Summerfield to Offer Spanish Translations of Vet Reports at OBS

Andrew Vanlangendonck


When bidding opens Tuesday at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's Winter Mixed Sale, buyers shopping in the back walking ring will have another tool available to them with Summerfield Sales offering Spanish translations of its vets reports. Summerfield's Andrew Vanlangendonck saw the need for the translations and hopes providing them will support the consignment's lower-market horses.

“Summerfield sells anywhere between 250-350 horses a year and our largest sales are typically in January and October at OBS,” Vanlangendonck said. “A large number of those buyers are Hispanic and a lot of them buy out of the back ring. They don't do what the big buyers do, which is to go look at a horse three or four times, have them vetted, because they are working and vetting horses costs a ton of money.”

While Spanish-speaking buyers can often grasp the basic findings on the vet reports, Vanlangendonck said he has seen some buyers walk away from horse's with more verbose comments on their vet reports.

“Some of these vet reports could potentially have a ton of verbiage and it could mean nothing,” he said. “It's just something that is noted, but it's not a defect, it's not anything negative. It's just that's what it is. I would see a lot of these guys–grooms, riders–they would look at it and there would be too much verbiage on there for them to understand, so they would just turn around and walk away. The Latin words, like sesamoid and things like that, they know that. They understand that. But there were things that I would find would stump them, things like 'mild flattening of the mid-sagittal ridge.' They would understand mid-sagittal ridge, but they would say, 'What is mild flattening?' As a consignor, I'm not a veterinarian, so I try my best not to interpret X-ray reports for individuals because, if it's not done absolutely correct, it could be a liability.”

Vanlangendonck spent 10 years in the military and was stationed overseas, so he has first-hand knowledge of the issue.

“Being in the military, I lived overseas for eight years, in five different countries and none of those countries spoke English,” Vanlangendonck said. “So I know exactly how it feels to be completely encased in a country that does not speak the language that you speak.”

To make the information available on vet reports more easily accessible to Spanish-speaking clients just seemed a logical next step, Vanlangendonck said.

“The Latin community is a large–if not a majority–purchaser of our lower level horses,” he explained. “And they've made a lot of money doing that–buying horses for $5,000, $10,000 and selling them for $50,000 or $60,000, or $150,000. So not catering to that market, I felt was kind of wrong. Everything is translatable, so I wondered why we wouldn't have X-ray reports that cater to the biggest buyers at that level.”

Vanlangendonck originally faced push-back from vets who balked at translating the work of other vets, but he's found support from Dr. Alberto Rullan of Performance Equine Veterinary Services and Equine Performance and Innovation Center (EPIC), for whom Vanlangendonck works as a rehabilitation manager.

Rullan sees the translations as a huge step forward in providing additional information to another population of prospective buyers.

“It's the same thing I do every day,” Rullan said. “It's what I do for my clients. They call me and I need to explain to them in Spanish. I think the idea of translating [vet reports] and putting it in writing, I am providing that as an official service. Let's start making it official. I think it will be ground-breaking. You know how many buyers there are from Panama, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, even Mexicans, and a lot of people living in the United States speak more Spanish than English, so it's a very, very good idea.”

Asked if his translations of the vet reports should be viewed as straight translations or interpretations, Rullan said, “I would say, it's a little bit of both. As a veterinarian, just by default, I cannot just translate without interpreting. How am I going to do that? The client is always going to ask, 'So what prognosis does this carry?' You know it will happen. So there will be an overlap in translating versus interpretation on the report.”

Vanlangendonck hopes this first offering of translations at OBS this coming week will provide valuable feedback on what works and what could be done differently in the future.

“Summerfield has a large consignment at OBS all the time, so I am able to do stats–how well is it received–because if I can do it for 40 horses, that gives me a pretty good idea of what people like and don't like,” he said. “[Rullan] is going to do it for free this go-around just to test it. And then later on, whatever price, he puts on it will be what he decides to do.

“Once people are readily able to read it in their own language, even if they don't buy the horse, they might go and raise their hand once. So even when the service is charged, if these buyers raise their hand once, they've already paid for this translation service several times over. If they bid once, it's at least $1,000.”

In addition to the translated reports, Rullan and EPIC will also be providing buyers with translation support over the phone this week at OBS.

“EPIC will have–we are calling it the bat phone for now, but I am sure we will come up with a different name,” Vanlangendonck said. “But the phone is essentially going to go to one of the Spanish-speaking veterinarians that are basically on stand-by. This time it will be free because we want to see how it goes, but they can quickly give you the yes or no. [Buyers] will be able to talk to a Spanish-speaking vet and that's what they are there for. They are not doing additional stuff. This will be somebody sitting there ready to do this.”

Rullan said he sees a real need for the added information in the sales arena.

“Every sale, without fail, I have a buyer who comes to me after they buy a horse and that horse is not suitable for resale or racing,” he said. “So if I could help even a little bit, it would make a huge economic difference for a lot of these investors. They couldn't understand or there was a translation issue–it all happens very fast. The person who shows the report in the ring is trying to explain to the best of their abilities, but a lot of them don't speak Spanish, right? And what can they do? It goes really fast, the horse goes, the client bids on them–'Oh. I thought it was nothing.' Sometimes I go back to the consignor and he says, 'I told the guy, I told him specifically that this was going on.' But it doesn't matter what you tell them, it matters what they hear and what they understand.”

Rullan thinks the translation services will benefit both sides of the sales transaction.

“I think it's a win-win for everybody,” he said. “Because it increases the credibility and takes it to another level and to another population.”

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