Buying a horse is a big emotional and financial investment and you need to make the right choice! When trying to decide whether or not to buy a horse, a Prepurchase Exam is critical. A veterinary “stem to stern” exam of your prospect could uncover medical issues of the eyes, heart, lungs, skin tumors, previous surgeries and more commonly, lameness. There are both unscrupulous sellers out there and people who simply don’t know the horse they are selling is sick or lame. The veterinarian, and potentially a trainer, can be useful allies in your quest to find the perfect match!
A normal Prepurchase Exam includes a thorough physical exam, hoof-tester and leg exam, jogging both straight and on the longe and flexion tests. It also may include you riding the horse while the veterinarian watches if it is warranted. At the end of this process the veterinarian will discuss the findings and their importance to you and the horse’s future use. At this point if more information is needed radiographs, ultrasound, blood-work, drug testing, fertility checks, or endoscopy can be performed at an additional cost. Sometimes by discussing any lameness findings with the seller, they may agree to pay for the diagnostics to see why the horse they are selling is lame.
There is no such thing as a perfect horse. Even with imperfections, the horse may be OK for you. Lame horses and horses with medical issues are frequently bought anyway, but this is not a decision to be taken lightly and getting the most information from all sources possible is the best way to determine if you are “shooting yourself in the foot” by making this decision.
One caveat to keep in mind always is that a Prepurchase Exam is a snapshot in time. The state of the horse at the time of exam might not be the state of the horse in the future. The veterinarian does not have a crystal ball at his/her disposal, but will do the best job they can to understand what you want from the horse and what that horse is capable of doing in the future.
Educate yourself, find allies to give you the benefit of their experiences, ride the horse as much as you can before the purchase and ask lots of questions!! Don’t try to save a penny now by skipping the Prepurchase Exam because you may end up wasting time and money down the road. It costs the same to care for a horse you can’t ride as one you can!