The search is over: You’ve finally found the horse of your dreams. But before you sign the sales contract and load him onto the first trailer headed home, protect yourself with a prepurchase exam. Granted, there’s no magic crystal ball there to guarantee a horse that looks great on exam day will carry you to reach all of your equestrian goals. But a prepurchase exam, also known simply as a veterinarian check, can give you insights to help ensure you’re making a smart, informed decision before money changes hands.

Still, taking this step isn’t as straightforward as calling your veterinarian out, pointing to the horse and saying, “Get ‘er done.” Your veterinarian will need your participation to customize the exam for your needs and maximize its usefulness to you. That’s particularly true because of the numerous diagnostic tools that modern veterinary technology has made available–giving you more ways than ever to gain information on a horse’s health. Yet taking advantage of them all would send your veterinary bill skyrocketing from a couple hundred dollars to a thousand or more.

Understanding what to expect from the exam and getting an upfront idea of what tests you might be willing to spring for–and under what circumstances–will prepare you for the veterinarian’s visit and help you make the right choices for your needs, your pocketbook, and your dreams.

What’s the Point?

If a prepurchase exam can’t guarantee that a horse will be your perfect mount, why bother? For one thing, it could prove that a particular animal won’t be suitable, saving you from heartache and financial loss. Plus, it can expose health concerns not apparent to the naked or untrained eye that could present management issues now or later, giving you an opportunity to decide if you want to take on that problem.

In short, the true purpose of a