The most common purchase examinations include a complete physical examination and lameness evaluation. The physical examination includes listening to the heart, lungs, gastrointestinal sounds, taking a temperature, and examining the eyes and oral cavity. The lameness evaluation involves examining the horse at the trot in a circle and straight line and flexion tests. Flexion tests involve flexing different joints and watching the horse trot to see if any lameness is elicited that may indicate a joint problem. Neurologic exam includes proprioception exam as well as cranial nerve analysis.
In addition, the buyer may elect to have radiographs (x-rays), blood work, drug testing, endoscopic examinations, or reproductive examinations performed. Purchase examinations can be tailored to address the concerns of the buyer and can include any or all of the above tests depending on the concerns of the buyer.
Unfortunately, there are limits to what can be determined in the examination. It cannot be determined if a horse has had episodes of colic in the past (unless the horse had surgery and the scar on the abdomen can be felt) or if it will in the future. It cannot be determined if the horse has been exposed to any contagious diseases if the horse is not currently showing any signs. The future soundness of the horse cannot be guaranteed and the athletic ability of a given horse cannot be determined by a pre-purchase exam.