Prepurchase Exams for Horses: What to Expect

The decision to buy a horse is a big one, and the prepurchase exam is an important step in the process.

prepurchase exams for horses
As part of a prepurchase exam, the veterinarian conduct a physical exam. This includes auscultation (listening with a stethoscope) of the heart, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract; an ophthalmic examination; a dental examination; and palpation of the musculoskeletal system. | Photo: Courtesy Tryon Equine Hospital

Finding your next horse often requires great investment of both time and money. When you have finally found “the one,” you have one more critical step to take before you sign the check and load the horse onto the trailer: the veterinary or prepurchase exam. The prepurchase exam is a thorough evaluation of the horse’s health, soundness, and suitability that veterinarians can use to provide the buyer with the most information possible to help guide their decision. The prepurchase exam includes five steps: a history, the physical exam, the moving exam, imaging, and other ancillary tests.

Step 1: Getting the History

The first step of the prepurchase exam involves the veterinarian obtaining important information from both the buyer and the seller. The buyer should be clear in the intended use of the horse. For example, if the potential owner is purchasing the horse as an investment for resale, the expectations differ from those of rider looking for an aged schoolmaster. The veterinarian will ask the seller to provide the horse’s detailed history, including:

  • Medical history;
  • Routine healthcare;
  • Current level of work/training; and
  • Performance record.

This is important to help the veterinarian assess the horse’s suitability as well as predisposition to injury or

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Written by:

Meghan Breen, DVM, is a veterinarian at Tryon Equine Hospital in Columbus, North Carolina. She is a graduate of the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and completed her clinical training at the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine with a primary focus on equine medicine and surgery. Following graduation, she completed an internship with Virginia Equine Imaging and spent the next few years traveling with the hunter/jumper ‘A’ circuit providing care to top-level competition horses in Wellington, Florida, and the Northeast. During that time she also completed acupuncture and spinal manipulation courses. She is a graduate of the Chi Institute and the Integrative Veterinary Medicine Institute as well as a Fédération Equestre Internationale treating veterinarian. She enjoys competing her own jumper, Armani.

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