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Buying a new horse can be an exciting experience for just about anyone – whether you are new to the horse world, or adding another mount to your stable. Although we can sometimes be overwhelmed by the emotional part of this process, looking for something suitable can be a big investment in time, and the actual purchase can be an expensive endeavor. And most horses don’t come with a ‘money-back guarantee’!

This is often the reason that many people choose to have an examination performed on the horse in question by an equine veterinarian prior to purchase. It gives the potential buyer a chance to find out about the state of the horse’s overall health and also highlight any issues the horse may have that could affect its future career or well-being. Deciding exactly what needs to be included in a prepurchase examination requires good communication between you and your veterinarian, which is why people often prefer to have their regular veterinarian perform the exam. Obviously, if the horse to be purchased is located in a different geographical area this is not always possible, but here are a few handy tips you can try to make sure you get the most information out of this process.

1) Choose a veterinarian who is familiar with the breed, sport, or use for which the horse is being purchased (they will likely understand better what exactly you are looking for)

2) Explain to your veterinarian your plans for the horse and future goals (what you would like to get out of this partnership, even 5-10 years down the road)

3) Ask your vet to advise you which procedures he or she recommends be included in your examination and the reason why (this way you will know what you are paying for, and why it is relevant to you and your horse)

4) Ask for an estimate of the cost of each procedure so there will not be any surprises at the end of the exam (sometimes a prepurchase exam with full radiographs can be quite costly – and you don’t always end up buying the horse at the end)

5) If at all possible, be present at the examination. It is also best if the seller or agent is in attendance (this allows your vet to obtain a more accurate picture of the horse’s health and performance history)

6) Discuss the findings of the examination with your veterinarian in detail at the end of the examination. Don’t be afraid to ask to speak to your vet privately – sometimes the presence of the seller can be uncomfortable while discussing any negative findings. It is better to just take a few minutes and make sure you understand the details before making any decisions.

You will often hear people talk about whether a veterinarian “passed” or “failed” a horse. This is not really the way our examinations work. It is our job to provide you with information regarding any existing medical problems and discuss how they may or may not be relevant to the horse’s career. No one can predict the future – and it is important to remember that a prepurchase exam represents a ‘snapshot in time’ in regards to your horse’s health and soundness. The decision to buy the horse is yours alone to make, but your veterinarian can be a valuable partner in helping you make an objective decision. Let us know if we can help you find your new equine partner!