Let’s Talk Pre-Purchase Exams

For many equestrians, pre-purchase exams are an integral part of buying a horse. A pre-purchase exam can include a lot of different things including flexion test, bloodwork, radiographs… the list goes on. Here are my considerations when setting up a pre-purchase exam, as well as some of the tests I’ve included.

Setting Up a Pre-Purchase Exam

Ideally, I’d like my vet to perform a pre-purchase exam. If you don’t have a vet or can’t use your personal vet due to distance or conflicts, ask for personal recommendations from friends (trainers, barn managers, owners – whoever you trust to give you good advice). I always avoid conflicts – I want the pre-purchase exam to be done by a vet that has never seen the horse before and has not done any work for the owner.

Moiya walking back to the barn

If I’m buying a horse, I want to be present for the pre-purchase exam. This is definitely a personal choice, but I feel better seeing things for myself and being able to ask any questions I have along the way. I always ask the vet performing the exam what all they intend to do – some vets will want you to ride the horse, others to lunge. I want to show up prepared, knowing what to expect. I also always request any and all vet records from the current owner be sent to the vet performing the pre-purchase exam.

Finally, I like to give the vet a heads-up on what all I want done during the pre-purchase exam – for example, do you want any bloodwork done? How about radiographs? This way, the vet knows what equipment to bring along, and how long the appointment might take.

What Tests to Perform during a Pre-Purchase Exam

This is a personal choice, and depends on a number of factors including the purchase price (value) of the horse, what its intended use and discipline is and your own personal comfort level. Each pre-purchase exam I’ve done has increased in intensity – probably because each success purchase has been more expensive, but also because my knowledge has increased.

All of the pre-purchase exams I’ve done start with a basic overview of the horse’s health: checking eyes, teeth, heart and gut sounds.

Next is a flexion test – and different vets will approach this differently. Some perform it on the ground, some want you to ride the horse… it just depends.

After the flexion tests, it’s time for any additional evaluations. Do you want to pull bloodwork? What do you want to test the blood for? Do you want any radiographs?

Moiya Trotting Spring 2017

What Tests do you Get in a Pre-Purchase Exam?

In the past, I’ve purchased an all-around horse and a hunter. In addition to the general health and flexion tests, I’ve gotten x-rays of hocks done. In the future, I plan to get x-rays of the front feet, as well as stifles and a complete blood test.

Your turn! What tests have you gotten done (or would get done) in a pre-purchase exam?

8 Comments
  • Stacie Seidman
    Posted at 19:29h, 11 December Reply

    In recent purchases I’ve always had a drug test pulled in addition to the normal stuff. I do a LOT of x-rays and in the case of my OTTB it cost me more for the pre purchase than it did for the actual horse. Joke was on me since his injury was higher up than my x-rays went. Doh.
    I agree with wanting to be present, but I’ve found that’s often not a possibility (for example when purchasing a horse overseas). And obviously in many cases if my own vet can’t be there, I make sure to have EVERYTHING sent to him to go over before I make any decisions.
    But the real question is… are we talking about this because you might have someone new to introduce to us?!!!!

  • Holly
    Posted at 19:48h, 11 December Reply

    I’m in an unusual situation where I’ve been able to have family friends, clients or vets who I otherwise had an existing relationship (yay for working in the industry) perform PPEs and they have gone above and beyond for me – just because of that relationship. I agree with everything you listed though! I think it’s very budget and history dependent – I might request ultrasound of front tendons/ligaments in the future because I’m a little gun shy these days.

  • Stampy and the Brain
    Posted at 20:57h, 11 December Reply

    I definitely prefer to have a pre-purchase done by a vet that I have a relationship with but who doesn’t already know the horse in question. My PPE vet is so extremely thorough when it comes to checking the horse over – not just eyes, heart and guy sounds, etc but actually feeling over the entire horse. He examines all the joints in the legs including picking up feet and feeling the joint as it moves along with palpating the upper body. That is not something I’ve personally seen other vets do but something I love. This PPE vet does not do flexion tests but watches the horse move in addition to doing a hands on examination. He pointed out a spot of concern on Maestro early on during his physical exam so we x-rayed that first before moving on to lunging or doing any more standard x-rays in order to save funds in the case of an issue which I appreciated (especially after already paying for a failed PPE on another horse). With Maestro we also x-rayed front feet and hocks. Before this vet I had no idea how thorough a PPE could be!

  • megan k
    Posted at 21:11h, 11 December Reply

    ive only done a couple pre-purchase exams, and only with one vet. i really like his manner and how he explains things.

    I usually go the full monty – I get blood drawn and then it’s just saved for 30 days in case the horse suddenly has letdown symptoms. I also get xrays done of front feet, knees ankles and hocks. That’s just cause I want a horse to go to a very specific level. if I was picking out a trail or light riding horse I wouldn’t get the full hog of xrays.

    I think people who don’t do any kind of prepurchase are being extremely foolish. a base level where they look at the eyes, heart, gut, and do simple flexions is really cheap and worth it, imo.

  • Allison Calcaterra
    Posted at 01:32h, 12 December Reply

    When I bought Juice I did a basic PPE with just the flex tests – my vet (who thankfully was not his vet at the time) had me ride him for that. He flexed fine even though it was 20 degrees so I figured he had to be good to go! I knew him a little for the several months his former owner/trainer had him, so I trusted her and knew he was a pony cross of some sort, so pretty hardy. So far, no issues.. I think if I had gone the OTTB route I would’ve done x-rays if the horse didn’t already have recent ones, though. Hope your search is moving along!

  • L. Williams
    Posted at 03:37h, 12 December Reply

    With Ramone I did some bare minimum xrays, things to give me piece of mind. Dante had 30 radiographs on record from a previous PPE that I benefited from (vet thought it was weird there were so many clean xrays with no purchase of said horse but then we found out the breeder’s were crazy!)

  • emma
    Posted at 18:21h, 12 December Reply

    i know ppl who have done the full spectrum from zip zero nothing (not my choice) to everything under the sun (also not my choice), and have come to the conclusion that it just depends on the comfort level of the buyer, and what the buyer wants. i did what felt like a middle of the road type exam – flexions and a couple pictures – with the idea that i basically just needed a middle of the road type horse. some of that stuff i even considered more of a “baseline” than anything else – like having pictures of some of his joints so that we have a point of reference in the future. most of the stuff i looked at was bc i’d seen problems with that area in the past and wanted to avoid anything that could spell a premature end to the horse’s career.

  • Rachel
    Posted at 18:53h, 12 December Reply

    Random question: does your blog only let you comment on a post for so long? I am new to your site and obviously I can leave a comment here but I went to leave a comment on your post regarding confidence but there is no “Post a Comment” box. I can see that there are ~27 comments so people could post at one time. Not a big deal just didn’t know that there was a time limit on comments.

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