The Prepurchase Exam
Know what you’re getting into before you invest in a new horse.
Purchasing a horse is generally thought to be a major investment, especially when you tally the actual purchase price with the cost of lessons, training, feed, farrier, and veterinary services associated with horse ownership. When making such an investment, is there any way to guarantee that your expenditure is justified? Although it is impossible to guarantee the soundness, health, and behavior of an animal, there are a few steps you can take in order to limit your risk when spending a lot of money on a single horse. From a veterinarian’s perspective, one of the most important things you should do prior to money changing hands is to perform a prepurchase examination. This involves a very thorough soundness examination and a comprehensive physical performed by a veterinarian chosen by the buyer.
Once you have done the initial work of finding the horse, riding it a few times, and consulting with your trainer, you should have your veterinarian perform a prepurchase examination. These procedures usually take between one and two hours, so be sure to plan enough time.
GVEC has a very detailed form that is completed at the time of the examination. During the extensive soundness evaluation, we watch the horse being ridden (if it’s old enough, and a riding horse),longed, and jogged in hand. We perform flexion tests on the joints in each leg. A flexion test involves bending a particular joint and holding it in the flexed position for 45 to 90 seconds, then asking the horse to jog away. We watch for abnormally painful responses to these flexions and make a note of them. While the horse is being ridden, we also listen for abnormal respiratory noises that might indicate an endoscopic examination of the throat is warranted.
After the soundness evaluation is completed we move on to the physical examination. All major organ systems are evaluated, paying close attention to the eyes and heart. We also critically evaluate the skin for any signs of scarring that might indicate a previous major surgery (such as colic surgery or a neurectomy) or serious injury.
Depending on the horse’s history, its intended use, and whether or not a resale is in its future, we try to help you make appropriate, cost-effective decisions on how many radiographs to take and how many tests to run.
After the exam, we discuss the radiographs, the results of other diagnostic tools (such as ultrasound and endoscopy), and blood tests. There obviously is no such thing as a perfect horse with flawless x-rays, so we have to interpret all of the abnormalities we find and decide with you, the prospective owner, how much these may or may not affect the horse’s future soundness and/or resale value.
We do not “fail” a horse nor do we “pass” one, but we can give you advice based on our findings so you will hopefully end up being the smiling owner of a happy, sound horse.