to publicize their rather significant frustration.