Pre-Purchase Examination

Every year RVVS receives several requests to provide “Pre-Purchase Exams” for prospective new horse owners. These exams are an important tool in helping clients predict a horse’s serviceability. A veterinarian should be contacted for the pre-purchase exam once the buyer has determined that the horse is suitable for their intended use. These uses can cover a wide variety of areas – pleasure riding, dressage, hunter/jumper, combined training, reining, brood mare prospect, and the list continues. Many of our clients are unsure what to expect form a pre-purchase exam. We hope the following information will help.

The pre-purchase exam will start by obtaining a history and description of the horse including the name, breed, sex, age, color, markings, height and weight. A medical history of vaccinations and deworming status is important. If the horse has not had a current Coggins test, a blood sample may be drawn at the buyer’s request. It is important that the doctor know the intended use of the horse.

A physical exam is given to the horse. The eyes are examined to make sure there are no abnormalities in the horse’s vision. Temperature, pulse and respiration are taken while the animal is in a resting state, and the doctor will also listen to the heart and lungs. This step is repeated after the horse has been exercised. An oral examination of the mouth is done to inform the buyer of any wolf teeth or abnormalities, and if dental floating needs to be done. Examining the mouth also gives a good indication of the horse’s age to within a few years.

Equine enthusiasts are all aware of the importance of a horse’s legs and feet. For this reason, the pre-purchase exam concentrates on all four limbs. The front and rear legs are palpated for any previous injuries or scars such as splints, old wounds, surgical corrections or conformation abnormalities. The doctor then moves down the leg to evaluate the hoof.

Right and left feet are compared for conformation, sensitivity to hoof tester and shoeing status. At this point in the exam, the doctor will want to see the horse’s gaits. We have done this part of the pre-purchase under several different conditions, but ideally, we’d like to see the horse lunged in both directions at a trot for approximately 5 minutes each way. Good footing is a definite benefit to the horse. This allows the doctor to watch how the animal is tracking, how they use their front and rear limbs, and any subtle lameness an untrained eye would have difficulty picking out.

After an adequate warm up on the lunge line, the next step is to perform flexion tests on all four limbs. This part of the exam is done to accentuate any potential problems. The leg is held immobile in a flexed position, and then the horse is trotted off in a straight line. Any lameness is noted while the horse is trotting away and then back towards the veterinarian.

The front limb flexion tests are separated into two areas. The first flexion involves the knee joint, while the second flexion concentrates on the fetlock and pastern area. The rear limb flexion is combined into one test. After completion of these tests, the veterinarian can make a fair evaluation of the horse’s serviceability for its intended use.

Radiographs/x-rays are always an option for the buyer to help evaluate the limbs and, in some cases, may be recommended by the doctor. The veterinarian will discuss the pre-purchase exam finding with the prospective buyer and provide a copy of all data gathered. The final decision is the buyer’s.

To schedule an appointment for your pet, please call us at 952-447-4118.

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