Dr. Tania Sundra

25 September 2019

Do I Really Need A Prepurchase Exam ?

So you’ve found your dream horse. It was previously used for low-level eventing but has been sitting in a paddock for the past 12mths. You have a couple of rides and the horse does everything you asked of it. After a few days of thinking it over, you hand over your hard-earned cash and bring your new horse home. You gradually bring the horse back into full-time work but after a few weeks, the horse becomes lame in the left front, and appears to be getting worse the more your ride it. To make matters worse, the previous owners are no longer returning your calls and they’ve blocked you on facebook….

Unfortunately, this is a common scenario we encounter as vets. A disappointed client calls us as their new “dream horse” is lame but, “it was fine when they bought it”.

Clear and honest communication between the buyer, seller and veterinarian, before the exam is conducted is extremely important.

It’s very important to clarify the buyer’s expectations for the horse.  This includes a discussion of the buyer’s experience level and intended use for the horse.

I often ask the seller questions about the work history and prior performance level of the horse, its recent work schedule and intensity of that work.  I also ask about general care and management, and any known health problems the horse might have had, including prior lameness and surgeries.

Here are some key points to note about a prepurchase examination :


  • I do not “pass” or “fail” a horse in a pre-purchase exam.  We do provide an assessment of risk for the intended use of the horse, based on the findings of the examination. When it’s all said and done, it’s the buyer’s decision whether or not to proceed with the purchase.
  • My job is to objectively provide the buyer with all of the information they need to help them make an informed decision.
  • We don’t carry a crystal ball in the back of our vet car, so accurate prediction of the future is impossible.
  • We do not recommend performing a prepurchase examination a horse that has not been in work.  Lameness problems may not be visible during the exam but can show up when the horse is later put back into work … remember the horse in the scenario above ?
  • Lameness is one of the most common and significant problem encountered in a purchase exam. As a result, the lameness portion is very detailed and forms the bulk of the examination. If a lameness is encountered additional tests may be performed and can include diagnostic nerve blocks, radiographs and ultrasound.
  • Drug screens, although not often performed, may provide the buyer with peace of mind to know the horse was not medicated for the examination.
  • At Avon Ridge Equine  we follow the Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA) protocol when performing a prepurchase examination. Outlining the exact steps of a prepurchase examination is outside the scope of this article, but we are happy to discuss this is more details if you’d like to call us on 0427 072 095.
  • Remember, the purpose of a prepurchase examination is to evaluate the health of the horse, identify existing and potential problems and then interpret these findings with respect to the animal’s intended use.


We strongly encourage our clients to have a prepurchase exam performed before buying a horse. Even if the purchase price is low, the cost of owning a horse can be very high! Whilst most people are genuine and honest when selling horses, it is still a ‘buyer-beware’ situation. Buying a horse is an exciting time and many purchases are made because people have “fallen in-love” with the horse and don’t necessarily want to see potential red-flags. It’s the unfortunate fact that many horses are purchased are unsuitable for their intended use which may range from lameness issues, to behavioural and general health concerns.

The purpose of a pre-purchase exam is to help provide the buyer with enough information to enable him/her to make an informed decision as to whether the horse will meet their needs.

Remember, there is no “perfect” horse. If you look hard enough, you will find a problem. The purpose of a prepurchase exam is not whether a problem exists, but rather whether the problem will interfere with the buyer’s intended use of the horse.