Pre-purchase Examinations

Are you interested in purchasing a new horse for sport or recreation? With an excellent understanding of the demands that the different equestrian disciplines will place on your new horse, Dr Sean is an excellent choice to examine a prospective horse and assess its overall health and well-being.

Dr Sean can also examine radiographs and health reports of horses to be imported from overseas to give you assurance that your horse will be ready for the job when it arrives.

A pre-purchase exam establishes a baseline for the horse’s health at a specific point in time. It gives buyers as much knowledge as possible about the horse they are about to purchase on that day.

The object of a pre-purchase exam is not to ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ a horse, but rather to provide a risk profile for a specific buyer of a specific horse. What is risky to one buyer may not be risky to another. With this in mind buyers should be clear in what they want in the horse they are looking for. The goal of the evaluation is to identify concerns and help you make a fully informed decision based on the facts at hand.

The Basic Exam

Once you’ve decided you may want to purchase a particular horse, and you have the vet set up to do the evaluation what happens next? Here’s an overview of the steps you can expect the veterinarian to take during a standard pre-purchase evaluation.

  • Historical review. Ideally the vet will want to review the horse’s medical records if they are available.
  • Basic health check. This includes listening to the horse’s heart and lungs, checking his eyes, mouth, teeth and skin, and taking his temperature. In addition to a visual exam of the hooves and shoeing, the vet will use hoof testers to check for sensitivity or a reaction that might indicate bruising, heel pain or inflammation. Your vet will also consider the horse’s overall conformation and body condition and look for any signs of previous injuries or disease.
  • Flexion test. In this step, the vet will test each of the horse’s limbs by flexing one or more joints (such as a knee and fetlock) and holding it in place for about 30 to 90 seconds. A handler then trots the horse off while the vet watches for signs of lameness.
  • Movement assessment. Another soundness check, this step has multiple phases, typically including watching the horse move at walk and trot in a straight line on a hard surface, then longed in a circle at walk and trot.

In general, the vet will watch for obvious signs of lameness, asymmetries or shortness in strides or body movement, and abnormalities in limb motion or footfalls.

Extras and Add-Ons

Beyond these basics, additional examinations such as watching the horse under saddle, radiographs and ultrasound can be performed to add additional information to the examination. These may identify additional issues that haven’t yet become evident or can act as a baseline for future reference.