Prepurchase Exams: Not Just Looking for Lameness

Issues of concern that most frequently pop up during a prepurchase exam involve lameness, but there are many other conditions that could be apparent that are capable of affecting a horse's future health and performance.

Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

What conditions beyond lameness might a veterinarian uncover during a prepurchase exam?

Buying a horse might be one of the most exciting things an equestrian can do. Just the thought of one’s next (or first) horse can send riders racing to their favorite equine classified websites. Dreams of loading a new steed into the trailer and bringing him home commence. But before you fall in love and sign on the dotted line, there is one important step in the horse-buying process you shouldn’t skip—the prepurchase exam.

This amounts to hiring a veterinarian to perform a veterinary exam on a prospective horse. “A prepurchase exam does not eliminate all risk but should give you an adequate first impression and risk assessment for the animal you are purchasing” on that particular day, says Woodrow Friend, DVM, an ambulatory veterinarian with a special interest in sport horses at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. 

Issues of concern that most frequently pop up during a prepurchase exam involve lameness, but there are many other conditions that could be apparent that are capable of affecting a horse’s future health and performance. While these less-common findings might or might not be deal--breakers, they are just as important to be aware of as lameness issues. Here we’ll take a look at what goes on during a prepurchase exam and explore some of the more unusual conditions veterinarians might find.

The Exam Itself

A prepurchase exam can be as in-depth as the potential buyer wants. These exams might include any or all of the following: 

  • An overall physical exam;
  • A lameness exam;
  • A neurologic exam;
  • Radiographs (X rays);
  • An endoscopic exam (a “scope” of the upper respiratory tract);
  • Blood work; and 
  • A drug screen for specific drugs. 

Additionally, a serum biochemistry panel and complete blood count can provide an overall look at organ health and reveal hidden infections or conditions, respectively, especially if the horse is older.

Respiratory, gastrointestinal, and ophthalmic issues are just a few things that your vet may discover during a prepurchase exam. Continue reading this article in the May 2017 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care to learn more about what these problems could mean. Subscribe now and get a free download of this issue!

About the Author

Sarah Evers Conrad

Sarah Evers Conrad has a bachelor’s of arts in journalism and equine science from Western Kentucky University. As a lifelong horse lover and equestrian, Conrad started her career at The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care magazine. She has also worked for the United States Equestrian Federation as the managing editor of Equestrian magazine and director of e-communications and served as content manager/travel writer for a Caribbean travel agency. When she isn’t freelancing, Conrad spends her free time enjoying her family, reading, practicing photography, traveling, crocheting, and being around animals in her Lexington, Kentucky, home.

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