The pre-purchase examination is an objective evaluation of the horse to discover any problems that might affect the horse’s current or future performance and health. It helps to answer the questions of should this horse be able to do the job we want it to do, and what (if anything) may we need to address health or soundness-wise in the future?
Pre-purchase exams should include a thorough physical exam where the heart, lungs, eyes, conformation, skin, teeth, legs, and feet are evaluated. After the initial exam, the horse’s gaits are evaluated (in hand, under saddle or both) before flexion tests are performed to identify any areas of soreness. Buyers or agents are strongly encouraged to be present at the exam, so any questions and concerns can be addressed in person. It's also recommended to obtain a detailed medical history from the seller, including any radiographs, ultrasounds, vaccinations, dentals, lameness, joint injections, illnesses, etc.
If the buyer is comfortable with the findings of the examination, further diagnostics can be pursued. Radiographs are recommended to check for any boney abnormalities, particularly of any potential problem areas identified during the exam. A full set of radiographs is always recommended and will provide a “baseline” should any issues arise in the future. Ultrasonography can be performed on any old injuries, or thickened tendons. Laboratory testing can be performed, most commonly general health screening and toxicology (drug testing for any pain killers, sedatives or other medications). When all lab and x-ray results are complete, the buyer is sent the final report.
Contrary to popular opinion, most vets do not “pass” or “fail” a horse in a pre-purchase exam. Rather, they provide information to the buyer about the horse’s condition, and it is up to the buyer to decide whether or not to purchase the horse. The pre-purchase exam gives a snapshot of the horse’s condition at the time of the exam and does not guarantee soundness or performance. The buyer should be aware that a pre-purchase examination is rarely completely “clean,” as a vet can nearly always find something of note. Please be advised that this evaluation is not to evaluate aptitude, ability, or temperamental suitability, as these are at the buyer and trainer’s discretion.
*This article was posted by Equivont.