Equine PrePurchase Exams in Wichita, KS Help Ensure Optimal Health

Owning a horse can be a big investment in time, money and emotion.  Unfortunately, horses seldom come with a money-back guarantee. The expense will be small in comparison to the long-term costs of keeping and caring for a horse, especially one with health problems. That’s why when confronted with the question of optimal health, it is important to investigate the horse’s overall condition through a purchase exam.  A purchase exam differs from the yearly physical (you should give your horse) in that its function is to establish a working problem list at the start of ownership; this will change with time but can be an invaluable baseline if the need should arise. Whether you want a horse as a family pet, a pleasure mount, a breeding animal, or a high performance athlete, a purchase exam to establish care and maintenance will yield the best results for maintaining optimum health and satisfaction.

Investing in the best horse to fit your budget as well as your needs takes time and research to accomplish.  Veterinarian’s many times see this or the lack thereof when the new horse is brought to them shortly after purchase to treat some issue that might have been discovered on a purchase exam. The result is all too often an animal that is not physically capable of servicing the intended function it was originally purchased for. Perhaps this is why business owners have adopted the “pre-hire” physical; much like the “pre” purchase it is a foundation of health status of the individual, since it gives a background as to the abilities of the individual. Just as you would not expect a person with two herniated disc to load boxes for UPS without having some performance limiting issues (regardless of the rest of the interview) an equine athlete with navicular issues will likely have a decreased performance level as a jumper even though he might be perfect in disposition size and style. This may or may not be a reason not to buy the individual depending on your expectations for his or her performance level and the economic investment.  However, armed with this information one certainly has more ammunition for which to base a sound decision.

Purchase examinations can vary widely, depending on the intended use of the horse and the veterinarian who is doing the examination.  Deciding exactly what should be included in the purchase examination requires good communication between you and your veterinarian.  The following guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) will help ensure a custom-tailored exam:

  • Choose a veterinarian who is familiar with the breed, sport or use for which the horse is being purchased.
  • Explain to your veterinarian your expectations and primary uses for the horse, including short- and long-term goals (e.g., showing, then breeding).
  • Ask your veterinarian to outline the procedures that he or she feels should be included in the exam and why.
  • Establish the costs for these procedures.
  • Be present during the purchase exam.  The seller or agent may also be present.
  • Discuss with your veterinarian his or her findings in private.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request further information about your veterinarian’s findings in private.
  • Remember the veterinarian’s job is neither to pass nor fail an animal.  Rather, it is to provide you with information regarding any existing medical problems and to discuss those problems with you so that you can make an informed purchase decision.  Your veterinarian can advise you about the horse’s current physical condition, but he or she cannot predict the future.  The decision to buy is yours alone to make.  But your veterinarian can be a valuable partner in the process of providing you with objective, health-related information. Regardless of the entirety of a pre-purchase exam the basis should be covered and include:
  • A complete physical examination including temperature, cardiovascular, respiratory and GI auscultation.
  • A thorough eye, ear, and teeth evaluation.
  • Documentation of any scars, surgical procedures or numbness in limbs or face
  • Thorough soundness evaluation.
    •  The doctor will observe the horse move on a lunge line or in a round pen and after each flexion.
    • Hoof test and palpate all the limbs.

Since the veterinarian’s job is not to either pass or fail the horse. He or she may recommend further tests, such as X-rays, nerve blocks, urine and blood analysis, endoscopic and ultrasonic examinations, and others. These are optional and may be chosen by the buyer or recommended by the veterinarian based on clinical findings of the exam or intended use (such as breeding). These test help to confirm a diagnosis and provide a clearer picture of the seriousness of a potential 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.


Some Questions the buyer might ask the seller are:

  • Has the horse had any medication in the last week?
  • Has the horse had a negative coggins test in the last 12 months?
  • Has any surgery been performed on the horse?
  • Is there any history of respiratory problems, COPD, or bleeding?
  • Has the horse ever shown signs of tying up (rhabdomyolosis)?
  • Has the horse ever been treated for EPM?
  • Does the horse have any problem sweating?
  • Does the horse have a history of recurring lameness?
  • Has there ever been recurrent colic or surgery for colic?
  • Is there any other pertinent medical history?
  • Does the horse have any vices or objectionable habits?
  • Has the horse ever failed a pre-purchase exam?
  • For mares: Is she in foal or has she been exposed to a stallion?
  • For mares or stallions: are there any past breeding or foaling problems?