Buying a Horse? Should You Do a Pre-Purchase Exam?


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When buying a horse and looking at the many horses for sale, it is fairly standard to have a veterinarian perform a pre-purchase exam on a horse that you are considering buying. But is a pre-purchase exam always necessary?

During a pre-purchase exam a veterinarian of your choosing will perform a thorough examination of the horse you are interested in buying. The vet usually performs tests including a lameness evaluation and x-rays of the horse’s legs. Blood testing is also sometimes used to detect the presence of any pain medications or other substances in the horse’s system, which are sometimes used to mask lameness or other physical issues.

The potential buyer is responsible for paying the cost of a pre-purchase exam, and whether or not to have a pre-purchase exam performed is at the buyer’s discretion. If a horse “fails” the exam, the veterinarian will tell you why, and can make some basic recommendations about what physical issues the horse might face in the future. It will then be your choice to determine whether or not you want to buy the horse or look at other horses for sale.

While a pre-purchase exam can save you from a potentially poor investment in buying a horse, there is a substantial cost associated with running every pre-purchase exam. Ask yourself these questions to determine whether a pre-purchase exam is a good idea.

What is the intended use of the horse for sale?

If you are looking for a competition mount to take you through multiple divisions, a pre-purchase exam is a very good idea. Competition of any sort is demanding on the horse’s body, and a horse with a pre-existing medical issue will possibly not be able to hold up to the rigors of competition. If you have long-term plans for a horse, it is best to know as much about that horse’s physical condition as possible before making the purchase.

Does the cost of the horse for sale validate the pre-purchase exam?

In some cases, you may be looking at horses for sale with very low asking prices. It may seem irrational to order a costly pre-purchase exam that is, in itself, close the horse’s asking price. And in some cases, you may decide to simply take a risk on a low-cost horse, or a horse that you are adopting from a rescue. Remember, though, that even if a horse is injured or comes to the end of its useful career as a riding horse, it will still need feed and care; even a cheap horse can become expensive when you have to support it for years but are unable to ride it.

What would happen if the horse could no longer be ridden?

Your personal financial situation will have the most influence over whether or not you choose to do a pre-purchase exam. Think about what would happen if you bought the horse and, after a year, the horse could no longer be ridden. If you are in a situation where you could easily retire the horse and buy another, then this might not be a big issue for you. If you have an alternative career in mind for the horse, such as using a mare for a broodmare after she retires from riding, then you might opt to forego the pre-purchase exam.

Whether or not to order a pre-purchase exam is a decision that you need to make based on your own plans and financial situation. Pre-purchase exams can provide buyers with additional insight to a horse’s physical condition and potential future use, but it is up to you to decide whether the benefits of a pre-purchase exam outweighs its cost. TOPHORSE–browse horses for sale or place an ad to sell horses

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