Try be­fore YOU BUY

DR MICHELLE LO­GAN ex­plains the whys and where­fores of pre-pur­chase ex­am­i­na­tions.

NZ Horse & Pony - - Veterinary -

Buy­ing a horse or pony is a very ex­cit­ing time. Whether it is a first lead-rein pony, a po­ten­tial Grand Prix show jumper or a horse that you want to do a bit of ev­ery­thing with, the search for the right one for you can be very hard work. You may find plenty of pit­falls and dis­ap­point­ments along the way. You of­ten have to travel long dis­tances to look at po­ten­tial pur­chases and to try them out, and then you may find your­selves get­ting frus­trated as it turns out that the horse is not quite what you were ex­pect­ing. So when you do even­tu­ally come across the per­fect horse or pony, you can be tempted to buy them straight away and get them home as soon as pos­si­ble! How­ever, this is the point when you should con­sider hav­ing a vet­eri­nary pre-pur­chase ex­am­i­na­tion per­formed.

What is a vet­eri­nary pre­pur­chase exam (PPE)?

A pre-pur­chase ex­am­i­na­tion is a vet­eri­nary eval­u­a­tion of the horse. The horse or pony is given a thor­ough health check and a re­port pro­duced of the find­ings of the ex­am­i­na­tion. It gives you peace of mind that you are not buy­ing a horse who al­ready has a health prob­lem that might be ca­reer lim­it­ing, or ex­pen­sive to treat. A PPE is, of course, not a guar­an­tee that the horse will never have a prob­lem, but it does mean that you start off on the right track. It would be very dis­ap­point­ing to get your new horse home to find out he ac­tu­ally has an ex­ist­ing lame­ness is­sue that wasn’t ob­vi­ous when you took him for a gen­tle test ride.

A PPE is rec­om­mended even for horses who don’t cost that much, as it can save you from buy­ing a cheap horse with a vet­eri­nary prob­lem that, for ex­am­ple, re­ally needs surgery, which in fact would end up mak­ing the cheap horse quite ex­pen­sive.

There are dif­fer­ent lev­els of eval­u­a­tion (termed stages) that can be per­formed, de­pend­ing on what the horse is to be used for and maybe tak­ing into ac­count the value of the horse.

PPE ex­am­i­na­tions are clas­si­fied as a ‘par­tial’ ex­am­i­na­tion, or a ‘full’ one, de­pend­ing on how many stages of the exam are cov­ered. Both in­clude: STAGE 1 a clin­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion (per­formed at rest) look­ing at the body con­di­tion, con­for­ma­tion, skin, eyes and lis­ten­ing to the lungs and heart at rest, and STAGE 2 an ex­am­i­na­tion ob­serv­ing the horse mov­ing in-hand in­clud­ing walk­ing, trot­ting, cir­cles, flex­ion tests and back­ing up.

Full ex­am­i­na­tions also in­clude an ex­am­i­na­tion dur­ing stren­u­ous ex­er­cise, a pe­riod of rest to eval­u­ate re­cov­ery, and a fol­low-up ex­am­i­na­tion af­ter ex­er­cise. These are stages 3-5.

In ad­di­tion to these stages there are many other ex­am­i­na­tions (called an­cil­lary ex­am­i­na­tions) that can be asked for; x-rays, air­way en­do­scopic ex­am­i­na­tions, ul­tra­sound ex­am­i­na­tions and more. Ob­vi­ously, the more stages that are ex­am­ined and the more an­cil­lary ex­am­i­na­tions that are per­formed, the greater the cost. The PPE should be thought of as a snap­shot of what the horse is like at the time of ex­am­i­na­tion. It ex­am­ines for any lame­ness and the gen­eral health of the horse. How­ever, the con­di­tion of the horse may change from day to day, so bear this in mind. Vets can only ex­am­ine body sys­tems avail­able to them – for ex­am­ple, liver disease is un­likely to be de­ter­mined at a PPE as the liver is not specif­i­cally ex­am­ined. It also can’t tell you if the horse is go­ing to bow a ten­don in a week’s time!

What should I know as the seller (ven­dor)?

If you are sell­ing your horse and a po­ten­tial buyer has re­quested a PPE, then you can help make things go smoothly by en­sur­ing your horse is clean and the feet are shod or trimmed as usual. The vet has to record mark­ings and scars and also needs to ex­am­ine the skin for any­thing like sar­coids (a type of skin tu­mour), so if the horse is cov­ered in mud this will be a lot more dif­fi­cult and end up tak­ing more

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