Pre-Purchase Examinations

A medical examination of a horse that you wish to buy.

The data we accumulate can help you decide whether or not to buy this horse for your intended purpose. We strongly recommend this procedure prior to bring a horse home, even if it is “free to a good home”. We are very proud of our expertise and reputation in this process. The following explains our philosophy of pre-purchase examinationing:
* A pre-purchase examination is not a soundness examination, as no horse is perfectly sound. No warranty is implied or given. By doing the examination and the other supplemental tests you request, we can help to reduce your risk but we cannot eliminate your risk in purchasing the horse.* Have a professional trainer advise you on the suitability of this horse for your intended uses and to help you evaluate the purchase price.

* Obtain a written, signed history from the owner and/or agent selling the horse. The history should describe the horse, detail any previous medical and surgical problems, indicate the dates of any past radiographs (x-rays), if these dates can be obtained, list any medication given in the past 2 weeks, list dates of dewormings and vaccination in the past year, and, finally, the pregnancy status of the horse, if a mare.

* Obtain a copy of the registration papers to be included with the examination report.

* The horse should have been on an exercise program. Preferably for at least 6 months, ideally doing the type of work for which you intend to use the horse.

It is difficult to assess potential problems if the horse has been in minimal work. To provide a satisfactory examination the following facilities are very desirable:

* A stable that can be darkened for the examination of the eyes.

* A straight driveway at least 25m long either bitumen or concrete in construction.

* A safe level area that the horse can be ridden or lunged ie. a menage.

Without these the examination may be compromised. If these facilities are not available then consider transporting the horse to another facility for all or part of the examination. Our hospital has these facilities and we welcome horses brought here for that purpose. 

The examination is done in 3 main parts:

1. In a stall or safe area, we examine the horse to assess the general medical condition of the organ systems readily accessible to examination. This starts with a distant examination to observed demeanor, stance and conformation. A particular examination includes the function of the cranial nerves and neurologic examination, a detailed examination of the mouth, teeth, cardiovascular and respiratory systems and musculature, and perform an ophthalmologic (eye) examination. We also identify the horse as the same as its documents. By law in Victoria we must also check for microchips.
2. In the orthopedic portion of the examination, we palpate, passively flex the tendons, ligaments and joints of each leg and apply hoof testers to a11 4 feet. On a hard surface such a a bitumen or concrete drive we trot the horse in a straight line then apply flexion tests to each joint of the horses lower leg We then walk, trot and canter the horse on a lunge on a firm surface.
3. In the last part of the examination, we may ask you to ride the horse for us. For performance horses we will usually require the horse to perform this function for us. E.g. eventer: seen over obstacles; racehorse: a gallop at the track. We will give you a verbal report on our findings at the time of the examination, followed by a written report.

Other examinations you can consider, for additional fees, include:

A 5 stage examination:
This is where the horse is then allowed cooled down and stand quietly in a box. 30 minutes to an hour later part 2 of the exam is repeated: the horse is trotted up, lunged and flexion tests are performed again. This can be useful with subtle lameness that were not evident if the horse had warmed up prior to examination, but may return once the horse has cooled down.Radiographs:
X-rays of important joints (feet, hocks, fetlocks and stifles); or suspect joints and blemished areas. X-rays may reveal bony defects, sub-luxations, ligamental damage or other problems. They may indicate current or potential problems and establish a baseline record should problems develop in the future.

Blood Tests:
These may include a complete blood count to evaluate for infection and anemia, a serum chemistry panel to survey liver and kidney function and electrolyte values. A drug screen can detect any drugs in the horse’s system: typical panels are for pain killers; sedatives; cortisone/ anabolics. A urine sample may be collected; furosemide (Lasix) can be given to make the horse urinate. Other tests, such as a thyroid function test and antibody levels, can be done on request.

Upper airway endoscopic examination:
We pass a flexible endoscope into the horse’s nose to view the throat and detect any mechanical breathing problems. Examples are roarers pre & post surgery, entrapped epiglottis, ethmoidal haematomas etc.


Examination of suspect tendons, ligaments or other areas. Reproductive exam in brood mares. If you wish us to perform any of these tests or any other test, please ask us about them.

Any invasive procedures, such as rectal examinations, tranquilization for radiographic examination or drug testing, should be discussed with the owner/agent before we perform them. We will be happy to discuss these tests and their applications with you. We want this prepurchase exam to go as smoothly as possible, and we hope that all others involved give you and us the proper time to complete all of the necessary examinations. Ideally, it is best to have yourself, the intended rider (if not you) and the seller present during the examination so that we can immediately resolve any questions.