Pre-Purchase Exam – what should it include?

PPE Exams ….Here is an outline of a standard pre-purchase exam for a riding/performance horse highlighting the main points and where issues often come up.

BACKGROUND INFO: How old is the horse, what has the horse been doing, any history of major medical issues or lameness? Any ongoing maintenance that includes corrective shoeing, medication, joint support/injections, what is the buyer’s intended use for the horse.

BASIC PHYSICAL: This is a general health exam and all aspects of basic health and condition should be considered: main things that come up are eye issues such as cataracts, etc, heart murmurs, skin issues or tumors such as sarcoids or melanomas, teeth are examined but it is important to understand this exam is limited and as a full oral exam requires sedation
CONFORMATION: The way the horse is built is significant to soundness and ability to perform as expected, typical issues include abnormal hooves such as club feet or negative angles on the fronts or hinds, there also may be malformations of the limbs or back
MOVEMENT: The horse should be evaluated for both soundness and correctness in all 3 gaits. Any lameness or abnormality in the movement is noted.

FLEXIONS: This is a way to challenge and further evaluate the soundness of each leg.
NEURO EXAM: This is a series of activities that ensures optimal function of the spinal cord and brain…that the horse knows where its feet are, is strong, and has normal brain function.

IMAGING: (optional) Xrays most common to evaluate common areas of concern such as front feet and hocks/areas of concern based on flexions/some buyers choose to do a survey of the entire horse to gain more knowledge, this often includes neck and back; ultrasound of the soft tissue structures of the limbs can be done/this usually focuses on the suspensory ligaments; endoscopy can be performed on the stomach or airway.

BLOOD TESTS: (optional) A basic health panel gives the buyer a baseline and evaluates the overall health of the horse, a drug screen can be run to look for sedatives, pain killers, and steroids; a coggins test may be needed for the horse to travel
CONCLUSION: All of the exam findings should be brought to the attention of the buyer in detail and then discussed in light of their significance to the horse and what the buyer intends to do with the horse so the buyer has the necessary understanding to make a decision based on all the known risk factors that could be associated with the horse.