Why should you do a Pre Purchase Exam

Why should you do a Pre Purchase Exam?  Because you should make sure the horse you want to purchase can do the job you want it to do.

When purchasing a horse, there are several things to look at, price, location, bloodlines, disposition, conformation, and of course, lameness.  Here are some suggestions of things to look for during your search.  Because every horse purchase and every visit to the same horse is a unique situation, use these ideas and suggestions as a guideline.   No rules are set in stone.

Before you search for your next partner, you should figure out what you need a horse to do.  Will it be roping, sorting, hunter/jumper, pleasure riding, trail riding, competition trail, etc.?  What type of horse knowledge do you have?  What kind of training will your new horse need to have?  Will you do the training or have a trainer train it?

Start the Search

Now that you have narrowed down your type of horse, your price range, the location you are looking in, bloodlines, and how well trained your horse needs to be, start looking for your next horse.  There are several sites on the internet with horses for sale.  Start looking through different websites, talking to people, and looking at horses that meet your needs.

Once you find the horse that meets your needs, set up an appointment to see the horse.

A pre-purchase exam is still a brilliant idea even if you trust the person selling you a horse.  Sometimes the person selling the horse does not know the horse and may have an issue.  Sometimes the sellers know about the injury but don’t think it will affect the “job” you want the horse to do.  You can always ask the seller why they are selling the horse.

Pre Purchase Exams are not just for lameness; a vet will check the horse’s overall health along with its teeth and other vitals.  The vet will let you know if this horse can do the job that you want it to do.

Meet the horse

Many people will tell you it is best to see the horse in person before purchasing.   In specific instances, primarily due to distance, people will buy a horse from someone far away and be happy.  Others will buy a horse, have it shipped to them, and find out that they can’t get along with the horse’s personality.  Some realize the horse has not had the training the way it was claimed to be.  Or even to find out that the horse is lame.

Go and visit the horse; watch the owner or trainer ride the horse first to see how the horse reacts with people and riders that the horse typically works with.  If you have a trainer or an experienced horse person, let them ride the horse before you.  Of course, you must ride the horse before deciding if this could be your next horse.

If you think that this is your next horse, try to spend some time with the horse and watch it interact with people and other horses.  Find out if this horse has ground manners and how it gets along with other horses.  And how it will do in the type of stabling, you will have for your horse.  A person willing to sell their horse to a perfect new home will not mind you spending time with the horse.

Will your new horse be out at pasture with other horses or in a stall and turned out in individual paddocks?  How does this horse-like being stalled if it is required to be in a stall?  Does this horse crib?  Does this horse weave?

Pre Purchase Exam

If your horse is ridden extensively for show or pleasure, it is best to have a pre- Purchase Exam.  The Pre Purchase Exam will determine if the horse can do the job you have intended for it to do.  The veterinarian is there for the buyer, not the seller.  It is best to make sure that the horse will be the horse you need it to be.  Many people don’t consider a Pre Purchase Exam on horses in the lower dollar value.  Here are two short stories about why even smaller dollar amounts of horses should have a Pre Purchase Exam.

Photo Credit: Tennessee Equine Hospital
Example 1

When my parents purchased my first horse for me when I was twelve, we went and looked at several horses.  I rode many of them and fell in LOVE with a Palomino mare.  My parents purchased this horse for me.  Within a week of her arriving at our place, she was dead lame.

After our vet looked at her, she had bowed tendons and her stifles locked.  She was on stall rest, and we tried several different treatments.  As it turned out, she could only have some light riding done after a YEAR off.  She was never able to compete like we intended her to do when we purchased her.  This experience is not what a twelve-year-old wanted for her first horse.  One that she couldn’t ride.  If my parents had done a Pre Purchase Exam, we would have known that she had been on a pain block of some sort.

I read the second example on a Facebook group.  So I contacted the person to ask permission to use her words for this post.  I feel that this is another example of what could go wrong, and she has agreed to let me use her experience.

Example 2

My husband and I purchased a gelding last weekend after riding him in the round pen at the farm and discussing our plans with the horse to include a backup sorting horse for myself as well as a horse for my husband to sort on/trail ride with.

We paid $1,200 and brought him home last Sunday.  He ran around in the paddock with the other horses that night and then showed lameness.  We separated the horse and called the vet out the next day.  She confirmed an old deep digital flexor tendon injury and advised that he not be ridden other than at the walk on trails and an occasional trot.  I was able to contact a previous owner (not the person we bought him from) as well as another additional owner, and both knew of the old injury causing soundness issues.

We then took the horse to a second vet that specializes in sports medicine to get more imaging done as well as look into possible options for having this horse sound for showing.  The vet advised again that he should be a trail walk/occasional trot due to the old injury.  He did not feel the horse would be suitable for sorting.

Yes, the horse didn’t show lameness until he ran in the paddock, but both vets indicate the lameness is because the horse has an old injury and not something that happened in our care.

We have not previously considered pre-purchase vet checks on $1,200 horses, but I will guarantee this will be done before future horse purchases.

The horse is fantastic, and it is incredibly disappointing that he will not be suitable for us.  It is even more depressing that we were not told about the injury during the purchase.


Don’t be in a rush to buy a horse.  Make sure it can do the job that you want it to do.  Don’t buy a horse for color only.  Get the opinion of a vet or farrier before you make that purchase.  If you feel the horse is for you, consider getting a Pre Purchase Exam with your vet.  The vet will check for lameness in addition to the overall health of the horse.

If you have a story that you would like to add to this post, please send it in for consideration.

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