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Pre-Purchase Examinations


A thorough examination of a potential new horse is always a great idea! Your veterinarian’s pre-purchase examination can help you to make the best decision about your prospective new equine companion. A pre-purchase examination is not a pass/fail test, nor can it predict the long term prospects and health of the horse, but it can maximize the chances that your chosen horse is suitable for the future you envision.

The primary purpose of the pre-purchase examination is to assess the health and soundness of the horse. The final decision as to whether you choose to take on that horse is up to you, but your veterinarian can help discuss any concerns.

There are usually three portions to the examination:

  1. General Health Examination: This will include a health history which will address any medications, treatments or injuries the horse has or has had. A complete physical examination will also be performed which includes evaluation of the horse’s basic health. This usually includes evaluation of the heart, lungs, teeth, skin, eyes, conformation and attitude.
  2. Soundness Examination: This portion evaluates the horse’s gait at a walk, trot, and canter. It also includes flexion tests of the joints and palpation of the soft tissues of the limbs. The horse may be lunged or worked in a round pen.
  3. Ancillary Diagnostic Tests: Any additional tests that are not part of a standard pre-purchase examination can be requested by you or they may be indicated by the results of the previous two portions. The most common is radiographs (x-rays) to evaluate the feet or joints. If you plan on breeding the horse, then a breeding examination can be performed. Blood samples are often taken to screen for general health or medications that may have been administered to the horse.

Following the examination, your veterinarian will provide you with the findings from the examination which will allow you to make an informed decision about the purchase.

This column is sponsored by Polk Equine, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers. 

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.