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The Value of the Purchase Exam - Horse

by Mitch Benson DVM

A thorough, systematic medical examination by an experienced veterinarian should always be considered part of the process of purchasing or selling a horse. Commonly called "vetting", "soundness exam", or "pre-purchase exam", the examination for purchase serves several important functions for the parties involved and adds the observations and opinions of a trained professional into the mix of considerations involved in the sale process. The purchase examination is an information gathering session -  not intended to pass or fail a horse -  but to produce a comprehensive record of the horse's past and present health status and it's suitability for the buyer's intended future use. The results obtained from this exam are a very useful tool in the decision process. An exam of this type prior to sale supplies medical information to the buyer and initiates dialog between the purchaser, vet, and seller which allows the buyer to make a more informed decision regarding the horse in question. 

The examination for purchase provides a baseline health record that can be invaluable if health problems arise in the future. Knowing the horse's condition or degree of abnormality at a given point in time can be a very helpful reference point in assessing the rate of change of an abnormality as it progresses. Most adult horses, especially those who have undergone strenuous athletic activities, have some existing deviations form normal and the interpretation of these abnormalities in light of the horse's intended use is a large part of the purchase examination. It is to everyone's benefit - buyer, seller, vet - that these areas of concern are identified and their potential effects on the future health and usefulness of the horse be discussed prior to the sale. 

A veterinary examination at time of sale provides a measure of security for the seller as well as the buyer. It is in the best interests of both parties to know as much as possible about the horse involved to avoid any future misunderstandings. The examination relieves the purchaser from having to rely solely on the seller's information about the horse, and introduces an impartial source of information. Their can be significant deviations from normal of which the seller has no knowledge. 

Well intended, honest sellers often don't know all there is to know about their horse. The exam serves to somewhat insulate the seller from any future misunderstandings by providing a professional's evaluation of the horse's condition immediately prior to sale. It is just as important to the seller that the buyer be happy with his or her purchase and that there be no future problems. Contented buyers enhance a seller's reputation and can provide the basis for future sales. 

Economics are frequently a concern when considering a purchase exam. I am often asked "Why should I spend money on an exam when I am only paying a little for the horse?". Think about the consequences of buying a horse. Of ten the purchase price is the least expensive part of the horse ownership experience. The economic commitment over the years far exceeds the purchase price. 

Before assuming these financial obligations, it is important to know that the horse you've chosen is as close to your expectations as possible. Also, as we all know, horses are large, powerful, emotionally unpredictable creatures easily capable of causing great bodily injury. Consider how many times you literally put your life in your horse's hands. Horses with a low purchase price are just as able to injure you as are expensive ones - maybe even more likely. Before you, or your child or spouse, mounts that horse, wouldn't you like to know everything possible about it? Health concerns such as vision problems, neurologic abnormalities, and lamenesses, and temperament problems which can result in unsafe behavior are often detected on routine examinations for purchase.

The purchase of a new horse can be a challenging and rewarding experience. The purchase examination can help ensure the success of this new relationship.

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