‘Starting point is that foals auctioned off at Z-Auctions are delivered in tip-top state, without anomalies, healthy and in optimum condition’
In a shop we take what we like. At foal auctions we buy and take… no, don't take home what we have just purchased, because auction foals are still too young to be separated from their dams. Sometimes there is a period of several weeks between purchase and delivery. A period during which playful foals in the midst of their growing process and youthful enthusiasm get introduced to life as it is. They are introduced to the veterinarian and the farrier, a headcollar, coughing, you name it. They learn how to fall and regain their feet. Foals have to experience all this and yet, the intention is to deliver each foal in exactly the same state as it was when presented at the auction: healthy and in good condition. In order to guarantee just that, all auction foals from the Z-Auctions are inspected by veterinarian Hanna Remans before delivery. And if she has any remarks it is Diliana Augustus who acts, in all transparency, as a mediator between buyer and seller .
Hanna Remans is the independent veterinarian who inspects the foals again before delivery.
It is an understatement to say that Zangersheide is the ultimate auction platform known worldwide. There are many factors that contribute to this flawless reputation. There are the selections, the atmosphere and ambiance at the auctions. Everything is testimony to the high-quality standards that are maintained. What you cannot see, is how those same standards also prevail behind the scenes from before and after the auction. Beforehand, during the selection of the foals. Afterwards on delivery. How does that work and how is it organised? End of October we were present during a day of delivery and witnessed the proceedings.
On principle, the foals return home after the auction. Exceptions can be made for foals from abroad that live far from Lanaken and are at minimum five months old. There is the option for them to stay in Lanaken. From the moment when payment has come through, buyer and seller are informed of the delivery. For that the foals have to be at least five months old.
Next, the breeder takes his/her foal to Zangersheide on the agreed date, where a medical check will be carried out by Hanna Remans, an independent veterinarian. When she gives the green light the breeder gets paid and the foal is put on transport to the buyer.
Hanna Remans knows the foals from the live auctions because she also carried out the pre-auction inspections of the foals. Foals that are auctioned online have a medical certificate from the breeder’s/owner’s veterinarian.
You might think this delivery is just a formality. How wrong you are. After all, we are dealing with a young life and there is a gap between auction and delivery of several weeks.
Zangersheide lays down several conditions before the delivery. The foal must be used to a headcollar and the farrier. It has to be in good condition, it must have been dewormed and the feet have to be nicely trimmed on delivery. This represents the calling card of the seller as well as the auction.
The auction foals are insured by Zangersheide for their sales price up to ten days after delivery. Which in concrete terms means that the foal is also insured during transport to its new owner.
Every foal has its own dossier: a passport and health papers, which is a mandatory European directive for international transport
Every foal has its own dossier: a passport and health papers, which is a mandatory European directive for international transport. Along with this there are the medical reports from just before the auction and just before the delivery.
Along with the identity, the medical check also comprises ears, eyes, teeth, heart, lungs, breathing, digestion, feet, stance, genitals, potential umbilical- or groin hernia.
What could go wrong? We ask Diliana Augustus, who is responsible for the delivery. ‘In case a foal arrives for delivery and it doesn’t comply with the conditions for delivery, we first investigate the seriousness of the observation. Foals of six to seven weeks old can be sold at an auction. If a few months later it turns out the foal has developed a deviation in stance, this may be reason for annulment. We keep emphasising to give the foal the best possible care until the moment of delivery. The seller has to take that responsibility. That will save him/her money and time for everybody.’
In case a dispute arises it is Diliana Augustus’s task to play the mediator between both parties. If a foal does not meet the standard for delivery when so requested, then there is a possibility for it to stay at Zangersheide. Here the foal can be treated and monitored so that the delivery can still go ahead. Starting point is that foals auctioned off at any Z-Auction are delivered in tip-top state, without anomalies, healthy and in optimum condition.
For many foals the time of delivery overlaps with the time of weaning. Some of them travel to Zangersheide in the company of their dams and separating them takes place here. Other foals are separated at home and travel to Lanaken without their dam. For transport it is much safer, easier and more comfortable if the foal travels together with the dam. Unless of course, if weaning took place a while ago. As it is, weaning is quite a stressful period for foals anyway.
Paul Schockemöhle purchased four foals at the Z-Quality Auction, one of them being Especial For Fun Z who now already has a world record to his name. Somebody who’s willing to dish out € 160,000.- for a foal clearly sets great store by a good delivery. So Schockemöhle sent a delegation of four staff members on their way, including some veterinarians, to supervise and make sure that his new assets can travel to their new home in the best of conditions. And that is necessary, so we understand: ‘Today we're going to visit three auctions where Paul Schockemöhle bought foals. The plan is to take the foals home.
Schockemöhle delegated several veterinarians to ensure that his new arrivals could go to their new home in optimal conditions.
Beforehand we give them a thorough medical- and physical check. That is standard procedure. A lot can happen in the period between purchase and delivery and two pairs of eyes see more than one. The most common remarks are about deviations in stance. Or about the first diagnosis of OCD. We know where we’re buying and in Zangersheide there are few to no remarks.’
The four foals from the Zangersheide Quality Auction are declared healthy and well and leave for their new stables.
Suppliers, veterinarians come and go and also on the premises is farrier Paul Bocken. That’s convenient, it gives us an opportunity to interview him too. When does he get into the picture when it comes to foals? ‘At Zangersheide we see the foals for the first time when they are between two and four months old. Unless the foal has a deviating stance like a club foot, then we act sooner. As a rule, the feet of auction foals are nicely trimmed before they are shown to the public. That is a common-sense, correct service and I always advise my clients to have their foal’s feet trimmed again some ten days before delivery.’ Paul Bocken finds that more and more breeders see the importance of well-kept feet. ‘Foals grow fast and so do their feet. Depending on the type of surface they are mainly turned out on, their feet need to get the right care. People should never underestimate the importance of properly cared-for feet. Well then, the Quality Auction did not steal its name. It’s fair to say that the Z auctions provide quality and that starts right here with the feet. The feet are correct when they are presented. If not they won’t make the standard’, is Bocken’s experience. ‘Breeders have to be alert and assess their foals on a hard surface and not just in the field or on straw bedding. A timely intervention by a farrier can put many things right.’ The sooner you take action the more and better the corrections will be, we understand. In their first year the feet of Zangersheide foals are trimmed every three months, Paul Bocken gives away, and that’s how it should be.
Meanwhile veterinarian Hanna Remans has clocked more than 10,000 steps on her pedometer. At a certain moment Zangersheide looks like a drive-in with a long queue of trailers. Hanna coordinates, observes and advises. Hanna’s checks remind me of the medical checks we used to get at primary school. There’s no escape, everyone has to go through it. For the foals it’s no different. Doctor Hanna has the report in her hand, the only thing left is filling it in. Point 1 is about the overall condition. It can happen that foals have a setback after weaning, which makes them lose a bit of condition.
Every foal experiences a setback, Remans knows: ‘The oldest foals are the least troubled by it. These were born in April, May and spent spring and summer in the field. Later foals have missed out on that and are younger when they are stabled up. This difference often shows at the end of the year, or at the time of the delivery. Foals can surprise us both in a positive and negative sense. Some have grown and developed well, others are in less good condition. They all go through these phases throughout their growth process and especially the first few months are crucial. Hence, there can be a difference between the moments of selection and the auction and later again at the time of delivery.’
This year for instance, six foals selected for the Quality Auction were not presented on the basis of their medical report, which was drawn up 48 hours prior to the auction. That is an indication of the strict interpretation of the medical report. ‘Zangersheide maintains high standards and foals that are below the mark are categorically withdrawn. By now, the breeders who want to present their foals know how strict we are. Which is why we see ever fewer problems these days’, Hanna says with a wink.
The Jury and I have a different perspective on how we look at the foals, Hanna says. ‘I don't consider their pedigree, movement, gaits etc. I look at the foal in a different way, from a medical angle. I look at the mouth, the teeth, eyes, ears, heart, lungs, leg conformation. That’s my job.’
What are the most common stumbling blocks? Hanna sums up a few of the classics: ‘When I come across an underbite or overbite I find it important that the upper and lower teeth make contact. I keep saying that. That is an important item because it is a hereditary disorder. If a potential buyer purchases a colt foal for the purpose of future stud stallion, I know that after three years this will be a reason to reject the horse at a stallion inspection. So you don’t want to present such a horse at your auction. For a good understanding, it has also happened that a foal with an overbite was sold anyway because the buyer wanted a sport horse and had no ambitions for breeding. My medical reports are completed in good faith and then it’s up to the buyer to decide. Fact is that purchasers at the Z-Quality Auction seemingly blindly rely on our veterinary reports. Zangersheide cannot afford to allow any deviation.’
80% of foals we refuse or don’t give green light for delivery have issues with hoof conformation
It can happen that a foal has a cough or a bit of a runny nose, with or without fever. That’s not so bad in itself, but in this condition a foal cannot be accepted for delivery. Then we agree with the seller to present the foal for delivery at a later date, after it has recovered. It’s the same with diarrhoea. This is rarely a prohibitive issue, but the seller first needs to treat and sort out the problem.’ That all seems self-evident, but obviously not everyone has the same take on things.
Most issues concern the feet, more precisely the deviations, Hanna Remans states: ‘Toeing-out, toeing-in, boxy (steep) feet. ‘80% of foals we refuse or don’t give green light for delivery have issues with hoof conformation. At birth most foals are slightly toeing-out because they are fairly narrow in the chest. That usually cures itself in the course of the growing process when both feet become a symmetrical pair. It becomes an issue when we’re dealing with asymmetry, with one foot noticeably more pointing outwards than the other. Foot deviations are often difficult to evaluate because a lot can be remedied by the farrier. In such cases we usually postpone the delivery.’
A Belgian foal that’s presented is slightly toeing-out, although veterinarian and farrier agree that this can be fixed. It is recorded in the report along with a few recommendations. ‘By now word has got round that we are very strict. A foal with one crooked foot which originates in the fetlock, does not get through.’
Breeders who present their foal at a selection know by now how strict we are. Hence, we see increasingly fewer problems
Zangersheide sets very high standards, Remans explains: ‘We are extremely strict where auctions are concerned and it is the auction committee that decides whether or not a foal is accepted for presentation at the auction. As far as the delivery is concerned it is the buyer who decides whether or not to buy the foal, taking our medical report into account.’
Meanwhile we have seen some twenty foals and some of them got a minor remark from Doctor Hanna. Fortunately, most of these cases can be solved. ‘It’s a shame though that sellers still want to deliver their foals under these circumstances’, Hanna sighs: ‘There was a foal with a skin fungus, which is terribly contagious. That’s not a risk you want to take, is it? Nobody wants to get the whole yard infected? We sent that foal straight back.’ Another foal has a fat belly but still the ribs all stand out. Probably not given a de-wormer, Remans concludes: ‘With a good deworming programme and good nutrition that can be sorted out within a few weeks. The seller could and should have taken the responsibility to take care of that. We then inform the buyer and he decides if he wants to accept the foal anyhow or prefers to wait until the seller can deliver the foal in a better condition.
For another foal there’s also the need for mediation between buyer and seller. His foal has grown fast, which has triggered a reaction in the growth plates above the fetlock joint. That’s not too much of an issue, it’s just a matter of time before it heals by itself. Talking to both parties results in the decision to leave the foal with the seller for a few more months.
Hanna Remans also checks for umbilical/groin hernias because these are easily overlooked. It rarely happens, if it does then the costs for surgery and after-treatment fall to the seller. Delivery of the foal can take place after it has fully recovered.
With colt foals it is important that two testicles can be detected. It may happen that only one testicle has descended at the time of the auction. If so, this is explicitly announced during the auction because it can take as long as eighteen months, even two years before both testicles have descended. Rather essential when a buyer seeks to invest in a future stud stallion.
A hobby breeder from Limburg has arrived to deliver his foal. He always sells his foals and was pleased to sell it via the Z-Quality Auction. ‘After the auction she returned home, back into the field. She is seven months old now and has just been weaned. It’s a quiet foal and parting from her dam took place at home. This went smoothly, just like the transport. My foals get used to being tied up at home. Every day I teach them manners and that shows when I take them elsewhere. She is used to the farrier, the veterinarian and has been dewormed. I’m confident about the delivery.’ The foal received the green light and left that same day.
The auction foals are insured by Zangersheide for their sales price up to ten days after delivery. Which in concrete terms means that the foal is also insured during transport to its new owner
Another breeder sold four foals that all changed owners today. How did he care for his foals during the last few weeks? ‘My foals were playing in the field but as soon as it started to rain I immediately called them in. I keep grooming them until they go away for delivery. I deliver my foals in the same condition as they were when presented at the auction. I attach great importance to that. I don’t want to be complacent. When for instance, I see that a foal is getting too skinny then I tie the mare up a little while so that the foal gets a chance to eat at leisure. On the day of delivery my foals get their last dewormer and the farrier visited every month. If you want to provide quality then you also have to invest in the aftercare. If you can earn several tens of thousands in Euros at auction then you should not make an issue about spending one thousand Euros on caring for your foal.’ So there you are, that’s how it should be.