The Prepurchase Exam

A prepurchase examination or “vet check” of a potential horse purchase can identify any physical problems.
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Purchasing a new horse can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for horse owners. While you probably have an appreciation of the horse’s potential to achieve your goals based on his disposition and training, you might not know whether the horse is capable of carrying out these goals physically. This is why many prospective buyers look to their veterinarians for advice so they can make an informed decision about proceeding with the purchase.

A prepurchase examination (also known as the "vet check" or "vetting") is a detailed evaluation by a veterinarian of the physical well-being of a horse before purchase. The veterinarian’s task during an examination can be categorized into four basic steps:

  1. Discover any physical abnormalities the horse might possess;
  2. Document any findings in a medical record and report;
  3. Disclose any abnormalities to the buyer and seller of the horse; and
  4. Discuss the implications of each finding.

This information is then used by the veterinarian to advise the buyer on the relevance and possible implications of each finding. It is not the veterinarian’s duty to "pass" or "fail" a horse, but to provide information the buyer can use when deciding whether to proceed with the purchase.

The layout of a prepurchase examination can vary and might depend on the veterinarian performing the exam, the discipline in which the horse is intended to be used, the buyer’s request, and geographic location

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Written by:

Casey Gruber, DVM, is an associate veterinarian at Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he specializes in podiatry and emergency and sport horse care. He’s a graduate of Colorado State University.

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