Pre-Purchase Exams

The pre-purchase exam calls on the detective and equine eye careintuitive skills of the veterinarian to find any lameness and medical problems. The first part of the exam is the clinical part. The horse’s eyes, heart, lungs, gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal systems are evaluated. This is also when the blood work will be done. Typically, this will include the Coggins Test and screening for any medications in the bloodstream that could significantly affect the horse at the time of the examination. Next, the “moving” part is started. The horse is examined at a walk and trot on a straight, flat surface. Then, he is moved on a lunge line and/or under saddle at a walk, trot and canter, usually on firm footing with a good surface. Any indication of lameness is evidenced by a head bob or a body drop from one side to another.

leg checksThe next part of the exam is the “active flexion test”, which is flexion of the joints followed by jogging. It is acceptable for the horse to move stiffly or lame for a few steps after the flexion. The question is whether the horse is comparable side to side, and how long it takes to warm out of the flexion. It is used as an indicator of a potential problem that may need to be radiographed or evaluated further. Radiographs (x-rays) are routinely taken as part of the pre-purchase exam. A full set of x-rays gives you valuable information by which to base the purchase decision, a baseline for that particular horse and a basis for later arguing that x-ray findings in the horse have been unchanged over a period of time. There are some other pre-purchase tests that can be done if needed or warranted.

These include:

· Respiratory Endoscopy
· Nuclear Scintigraphy (Bone Scan)
· Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
· Ultrasound

At Virginia Equine Imaging, a full set of pre-purchase radiographs would include the following views:

Front feet and Navicular views:
· Lateral
· Dorsal-palmar
· Dorsoproximal-palmarodistal oblique (Hickman 60 degree view)
· Palmaroproximal-palmarodistal oblique (navicular skyline)

Fetlocks (front):
· Lateral
· Dorsal-palmar
· Medial and Lateral obliques

· Flexed lateral

Fetlocks (hind):
· Lateral
· Dorsal-plantar

· Lateral
· Dorsal plantar
· Medial and Lateral obliques

Additional radiographs may be required based on the clinical exam findings:

· Lateral
· Caudal-cranial
· Caudolateral-craniomedial oblique

· Lateral – providing clear evaluation of both the spinous processes and dorsal articular processes

· Lateral – providing clear evaluation of the dorsal articular facets and poll.


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