Pre-Purchase Evaluation Process

Armed with a better understanding of an evaluation’s benefits, a horse buyer can make wiser purchase decisions.

We couldn’t step you through the pre-purchase process (described in the print feature, “9 Things You Don’t Know About Pre-Purchase Exams,” February 2007), because no veterinarian uses exactly the same procedure. They’ll all be equally thorough in their own way. Ed Murray, DVM, outlines his procedure, giving you a glimpse into the process. Allocate two to four hours for this evaluation.

1. Start at the tip of the horse’s nose, putting hands on every single part of the horse’s body. Note to a scribe or assistant any variants from normal.

2. Evaluate eyes, ears, nose, throat, lungs, heart, and skin using appropriate tools. Pay particular attention to the joints, feet, and legs of performance horses.

3. Repeat step 2.

4. Draw blood for initial blood counts of the horse at rest. Evaluate profile for liver and kidney function, red and white cell count, muscle enzymes, and any other checks the buyer requests.

5. Weigh the horse. Measure the horse. Document markings.

6. Move to the 100-foot, firm-surfaced, covered longing pen. Longe horse in a specific gait sequence for 12 to 15 minutes, or longer if the horse is an endurance prospect. Listen to heart and lungs again. Draw second blood sample to measure red blood cell counts and hemoglobin, comparing the at exercise profile to the at rest profile.

7. Conduct flexion tests on all joints, grading each joint on each limb separately. The horse is trotted from and to the veterinarian after holding the isolated joint for one minute. The veterinarian will note a score of 0 to 5 at five points of the trot cycle, resulting in an ideal (but rare) score of 00000 (a sound horse).

8. Reattach the longe line and send the horse around again for another 10 to 12 minutes in a specific gait sequence to gauge soundness during extended work.

9. If appropriate, saddle or harness the horse and watch a performance session toward his intended purpose to evaluate locomotion.

10. Conduct any needed radiographs, ultrasound, urine tests, fecal exams, or other tests as needed. At this point, the prior longing, flexion tests, and riding sessions will pinpoint the needed follow-up.

11. If needed, conduct any specialist evaluations, such as breeding soundness or fertility evaluations.

12. Complete documentation.

13. Consult with all involved connections as to the findings of the evaluation.

14. Share documentation.

At any point in this process, you, as the buyer, can call off the evaluation and stop the bill from increasing. Your veterinarian will help you prioritize the money you have budgeted to get the most from your pre-purchase evaluation, but thoroughness is paramount.


This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Western Horseman.


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