Ask Your Veterinarian Presented By Equistro: The Pitfalls Of Using Radiograph Reports At The Barn

by | 10.22.2018 | 10:19am
Potential buyers inspect horses at Fasig-Tipton

QUESTION: How would you like to see repository radiograph reports used at Thoroughbred auctions?

DR. KATHLEEN PAASCH:  As a veterinarian, I would like to see repository reports used within the confines of a veterinary-client relationship.  At public auction, this particular relationship exists when a client has hired a veterinarian to interpret radiographs (or perform other veterinary services) on his or her behalf.  The client may be a consignor/owner or a prospective buyer, but the important point is that the veterinarian is working for that client and has an understanding of what that specific client's needs are.

A repository report will note significant findings, but the veterinary-client relationship does not consist of this written report alone.  Rather, the report should be the start of a discussion with the client – be it owner, consignor or prospective buyer.  It is impossible to write a concise report that speaks to the needs of all these different parties.  Owners and consignors want different information than prospective buyers and even buyers differ considerably as to the level of information they need and what sorts of abnormal findings they are willing to accept in a horse.  For example, when reading for consignors, vets are able to explain the relative significance of findings which, in turn, can help them to set realistic expectations for selling.  A relationship is also in place when reading for buyers.  The vet should know whether prospective buyers are end-users or pin-hookers and have an understanding about their individual levels of risk tolerance.  Veterinarians can advise on findings that may hinder performance and what research has shown about particular issues.

The value of a report is not only in the written document but in the discussion that goes along with it.  Some might suggest that this discussion, tailored to the client's needs, is much more important than the words on the report.  When reports are used outside of this vet-client relationship, the discussion is lost.

I would argue that this protects all parties, not just the veterinarian.  Veterinarians are protected as they are able to explain their findings, but consignors/sellers are also protected in that they aren't responsible for interpreting the vet's comments nor assessing significance.  Equally as important, the buyer is protected because they have someone working on their behalf who is familiar with their needs.

When the repository was initiated, the intention was that prospective buyers would have their vets interpret the films available in the repository in order to minimize the need to make horses available for radiographic examinations on the sale grounds.  However, over the years it has become the norm to show veterinary reports to prospective buyers in barns and the back ring.  This is understandable due to the pressures to sell horses and may even seem to be logical.  Some buyers are very savvy at reading reports but many more are not familiar with veterinary descriptions and will reject a horse simply because the report does not read 'NSA [No Significant Abnormalities]' on all joints.  There are many radiographic findings that require a comment but are unlikely to impact performance.  When a horse is rejected based on a false understanding of the report, it has negative consequences for both consignors/sellers and buyers.

The above is a purely veterinary point of view and it is unlikely that the 'genie will go back in the bottle'.  Buyers are now accustomed to viewing reports and consignors who refuse to show them are presumed to be hiding something.  It can be difficult to sell horses in later books and showing a 'clean' report is helpful in getting buyers interested.

From a buyer's point of view, it can be expensive to have several prospects vetted and may seem unnecessary.  However, the current situation has drawbacks for all parties – buyers, sellers and veterinarians – and is not sustainable.  The CBA [Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association] has started discussions on repository report use and they are to be applauded for tackling this.   Further discussions will surely follow, but a return to a situation where buyers and sellers can form a relationship with a veterinarian who works on their behalf has clear advantages.

Dr. Kathleen Paasch is a shareholder in Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. She received her DVM from Washington State University and completed Rood and Riddle's internship program the following year. Dr. Paasch specializes in lameness, diagnostic imaging, and acupuncture.


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