Pre-purchase Examinations Provide Peace of Mind
A pre-purchase examination is an evaluation of the horse’s body systems and temperament on the day it is examined by the attending veterinarian. The results of the examination will help the veterinarian advise the buyer as to whether the horse will be able to perform its intended use. The pre-purchase examination is done at the request of the buyer with written permission from the seller.
At minimum, a pre-purchase examination consists of a very thorough physical examination and gait analysis where the veterinarian will evaluate the following:
- Musculoskeletal system: palpation of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints; range of motion in each limb, response to hoof testers, trimming history, and gait analysis.
- Respiratory: general auditory examination before and after exercise. Upper airway endoscopy can be performed at the request of the buyer with permission from the seller.
- Visual: ophthalmic examination (usually not dilated), assessment of the nerves controlling the eyes, pupils, and eyelids.
- Cardiovascular: auscultation before and after exercise; usually does not involve echocardiogram or EKG unless requested by the buyer. Both tests usually require a board-certified cardiologist and specialized monitoring devices.
- Digestive: general history, diet, housing, deworming history, auscultation of the digestive tract, dental “check,” may include a fecal egg count. A full speculum dental exam and a rectal exam generally are not performed due to the need for sedation and the potential risks involved.
- Nervous system: evaluates limb placement, cranial nerves, and proprioception.
- It may also include drug testing to verify exam findings were not obscured.
Most pre-purchase examinations involve x-rays to evaluate the horse’s limbs and spine. X-ray views may be dictated by the gait analysis portion of the pre-purchase examination or they may be pre-determined by the buyer and the intended use of the horse. Commonly the front feet, fetlocks, hocks, and stifles are x-rayed.
Some findings may arise during the evaluation that dictate the continuation or direction of the examination. Therefore, it is beneficial to have both the buyer and the seller available for consultation during the examination to ensure the process continues in the best possible direction. If an examination finding results in the buyer choosing not to continue the service, it is the seller’s decision to pursue further veterinary diagnostics, treatment, and/or advice.
A pre-purchase examination only documents the horse’s body systems and temperament on the day and at the time it was evaluated. It does not guarantee the horse will be sound on any other date. It only verifies how the horse presented during the examination, whether any findings may or may not impact its future intended use, or what maintenance care the horse may need to perform its intended use.
Pre-purchase examinations are a valuable tool for anyone looking for their future riding companion or competitor. They can provide both buyer and seller with peace of mind and possibly negate legal issues in the future by providing documentation on the horse’s physical and mental status prior to purchase. Most of all, a pre-purchase examination is an investment that helps find the right horse for you.