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June is New Pet Month at SRH! Horse shopping and pre-purchase evaluations

By June 17, 2017 Monthly Topics

June is new pet month at SRH! If you are considering purchasing a new horse, it might be a good idea to think about doing a pre-purchase evaluation.


What’s the Point?

If a prepurchase exam can’t guarantee that a horse will be your perfect mount, why bother? For one thing, it could prove that a particular animal won’t be suitable, saving you from heartache and financial loss. Plus, it can expose health concerns not apparent to the naked or untrained eye that could present management issues now or later, giving you an opportunity to decide if you want to take on that problem.

In short, the true purpose of a prepurchase exam is “to help provide the buyer with enough information to make an informed decision as to whether a horse will meet their needs,” says Wendy Schofield, DVM, a practitioner with the Sport Horse Program at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky. “We are there to assess general health, conformation, and soundness for intended use.”

Another goal of the prepurchase exam is to try and uncover any pre-existing conditions a horse might have, says David Celella, DVM, of Rockwall Equine Center in Terrell, Texas. “Any horse is salable and every horse has problems,” he says. “We’re trying to identify those problems and see if the buyer is willing to deal with them.”

What a prepurchase exam is not, note Celella and Schofield, is a pass-fail test or a guarantee of long-term health and soundness. Rather, it’s a snapshot of a moment in time.


Elements of the Exam

In general, a prepurchase exam will include three phases:

  • Basic health evaluation, including health history, temperature, pulse, respiration, general condition, and conformation;
  • Lameness assessment, including flexion tests, soft tissue palpation, and movement evaluation;
  • Ancillary diagnostics that might not come into play, including radiographs (X rays), ultrasound, and bloodwork.

Many prepurchase exams end there, after the basic physical evaluation and soundness assessment. At that point, the buyer might have enough information to make a decision. People who move forward with additional diagnostics usually do so for one of two reasons (or both):

  • A red flag has popped up during the initial exam. It’s enough of a concern to warrant further investigation, but not enough to be an automatic deal-breaker in the buyer’s eyes.
  • The buyer wants to obtain as much information on the horse’s health as possible, even if the exam so far has yielded satisfactory results.


Each phase in the process can include multiple steps. Exactly what’s included in your prospect’s exam depends to some extent on your expectations, says Celella. Do you want to know a horse’s tiniest flaws? Or are you only concerned with major issues? How you intend to use the horse is another factor in determining the extent and content of the exam and how you assess the results. So be prepared to discuss your goals with your veterinarian before he or she starts the exam.

The Seller’s Role

A prepurchase exam isn’t just about the horse and the buyer, though. The seller also should be an active participant. That person should have a thorough knowledge of the horse’s health history–an essential component of the exam, according to both Schofield and Celella.

“I try to get as much information from the seller as I can,” says Schofield. “I ask for full disclosure, including prior medical issues, surgeries, treated conditions, as well as vaccines and deworming. I also ask if it’s okay to contact the (horse’s regular) veterinarian.”


Take-Home Message

By the time a prepurchase exam is done–whether you opted for just the basics or the deluxe version–the veterinarian should have “had their hands on every square inch of that horse,” says Celella. As a buyer, it’s then your job to listen with an open mind to your veterinarian’s findings.

On the one hand, notes Celella, “You should know you want the horse before you get to a prepurchase exam. Don’t do this as a tiebreaker. On the other hand, don’t be so attached that no matter what I tell you, you won’t listen. We call that a ‘post-purchase exam!’ ”

As part of your prepurchase reviews, you might also want to talk with the horse’s regular farrier. In addition, you might consider asking a qualified, unbiased farrier to check out the horse if you have any concerns about hoof shape, special shoeing needs, cracks, bruises, and the like.

Preparing yourself in advance means you’ll know going in what to expect from the experience, and what you’re willing to deal with as a horse owner. Communicating openly and honestly with your veterinarian ensures that everyone is on the same page and lets you make the most of the vet check. Together, these two steps will help set you to make a wise buying decision–and that means giving you the best shot at truly taking home the horse of your dreams.

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By Sushil Dulai Wenholz

Jun 26, 2007





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