It’s the beginning of the summer and like many horse enthusiasts, I check Craigslist, Dreamhorse.com, and other online websites looking at possible new horse prospects. There are many costs involved with the purchase of a new horse, even free horses can cost money. A cost that should never be over looked is the cost of a pre-purchase exam. The average pre-purchase exam runs $200-400, but can be higher or lower depending on what part of the country your in. Usually radiographs are an additional charge.
The common reason people skip the pre-purchase exam is they do not think they are spending enough money to need one. I have been told, “It’s only a $1500 horse, it is not like I’m spending $5000.” The truth is that if it becomes lame, you will spend the same on a lameness exam at your veterinarian’s trying to figure why it is lame as a more expensive horse.
Horses do not pass or fail pre-purchase exams. Pre-purchase exams are more than just an extra long lameness or soundness exam. Pre-purchase exams look at the whole horse from top to bottom. During these exam the veterinarian can point out abnormalities that may make a buyer decide this is not the horse for them. Lameness/soundness is the major area that is covered. Other areas of interest include vision, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, nervous system, etc.
Pre-purchase exams just look at the horse today. They are not guarantees that the horse will be sound next month or 5 years down the road. But they can let you know where the horse is today. The horse may look sound but radiographs can reveal an aged horse has the beginning stages of navicular syndrome or a two-year old with osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) lesions. These conditions would interfere with the horse being purchased being able to compete at high performance levels. Many veterinarians recommend buyers start with at least a pre-purchase exam. Radiographs are optional and are up to the buyer to decide how many or how few to take to help them make their decision.
Whenever possible the prospective buyer should be present at the pre-purchase exam. It is essential the prospective buyer see exactly what the veterinarian is seeing to understand how significant an abnormality is should it arise. Pre-purchase exams are important tools to help horse buyers make educated decisions. Think of a pre-purchase as a preventative measure before making a big investment. Most trainers will encourage clients to get a pre-purchase exam for comparison at a later date should the horse develop any medical issues.