PrePurchase Exam Essentials
Minimize the risk and help protect your investment in a new horse with this powerful buyer’s aid.
Here's what you need to know to get the most from this powerful buyer's aid that will help you minimize risk and protect your investment in a new horse.
We’ve all heard the horse-buying horror stories. Shortly after bringing a new horse home, he comes up lame, displays a different (and unappealing) change in behavior or exhibits some other unforeseen health concern. In some cases, the timing is pure coincidence. In others, though, the problem is one that a skilled veterinarian could have uncovered sooner. The lesson here? No matter how ideal that horse looks, before you finalize the sale, take one last step and have your veterinarian conduct a pre-purchase exam. After all, you’re about to hand over a significant amount of money, and you’re counting on taking home a horse who can help you realize your dreams. Now is not the time to skimp or rush. It’s the time to do everything you can to minimize risk and maximize the chances that what you think you’re buying is actually what you get.
The Value of an Exam
There are huge benefits to a pre-purchase exam, says Barb Crabbe, DVM, owner of the Pacific Crest Sporthorse veterinary practice in Oregon City, Oregon. “Rarely do we look at a horse in [this much] detail, even when we own them,” she says. “And once you have reached the pre-purchase point of looking at a horse, typically you are in love and really don’t want to hear about problems. So you have to count on
someone else to keep you honest.”
Dr. Crabbe notes that while she conducts her own evaluation on a horse she’s interested in buying, she also has an outside veterinarian conduct a pre-purchase exam. “I think it is really important to get an objective, outside opinion,” she says.
Dr. Crabbe’s colleague at Pacific Crest, bindsey Moneta, DVM, agrees on the value of a detailed pre-purchase exam. “As a buyer, you get a full physical assessment and a written report of the findings,” she says, adding that some buyers may even use those findings as a price negotiation tool.
Most importantly, she adds, the evaluation can identify concerns and help you make a fully informed decision based on the facts at hand. Does the horse have a heart murmur or a little arthritis in his hocks? Which lumps and bumps are normal? And what level of risk or management are you willing to accept?
Most people today understand that a pre-purchase exam isn’t a “pass or fail” test and doesn’t give you a crystal-ball view into the horse’s future, notes Dr. Crabbe. Yet those are important points to think about.
“The vet is not there to make a decision for you, only to tell you what she sees and what the potential problems might be,” she says. A pre-purchase exam presents only a snapshot of the horse on that day. Dr. Moneta adds, “As all horse owners know, a horse can be fine one day and be sick or injured the next.”
It’s just as important to keep any findings of the exam in perspective. Dr. Crabbe says she’s seen buyers pass on a horse due to one small issue when the horse would probably have been perfect for them. So be realistic as you go into this. Realize that, for instance, a Grand Prix dressage schoolmaster is
During the flexion test, the veterinarian will flex one or more of the horse’s joints and hold it in place for a short period of time. Immediately afterward, a handler will jog the horse while the vet watches for signs of lameness.