PHOTOGRAPHY AND ONLINE SALES

May 25, 2020

Photographs and videos of sales lots do not appear on most European sales company websites. Individual vendors may publicise their wares, but the facility offered to South African vendors by the sales companies is something extra. In taking advantage, vendors are showing a picture of a horse taken some time before the sale itself by way of publicity. The photograph – or any video made available in more elaborate presentations – is not a substitute for a physical inspection in the flesh.

Videos filmed earlier in May or even in April and posted on the BSA website for the Nationals (end July) are by definition not representative of the horse that will appear at the sale. So far, that sale is expected to be “live” therefore there is nothing wrong because the videos are previews, because everyone knows that around three months would see a big change, and because actual inspections are scheduled to take place. If it were to become “on line”, fresh video photography would be necessary in a standardised form.

The Klawervlei Farm sale (on line) is videoing now, as late as possible. That sale has always been of non-prepped yearlings which means not all of them walk and stand ideally – you pays your money and you takes your choice. And there is time to visit farms within COVID19 rules if buyers wish.  Very good luck to all concerned, me included!

 

When completely reliant on videos

In the case of major on-line auctions – such as Breeze Ups (Ready to Runs) where all the lots have actually gathered, or if (Heaven forfend) the Nationals had to be held on line, any image presented by a sales company IS a substitute for a physical inspection in the flesh. The first pre-requisite (logically) for a major sale is that such images should be taken by the sales company which is presenting the horse to its buyers, obtained on site whenever inspections would normally commence.  There is an argument for creating the images or videos “as close as possible to the sale” much like some South African Breeze Up / Ready to Run horses used to gallop a week or even two weeks before the sale which was a novel concept to many of us, but it worked in consigning over 100 SA breezers one year and plenty in others and somehow the systems were made to work.

As to what is shown in a video as a substitute for an actual inspection…..the videos and production thereof is sub-contracted as would be expected. However the sub-contractors e.g. for the Nationals are not following the same formula as each other. Let me say that the camera work, quality of editing and professionalism of the crews is excellent. It is a matter of their brief and the timing. Are they producing a substitute for an inspection or a promotional film?

I – like a good many others – have inspected tens of thousands of yearlings, breezers and horses in training in more or less the identical manner to any professional inspector. The difference being not in “the best way to look at a horse” but in our eyes and opinions while doing so. Of course with breezers and h-i-t, they are also trotted up on hard standing.

A yearling needs to walk in both directions for a fair number of strides, seen from the side from the same distance in all cases. This is not always possible in crowded viewing facilities, but one can always – in the flesh – go back and look again. He or she needs to walk away from the inspector a sufficient number of strides, be seen on the turn (important), and back towards the inspector. Stood up, he or she needs to be seen from the side, front and back. Usually on one side (with the sun in the right place if it is out) but sometimes both sides.

 

Slo-Mo

I have not seen anyone walk steadily in a big circle, even if they had space, 360 degrees, around a stationary horse. And I think most lead up people would have difficulty asking a horse to walk in slow motion, as well as doing it themselves.

As far as I can recall, nobody has ever played music while I am inspecting a horse. Hearing the footfall on hard standing is part of the experience, including the very helpful facility to watch a foot arrive at the ground on a foreleg with some imperfection on the move. This is a bit of an issue at Cape Premier on the indoor rubber, but, hey, we adapt; and my picky point is challenged by the placement of many very hard rubber brick surfaces on show runways these days. You can see the footfall but not hear it. But rubber bricks do not come with musical accompaniment either.

“On the turn”, looking down the runway, has always been super important in exposing “something wrong” e.g. after breezing. Even with a yearling….the other day at Mistico a filly with a one big white hind leg looked ok on the move but clearly uncomfortable on the turn. On close inspection there was some swelling of the white fetlock which remained swollen, even though not involving major injury. But why buy trouble?

 

Great videos but not if we rely on them as the only inspection

Looking at 100 horses a day (or whatever your number is) requires getting on with it very rapidly. Looking at videos might involve the same urgency if seeing the whole sale, but not if picking and choosing. I have seen quite long videos made by more than one team recently – excellent, really excellent, as professional pieces of filming and editing. But not substitutes for an actual inspection as future examples might have to be…

 

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Soon in Ireland there will be a Breeze Up (Ready to Run) sale by three sales companies joining together. It will be on line but of course all the horses will be there to breeze and go through the unattended ring. Without the Federation of Bloodstock Agents, and some agents who are not UK based, there would be no such sales. The work is quite specialised and time consuming – attending the gallops, looking and listening to the horses (which is why the sales company presenter shuts up when the horses are at the business end), inspecting, reinspecting, vetting etc etc.

 

Here are our Federation of UK Bloodstock Agents requirement to the sales companies for an actual on line Breeze Up Sale:

  • High quality conformation videos and photos of each individual lot.  Direct views of the 2yo coming toward & away from the camera as well as the standard footage of the horse on the move from the side (which has previously been what Sirecam produced).  Preferably taken in the same location with the camera set-up the same distance away each time and a plain background.
  • Video of the 2 furlong breeze to include 30 seconds or so of the 2yo getting to the 2F marker.
  • Gallop Out – We must also make sure that the camera watches the 2yo gallop out for at least a furlong (some have suggested 2 furlongs).
  • Post-Breeze Trot – Video of each lot trotting-up the following morning – side, front & rear.  It must not be straight after the 2yo breezes when they are still warm.
  • Electronic timing of each breeze, for the two furlong breeze plus a pull-up must be facilitated officially or in the usual manner.
  • Wind Calculation on each day (as in which direction & strength is the wind blowing in relation to the breeze)
  • Going reading on each day which might change due to drying or rain – a TurfTrax Going Stick would be ideal.
  • Weights of each individual lot on the day of breeze.  Mobile weighing scales are easy to set-up and it wouldn’t take long to walk horses over them.
  • Height of each horse.  Possibly this could be done by each vet (some are better at estimating heights than others!).
  • Vetting – Each horse to have a clinical vetting post-breeze by a panel of 3 vets, with recently taken good quality video-scope & post-breeze x-rays to be available online.  We’d recommend Rossdales, NEH, Baker McVeigh & Mark MacRedmond.  Ideally all at the vendor’s expense but a contribution could possibly be charged to the buyer.
  • Blood Tests – To be taken at the same time as the post-breeze trot-up with the buyer having the option to test the sample or not.

At the time of writing, we await confirmation but most of the above has to be complied with as the agents unable to be there in person to carry out or require much of the above. In a zoom meeting of the FBA two weeks ago, we acknowledged that some vendors want to breeze 3 instead of 2 furlongs and amended accordingly. The whole (American) business of timing is always questioned because we can be pretty sure that the fastest breezers generally do not end up being the best horses, but if breezing has any value, no owner wants his or her agent/manager/consultant to send home a demonstrably slow one – unless perhaps the ground was a bit soft and the wind had changed!

Having myself been a co-manager of a consignment of 75 breezers all at once at a sale in Johannesburg, I know how difficult some of this would be. The key point however is that in the above instance, the onus is not on the consignors but on the sales company (which is the contractual/invoicing seller of the horses under Conditions of Sale) to provide and pay for such arrangements, however they deal with their clients.