Pre-purchase exams are performed as an aid to help the purchaser make an informed decision on the suitability of a horse prior to purchase. There are numerous factors that may affect the decision making process, such as whether the horse has done the type of work intended, whether it has physical or training limitations, whether it will be a suitable investment and whether any of the problems uncovered during an exam can be managed in the future.
Of course everyone would like to find the perfect horse that will go on to do exactly what that person wants and not have any issues. The reality is that this horse doesn't exist. Every horse has some issue(s), some can be managed more easily than others and some of these may be an acceptable trade-off for what the horse offers in terms of training, ability to perform at shows and taking care of the rider.
All of these exams involve a review of available history and radiographs, a thorough physical exam and a complete soundness evaluation which involves observing the horse in hand, on the lunge and performing flexion tests. Typically radiographs are performed at the end of the exam. The radiographs are digital and can be evaluated at the time of the exam. Other procedures are available and can be included depending on the desires of the purchaser: ultrasound exam of the limbs or reproductive tract, laboratory tests, endoscopy and/or thermography.
A report will be generated at the end that will include the information from the exam as well as suggestions for management in the future. Ultimately it is the decision of the purchaser to decide in favor of the horse or not. The Veterinarian is not the one to pass or fail a horse, but instead the one to help the purchaser understand as much as they can before making the decision to purchase an animal.