How to Buy a Horse
by Jim Hamilton, horse vet.
In these situations where a pre purchase exam cannot be done, you can
hope to pick up a "Red Flag" suggestive of some problem the
horse may have.
Unfortunately these flags may be subtle. As the horse may have been
prior to your exam or he may have received some type of medication
would make him appear better than he really is.
With that in mind, you want to examine the
horse from nose to tail for anything
that is swollen or warm when compared with other parts of the body. Run
hand down all four legs and compare appearance and feel of the left vs
You may pick up an old bowed tendon or a fluid filled knee that's a
developing joint arthritis. Make sure to flex as many of the horse's
joints as you
can. Arthritic joints don't like to flex.
Now stand back and look at general body
condition, haircoat, foot quality,
muscle development and attitude. These things will hopefully give you an
of the general health of the animal and how well he was taken care of. Is
weight of the horse appropriate for its size and frame? Does it have
muscle development and is it equal on both sides of the frame? These
hints about the amount of exercise and training the horse has had
The third phase of your exam should be to
watch the horse move - walk, trot
and canter. Is he comfortable or are his ears pinned and tail switching?
there a head-bob, suggesting lameness? Does the horse make a louder
normal breathing noise? You must try to observe the horse under
this will not only give you information about his soundness, but also an
of his attitude and ultimately how well suited he is considering your
As a horse vet who has examined many horses
for purchase, I honestly feel
that there is no replacement for a thorough prepurchase exam done by
veterinarian. It has saved many people money and anxiety and I believe it
one of my most important functions. The exam outlined above is an
screening method for a person considering the purchase of a horse. You
undoubtedly miss a few things but the more of them you do, the better
you'll develop. Be observant, critical and above all, take your time.
a horse is much like finding a spouse; neither should be done in haste.