The pre-purchase exam is an important part of the process of buying a horse. This exam does not provide a guarantee of future soundness or suitability, but aims to provide the buyer with information that helps them make an informed decision when investing in a horse for show, pleasure or resale. There are several aspects to the exam.
First is the general physical exam along with a conformation assessment and musculoskeletal examination of feet, limbs, neck and back.
The second component encompasses a thorough lameness exam, observing the horse on the lunge line in both the arena and on hard ground, flexion tests and evaluation undersaddle.
The third major part of the exam is imaging. This typically includes radiographs and ultrasound images. How many radiographs are taken and what is evaluated with ultrasound depends on the buyer’s needs. If a horse is being purchased for resale it is not unusual to take many radiographs to avoid any unknown findings when the horse is resold. Additionally radiographs provide a baseline for that horse, a reference point in case any future issues arise. Ultrasound exams can also be done to provide baseline images or to investigate a particular area that warrants further scrutiny. For example an enlarged branch of the suspensory ligament can be imaged to assess and document the condition of the ligament, or if neck muscle atrophy is present the cervical facets can be easily imaged to determine if an underlying arthritic condition is present causing the observed muscle atrophy. In addition an endoscopy exam can be done if any unusual respiratory noise is heard during the riding or lunging part of the exam.
Depending on the buyer's requirements, other tests that can be part of the pre-purchase exam include, a Coggins test, drug screen, CBC and chemistry screen, interstate or international health papers and insurance papers..