The pre-purchase meat is actually the safety assessment. Mark Paus, DVM, is a founding partner of Grand Prix Equine, a sports medicine practice in Bridgewater, Connecticut, and pre-training is a huge part of his practice. Most of his inspections, he says, are for high-end sport horses, where the horse’s competitiveness is the first thing on the buyer’s mind.
“My responsibility at the time of pre-purchase testing is to discuss only physical results,” says Pauss. “Athletic ability, for me, is out of that wheelhouse.
“The best way to predict future competitiveness, in my currency, is pain,” he adds. “When I look at a horse, my job is just to assess the sources of the pain.”
Baus does this by watching the horse move in his hand and under saddle and performing joint flexion tests. He says these simple techniques are of paramount importance in assessing a horse’s safety.
“I always tell clients that the best (and friendliest) horses have the least amount of pain,” he says. “Competitiveness is directly related to safety. And the truest horses I have examined were seven-figure horses. I really believe that horse prices are proportional to athletic ability, and that athletic ability is directly related to safety.”
The significance of PPE results can vary depending on the horse’s intended use. “In the world of hunters, a horse with mild hock changes probably won’t have any clinical lameness, so I probably wouldn’t warn the client of any possible limitations on their ability,” says Baus. “As the changes progress and the clinical signs become more pronounced, I feel the need to say that this horse may be a leash in certain circumstances.”
Potential workload is another important factor to consider. It is very common to come across young horses that seem to have amazing athletic potential, even though they are not yet working. The purchase takes place, but as soon as the workload increases, the horse becomes limp. Such is the unfortunate reality of pre-purchasing a horse that is not in regular exercise that some clinical results are visible once they start working.
While vets and buyers should consider all pre-purchase test results, again, not all results are created equal. “I address two factors with each outcome: Will this change over time or with use?” Bows says. “I think it’s important to help clients understand that some results will change no matter what you do with a horse, and some will change more with what you do with them. Some results will change more quickly with what you do with a horse. If you rest a sea horse for X amount of time, it will probably His voice is intact for a while. If you do too much with them, they’ll be paralyzed.”
Radiographs and ultrasounds are great diagnostic tools that can tell us a lot about a horse. While it would be nice to photograph every horse that gets a pre-purchase, this is not financially viable for many potential buyers.
Some buyers always ask for radiographs of the front or rear hoses or feet. While this can be good practice, I would recommend financially conscious buyers to let the test drive the shooting. “My imaging certainly highlights areas of clinical findings and concerns, based on flexion responses, joint effusion (fluid swelling), palpation, and hoof tester responses,” says Paus. Ultrasound also plays a role. “I’ll probably scan about a third of the horses I scan,” he says.
An important development in the veterinary community is the use of board-certified radiologists to assist in the evaluation of PPE outcomes. “I now recommend to all my clients who buy that we send the radiographs to a radiologist for their opinion,” says Paus. “First of all, it’s humbling, because I’ve been researching horses for 40 years, drinking my Kool-Aid, jotting down whatever description I want, and these guys come out with very professional and very detailed reports, honestly I see things I haven’t seen. On top of that, they are They describe things better than I might describe them.”
Take the message home
Searching for the perfect horse is exciting but it can also be frustrating. My advice to any potential buyer: Decide what you want, know your deal breaker, and don’t fall for the ad. Find a horse that fits your budget, lifestyle, and goals. Take everything the seller says at face value. Have your regular vet perform a pre-purchase test. If they can’t, they probably have a colleague in the area that they can recommend.
Finally, know that there is nothing worse for veterinarians than performing a post-purchase test on a horse that did not receive PPE and delivering the news that a new equine companion has horrible sea changes or severe kissing spines (ask me how I know).