Katie Hennessy

Pre-purchase examination

Purchasing a horse is a big decision and one that should not be taken lightly. Just as you would have a car or house examined before you purchase, the same thought should enter your mind when you pick out a horse. Horses are an investment and you should be sure that the horse you buy is able to perform the activity that you want.

A pre-purchase exam is not a pass/fail exam, but rather an overall view of the horse’s health, attitude, and soundness. While the exam cannot predict the future it does give you a glimpse into the history of the horse and its current health status. A major goal of the exam is to try and determine if there are any pre-existing conditions, which could hinder the purchaser’s intended use.

There are usually three parts to the examination:

  • General Health Examination: The general health exam is a physical exam of the horse and a thorough health history from the seller. The physical examination includes an overall assessment of skin and body condition; listening to the heart and lungs; assessing the horse’s conformation; and examination of the mouth, eyes, and neurologic status.
  • Lameness Examinations: The lameness exam starts with palpation of the muscles, legs, joints, neck, and back. Then the horse is walked and trotted before and after flexions of each joint to asses the horse’s movement and any lameness. The horse is often lunged to evaluate its movement in the different gaits.
  • Ancillary testing: These are performed upon request of the purchaser or if indicated from the general or lameness exam. These tests include radiographs, ultrasound, blood work or a drug screen.

It’s important to have a clear idea of what you expect this horse to do when having a pre-purchase examination performed. Once the exam has been completed, the veterinarian will provide you with the findings from which you can make your decision.



BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine.  She completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine.  Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.

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