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

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