The Importance of Pre-purchase Exams

Doctor examines horse

Pre-Purchase Exams: Should You Request One Before You Buy Your Next Horse?

Pre-purchase exam aren't just a good idea if you're buying an expensive racehorse. The exams can help you ensure that the horse you want to purchase is in good health and doesn't have any hidden issues that could affect its performance.

What's Involved in a Pre-Purchase Exam

Selecting an equine veterinarian is one of the most important aspects of the pre-purchase exam. Obviously, you want to choose a veterinarian who doesn't have any ties to the owner to ensure that you receive an accurate assessment. If you're buying a horse for a specific purpose, such as breeding or racing, it helps to work with a veterinarian who has experience caring for those horses.

Before the exam begins, the veterinarian will take a look at the horse's medical history, including medications and previous surgeries. Reviewing the medical history makes it easier to spot ongoing health concerns or minor problems that may have been neglected.

During a pre-purchase exam, your veterinarian listens to the horse's heart and lungs, looks for signs of injuries, examines the hooves and shoes carefully, feels the abdomen and legs, and examines every part of the horse from head to tail. He or she also evaluates the way the horse eats, drinks and stands, walks, trots and canters on various surfaces.

Overall body condition and weight is also noted during the exam, as are the horse's teeth. Your veterinarian will also look for scars that could mean that your horse had a bout of colic in the past or a surgery that didn't appear on the medical records. Taking a look inside the horse's mouth confirms it's age and exposes signs of dental disease.

Tests Provide Valuable Information

Specialized exams and tests can be helpful if you're buying the horse for a specific purpose. For example, a blood test can reveal if the owner is giving a racehorse or trail horse medication to dull pain.

If you plan to breed a mare, The Horse recommends a breeding soundness exam that includes an assessment of cervical tone and competency, the vulva's external conformation, and an ultrasound to assess the cervix, uterus and ovaries. An evaluation of a stallion's semen will give you an idea of the horse's breeding capabilities.

A flexion test is also a good idea, according to the Practical Horseman. After manually bending a joint in the horse's leg, the veterinarian holds the leg in place briefly, then watches the horse trot. This test can reveal signs of lameness that may not be readily apparent. Should there be any question about the health of a particular joint, a digital X-ray can determine the severity of the problem. Many owners opt for an pre-purchase exam package that includes X-rays of the feet, hocks and fetlocks for extra piece of mind.

Other tests, including tests for genetic conditions, may also be recommended depending on the results of the examination. It's a good idea to set aside a few hours to accompany the equine veterinarian to the examination. If you're present, it's much easier to ask the veterinarian and the seller questions and see for yourself how the horse responds to the exam.

Like people, horses often have a few health conditions or issues that will be discovered during an exam. Although minor problems probably won't affect your decision, you may want to reconsider the purchase if the equine veterinarian discovers that the horse is lame, unhealthy or in poor condition.

Do you need to schedule a pre-purchase exam for a horse you're considering buying? Give us a call and we'll arrange an appointment time that's convenient for you and the seller.


Practical Horseman: Pre-Purchase Exam Essentials, 1/2/2019

The Horse: The Buyer’s Guide to Prepurchase Exams, 8/25/2021

Penn State Extension: Pre-Purchase Exams, 4/8/21


Find us on the map

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule


9:00 AM-6:00 PM


9:00 AM-8:00 PM


9:00 AM-4:00 PM


9:00 AM-6:00 PM


9:00 AM-5:00 PM


9:00 AM-3:00 PM



  • "I have my puppy for only 4 days and the doctor provided all the answers to my million questions. She was patient and kind and very loving to my pup. She diagnosed ear mites and cleaned his ears throughly. She explained everything throughly and even comforted me when I got upset about him being a little sick. I would highly recommend and will be taking Finn her from here on out. Thank you thank you thank you!!"
    by Jeanna P. on 04/06/2022
  • ""My husband and I absolutely love Three Village Veterinary Hospital! Our puppies adore Dr. Sophia, and she takes the best care of them whenever we bring them in. When our newest puppy broke her leg and had to have surgery, Dr. Sophia called us right away to check in and see how she was doing, which meant the world to us! All of the vet techs and front desk staff are also amazing! I couldn't imagine bringing our babies anywhere else.""
    Jessica K.
  • "'They have taken great care of my puppy...even when he does scary things like eating light bulbs ( metal and all). As a first time dog owner I have lots of questions and each of the vets have taken their time to answer all of my questions and concerns without ever making me feel stupid for asking. The support staff is also very knowledgeable, helpful and truly gets excited to see each of the animals that comes through the door.'"
    Joanne W
  • ""I could not be happier with my visit to Three Village Veterinary Hospital! I just recently moved to New York and have been extremely nervous in choosing a new veterinarian for my dog (he’s super stubborn and can be a real handful). I called Three Village Veterinary Hospital and right off the bat Dr. Sophia Was fantastic! She really took the time to dive into Huxley’s history with me, including his anxiousness about vet visits. Hearing Dr. Sophia ask all the right questions reassured me that Huxley was in good hands.

    Huxley came out of his appointment with a bill of clean health and a ton of new friends in the office staff, I couldn’t believe how happy he was! I am so glad that I was recommended to Three Village Veterinary Hospital and feel incredibly relieved to have found a fantastic new team that I can trust Huxley with. I HIGHLY recommend!""
    Michelle G
  • ""I would never go to another place but this one, even if I had to travel. best professional understanding point on doctors there. they opened their doors and stayed open just for me after hours. They had so much empathy & helped me make the right decision in a short time. I recieved a hand written card from them a couple of days after my visit, which made me cry. I trust them and respect all of them 100% my entire will be taken our pets theres. I cant thank them enough""
  • "We've been with TVVH for over 25 years. Could not imagine going elsewhere. In addition to their professional expertise is the consistent human element; their very real kindness and caring. Office staff, technicians and doctors all are exceptional."
    Linda B
  • "The staff and doctors are amazing. The older my Shih Tzu gets the more difficult and snappy he has become. Your doctors and staff are kind, gentle, and professional. You don't make me feel like I have a bad dog or I raised him wrong. I feel you care not just for me dog but for me (who can be a bit neurotic about my dog). Your tech staff and doctors...even the front desk staff are the best!!"
    Rebecca D
  • "I not only use Three Village Veterinary for my personal animals, but frequently recommend them to my grooming customers as well. I trust them explicitly and value their professionalism, but above all their compassion... all the doctors there are great & the fact that they put up with my MANY emergencies (& my neurosis) makes them my fav. Love you guys <3"
    Melissa V