Pre-Purchase Exams

Currently only Ultrasonography can be perfomed, no Radiography or endoscopy can be provided at this time.

The examination for a performing horse can be divided into four sections. The first part is observing the horse in the stall. The second includes observing the horse on a lead strap at a walk and a trot on a straight line, doing flexion tests, and in a circle with a longe line. The third part includes diagnostic procedures such as radiography, endoscopy, ultrasonography, etc.

Phase 1

The key to any successful prepurchase examination is having a systematic, consistent routine. At some point during the first part of the examination, a thorough identification of the horse should be recorded. This can be a written description of its color and age verification with inspection of the teeth. Digital photographs are easily adapted and helpful in prepurchase identification. Notations of markings and any other permanent peculiarities to the horse’s body are also beneficial. The most common markings include a star, stripe, blaze, or snip on the face of the horse. Any white markings on the legs should also be described. Other markings that are valuable to record include whorls on the face and neck, brands, and tattoos. The presence of any scars, splints, or joint effusion should be noted.

In some cases, brands or tattoos can give information, such as age. Most Thoroughbred tattoos are one letter followed by five numbers. Some Thoroughbred tattoos have four numbers, which indicates the horse is older than 25. The letter represents the year of foaling. (eg, “A” is 1997, “L” is 2008). An asterisk in front of a Thoroughbred tattoo indicates this was a foreign-born horse. Other breeds also tattoo racehorses on their upper lips. A Quarter Horse tattoo consists of four or five numbers followed by a letter, and a Standardbred tattoo consists of one letter followed by four numbers.

The date, time, and place of the examination should also be recorded.

The initial part of the examination ideally should be done in a stall or area out of direct sunlight, dark enough for an ophthalmologic examination. Temperature and pulse recordings, auscultation of the heart and lungs, and oral examinations can be done in the quiet and controlled confines of the stall. If blood is to be drawn it would ideally be done in this quiet, confined area. If this is the horse’s own stall, note any wood chewing, the character of the manure and feed, and/or oral medication remaining in the feed bucket.

Phase 2

The second phase of the examination outside the stall can begin with general body and skin condition. The Henneke body condition score (1–9) can be assigned a number from thinness (1) to obesity (9). Scores of 4, 5, or 6 are considered normal. Each of the front and hind feet should be thoroughly examined with hoof testers; mismatching, abnormal foot conformations, flares, dishing, type of shoeing, and rings should be noted. Photographs that document body condition scoring and feet can be part of the examination and may simplify a written description. Next, visual observation and palpation of the limbs, passive and active flexion tests, and watching the horse move on different surfaces on a straight line and in a circle should be done. It is also valuable to perform a basic neurologic examination.

Phase 3

The fourth part of the examination should include any diagnostic procedures necessary to determine soundness, including imaging. (Also see The Lameness Examination in Horses .) Radiography is the most common diagnostic procedure performed. If there is a question about the significance of any imaging defect, a boarded specialist should be consulted. Because there are some foot conformational differences and corrective shoeing allowing a horse to compete within various disciplines, the buyer should consider hiring their farrier for the evaluation. This would not be for diagnostic purposes but to determine the ease or difficulty of trimming and/or shoeing of the prospective horse.

Report of Findings

A summary report is prepared and provided to the buyer. The report will describe any abnormal or undesirable findings and include an opinion as to the functional effect of these findings. Tests that were recommended to but declined by the buyer will be noted in the final report.