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Basic Horse Buying Tips:
Have a Vet Take a Look at the Horse Before Purchasing

Buying a horse isn't a purchase to be taken lightly, so most thoughtful buyers hire a veterinarian to give a horse the medical once-over and report on its condition. In a pre-purchase vet check, the vet will look at the horse's conformation, check its wind, digestion (by listening to stomach sounds), hearing and eyesight, lungs and heart.
The vet will also evaluate the horse's movement and soundness. These are the general tips and checks; a good vet will also consider what the buyer intends to do with the horse before recommending whether or not the horse be purchased. In the case of horses being purchased for breeding purposes, there will be an analysis of reproductive fitness, but reproductive capacity isn't usually covered by a general vet check.
In an ideal situation, the vet check is attended by the prospective buyer, so the vet can talk with that person while discovering things about the horse. The buyer can ask questions, and the vet can good an idea about how well the buyer and horse might match. It's perfectly respectable for a vet to veto a horse because he or she feels it won't be the right horse for the buyer: especially new horse owners are not only buying the checkup, but the expertise of the vet in making an important choice. If you're about to buy a horse whose temperament or training (or lack of training) may spell trouble for you, a good vet won't be afraid to offer an opinion. Although some people believe that the question of a proper match isn't the vet's business, it's safer for the horse and the owner if the vet takes a serious interest in the potential pairing. Sometimes a vet will recommend not to buy a horse unless a professional trainer is to be engaged; it's always best to listen.

The seller will usually attend the vet check, but most vets wish that sellers wouldn't talk about the horse during the check, as it can influence their perceptions and probably won't add to the buyer's confidence.

No horse is perfect, and your vet may see something that only an expert might notice. If there seems to be a physical problem, the vet may use X-rays to check on a diagnosis. Even in the case where there is something wrong, it may just be something that needs to be watched, or treated in a particular way. A lot depends on what the horse is to be used for. Your vet may make recommendations about the weight a horse or pony can bear, about training issues or temperament. And for someone who isn't an expert, having an expert vet who's not afraid to tell the truth can make the difference between buying a horse you'll love and enjoy and one that you wind up having to sell.

If you ask a vet to check a horse whose problems are already known to that person, chances are that the vet will either decline to do the check or will inform you of the problems before moving on to anything else. A lot of the vet check has to do with professional ethics; vets often won't report on horses belonging to regular clients because of the potential for conflict of interest.

Talking about a vet check is an interesting conundrum because people who don't want to take someone else's advice probably won't have a pre-purchase vet check, but nearly everyone else will. But for people new to the world of horses, it may be enough to tell them what a vet check entails and what it can do for them. Most people understand immediately that paying for a vet check will save thousands or tens of thousands of dollars if it keeps them from buying the wrong horse.

Read the next horse training article on How to catch a Loose Horse.
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