Making Informed Decisions: The Importance of Pre-Purchase Exams for Horses

Congratulations! You’ve found the perfect horse. But before finalizing the purchase, have you considered whether the horse should undergo a pre-purchase exam? Buyers are reminded of the importance of not making their purchasing decision solely based on the selling price, as the long-term costs associated with horse ownership can far surpass the initial investment. Conducting a pre-purchase exam provides buyers with valuable insights into the horse’s health and helps them make an informed decision.

Establishing a Baseline

A pre-purchase exam serves as a baseline assessment of the horse’s health at a specific point in time. It involves a thorough physical evaluation, including an examination of the eyes for cataracts, listening to the heart, gut, and lungs, and checking for swelling, scars, or joint abnormalities. Flexion test are to assess the horse’s comfort level and observes its movement on different surfaces, both on the lunge line and under saddle.

The purpose of a pre-purchase exam is not to pass or fail a horse but to provide a comprehensive understanding of its health and well-being at that specific moment. The veterinarian’s role is to offer as much information as possible, allowing the buyer to make an informed decision.

Equine Drug Screen

In addition to the physical evaluation most veterinarians recommend a drug screen to detect the presence of anti-inflammatories and long-term sedatives. This step is particularly important for horses intended for beginner riders or amateurs, ensuring that the horse is not under the influence of any drugs. Furthermore, a drug screen protects sellers from false claims of drugging when changes in diet, training, or environment are responsible for behavioral changes.

The Insight Provided by X-Rays

X-rays are commonly used in pre-purchase exams for racehorses and high-performance horses. The necessity for extensive imaging depends on the flexion test results and the buyer’s goals. While x-rays can reveal potential issues, they do not determine the horse’s rideability. For example, a 15-year-old horse may show imperfections on x-rays while remaining sound for less demanding activities, such as being a lesson horse. On the other hand, x-rays may indicate that a young prospect is unlikely to remain sound for a specific discipline.

Considerations and Costs

The cost of a pre-purchase exam varies based on location and the included services. As a starting point, you can expect:

Physical exam: $200

Drug screen: $150 to $400

X-rays: $200 to $2,000+ (depending on the extent of imaging required)

Real-Life Experiences

Several horse owners have shared their experiences with pre-purchase exams. One buyer in upstate New York discovered discrepancies in the horse’s age and lameness during the exam, leading her to decline the purchase. In another case, a buyer requested x-rays for a young barrel racing prospect, revealing joint spacing issues that wouldn’t withstand the demands of the sport. This information guided the seller to market the horse for trail riding instead. Lastly, a horse owner in New Jersey opted out of a pre-purchase exam due to her knowledge of the horse’s history and her collaboration with wellness professionals.

Avoiding Conflict of Interest

To prevent conflicts of interest, it is advisable to hire an independent veterinarian unaffiliated with the horse’s care. This ensures unbiased evaluation and full disclosure of the horse’s medical history. In situations where finding an independent veterinarian is challenging, buyers should request access to the horse’s complete medical records. Unwillingness to provide such information may raise concerns.

The Value of Pre-Purchase Exams

While requesting a pre-purchase exam may initially seem like doubt or mistrust, it is essential for making informed decisions. Obtaining comprehensive information about the horse upfront helps determine if it is the right fit for your needs. Remember, investing in a pre-purchase exam can save both buyers and sellers from future complications and ensure the well-being of the horse you choose to bring into your life.

By Staff writer