Radiographs For Prepurchase Exams
Radiographs are a normal part of a prepurchase exam, and the parts of a horse’s anatomy you decide to X-ray may depend on his history and intended future use. For instance, you’re likely to look at the front feet and knees of an off-the-track Thoroughbred you hope to event. Alternatively, you may look at the hocks and stifles of a horse who has been jumping for some years if you’re hoping to continue competing him. Radiographs can reveal any number of things, but you shouldn’t get bogged down in one single inconsistency on an X-ray. You have to look at the whole horse.
“I try to take the X-rays as one piece of the entire exam,” Dr. Loftin says. “If he’s out showing and winning and is sound on my exam, negative on flexions and I look at the X-ray and see arthritic changes, I’m going to be less concerned about that. Or the X-rays could not be as bad, but there is clinical evidence that there is arthritis active and causing a problem.”
Ultimately, you as the buyer have to decide how the results of the prepurchase exam fit into what you want to do with the horse and what you’re willing to manage as he ages. “You can still get a long, useful career out of a horse with arthritis. But are you OK with having to do joint injections in the future? It all comes down to the buyer’s risk tolerance,” Dr. Loftin says.
Radiographs of joints are common during the prepurchase exam process.