Evaluation of a new horse prior to purchasing is a wise decision for all buyers. The goal of the evaluation is to help ensure that the horse being purchased is free of flaws that will limit his ability to perform what is expected. It is not a guarantee for future soundness.
The expenses associated with the prepurchase evaluation are the responsibility of the buyer and will range from less than $100 to upwards of $1000 dollars depending on the depth of the examination.
Selecting a Veterinarian
In selecting a veterinarian to perform a prepurchase evaluation the buyer should look for someone that has experience with performing them and expertise with horses. Working with someone who can identify subtle lameness is paramount in avoiding purchasing a lame horse. Your current veterinarian, if you have one, may fill this role perfectly. If he or she would not be comfortable in performing a prepurchase examination, ask for a referral to someone who is.
If this is your first horse and you do not have a previous relationship with a veterinarian then you have several options.
Regardless of the source, you should speak with the veterinarian to be sure that he or she is capable of providing the services that you require. Many veterinarians will decline participation if the horse is located beyond the limits of their practice area so you may have to speak with several before you can decide.
Remember also that you want to select an unbiased veterinarian. You do not want to have your prepurchase examination performed by the same individual who has been caring for the horse for the seller. This is a conflict of interest and should be made known to you by the seller and the seller's veterinarian. This does not mean that the seller's veterinarian would be dishonest and fail to disclose problems but familiarity with an individual horse prevents you from having someone with a "fresh eye" evaluate the horse. If you have no option other than to use the seller's veterinarian then you should insist on complete disclosure of the horse's complete medical record and the veterinarian's knowledge of the horse's health.
What Information the Veterinarian Needs from the Buyer
Information From the Seller
Where Should the Exam Take Place?
Ideally the horse should be examined in his own environment. This allows the veterinarian to have an accurate assessment of the animal's general demeanor as well as the ability to inspect for evidence of behavioral and stall vices. The veterinarian, however, will also require an area in which the horse can be exercised – on a flat, firm surface and on a flat, soft surface. If this is not possible at the horse's current stabling facility then the horse will need to be transported elsewhere. Referral to a large equine veterinary hospital may also be necessary to complete some of the more extensive testing procedures if the prepurchase examination warrants them.