Whether you want a horse as a family pet, a pleasure mount, a breeding animal, or a high performance athlete, you stand the best chance of getting one that will meet your needs by first investing in a pre-purchase examination. The expense will be small in comparison to the long term costs of keeping and caring for a horse, especially one with health problems.
A pre purchase starts with a complete physical examination including temperature, cardiovascular, respiratory and GI auscultation. We then do a thorough eye, ear, and teeth evaluation. We check to see if the horse has any scars or numbness that would indicate the horse has had a surgical procedure to remove the nerves to the feet, and check for an abdominal incision scar that would indicate a previous colic/hernia surgery in the past. We then move on to a thorough soundness evaluation. The doctor will observe the horse move on a lunge line or in a round pen and after each flexion. We hoof test and palpate all the limbs. The veterinarian's job is not to either pass or fail the horse. It is to provide you with information regarding any existing medical problems and explain the possibility for future problems, especially in light of the horse's intended use. Your practitioner can only advise you about the horse's physical condition, including conformation, and explain how it might affect performance from a health standpoint. If the veterinarian suspects something that may interfere with the horse's intended use, he or she may recommend further tests. These tests, such as X-rays, nerve blocks, urine and blood analysis, endoscopic and ultrasonic examinations, and others, are optional and may be chosen by the buyer or recommended by the veterinarian based on clinical findings of the exam. They are generally used to confirm a diagnosis and provide a clearer picture of the seriousness of the problem. It is recommended the buyer spends some time with the horse riding or doing what the intended use of the horse will be to make sure the personalities of the horse and rider will be compatible.