A pre-purchase examination (PPE) is an exciting first step to take towards buying a new horse. Buyers will generally set up an appointment time with the clinic for this examination to take place before they proceed with the purchase. The exam usually takes place at the seller’s farm and can require anywhere from 1-4 hours to complete, depending on the findings and requested diagnostics. It is ideal if the buyer and seller can be present, but this is not essential.
The PPE consists of a full physical exam, where the veterinarian will point out to the buyer any noted abnormalities and discuss the potential impact of these findings to the horse’s future performance. After the physical exam, the horse is usually evaluated on the lunge line for any abnormalities in gait, or visible lameness. Flexion tests are then performed as an aid in pointing out areas of interest for radiography. A neurological evaluation will also be conducted.
At the conclusion of the examination, the veterinarian and the buyer will discuss the findings and decide if any further diagnostics will be performed, such as radiographs, ultrasound, endoscopy, or bloodwork. These tests can be conducted on-site, and the results will be immediate – with the exception of bloodwork. Blood results often take a few hours or up to two days if they need to be sent to an external laboratory.
It is important to remember that a pre-purchase examination is not a guarantee of a horse’s future health or athletic career; it is simply a point-in-time examination that indicates the horse’s health and soundness on the given date. It can however, be essential in finding a horse that has the potential to perform at the level you desire, and may help to avoid an unsuitable purchase.