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Horse Health

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Liz Arbittier, VMD
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Purchasing a horse is primarily about risk assessment, which is why prepurchase exams are so important. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Performing a successful prepurchase examination is a complex undertaking. To evaluate every system in the horse takes an experienced jack-of-all-trades who must serve as a lameness expert, ophthalmologist, neurologist, dentist, podiatrist, cardiologist, radiologist, and crystal-ball reader all in one. However, a successful horse-buying experience is about much more than the medical findings.

In my experience, prepurchase exams are primarily about risk assessment. My job is to help clients utilize my findings to decide whether a horse is appropriate for them. To effectively do that, I need to keep the following things in mind:

  1. What level of risk is the purchaser willing to assume?
  2. What is the purchaser’s level of ­experience?
  3. Do he or she own a farm or board?
  4. What are his or her goals?
  5. Is this horse being purchased to be sold in the near future?

I spend a lot of time discussing risk with the purchaser, so open communication is key. Some come into the exam unwilling to accept any imperfections, conformational, radiographic, or otherwise. Some have had bad experiences with specific ailments, such as allergic airway disease, back pain, or poor hoof conformation, and so those findings are deal-breakers. There are no correct answers; it’s all about the purchaser’s personal level of comfort.