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It may be just one horsepower, but
before riding off into the sunset on a newly purchased pony, it is
important to investigate the quality and health of that
Dr. Michael Martin, associate
professor specializing in equine primary care at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has some
tips on selecting a horse and how veterinarians can
"There are many aspects involved when
buying a horse, in addition to answering health questions," states
"The concern for a first-time buyer
should, and most importantly, be the safety of the horse," says
Martin. "Buy a horse that is experienced and dependable, one with a
Martin recommends that the "attitude"
judgment be made by a friend or trainer who is qualified and
knowledgeable about horses.
"Veterinarians only spend a very
limited amount of time with the horse evaluating its medical
condition, so many veterinarians may be reluctant to make a
judgment about the disposition of the horse," says Martin. In
addition, veterinarians may be reluctant to make judgments about
the horse's conformation unless it relates to a lameness
Martin explains that three basic
medical examinations are performed by a veterinarian on any
individual horse. A health certificate, insurance exam, and a
pre-purchase exam provide different levels of information about the
health status of a horse.
The health certificate is used to
determine if a horse is free of any infectious or contagious
diseases and is usually done when a horse is crossing state
An insurance exam is more in-depth
and focuses on satisfying the specific questions of an insurance
company. The company may be more concerned with what kind of
mortality risk is present with the particular
The pre-purchase exam is performed to
inform the prospective buyer of the medical status of the horse at
the time of examination so that a more knowledgeable decision can
"Find a veterinarian to perform the
pre-purchase exam who is knowledgeable and familiar with the
discipline in which you desire to use the horse, even if it is just
trail riding," adds Martin. "Then the veterinarian can examine the
horse and provide a more accurate assessment of possible medical
Another important aspect of buying a
horse is to become aware of the management techniques used to care
for the horse.
"When buying a horse, be sure to have
a plan and be knowledgeable about how the horse will be managed to
include feeding and exercise programs," Martin
Ask several questions about the
horse's history and specific needs.
For instance, horses usually require
routine hoof care. Ask if the horse requires special shoes or
if leg or hoof problems exist.
In addition, ask questions about the
amount of time the horse is kept in a stall versus
"Horses are managed differently as
far as turnout time. Turnout time (meaning outside the stall)
can make a huge difference in attitude," says
A particular problem may not have
been evident prior to purchase, but because of a change in
management a horse may develop an issue as a result of excess
energy from confinement or a change in diet.
Horses are different concerning the
amount of time they will tolerate being in a stall. Martin suggests
that horses be turned out for at least three to five hours a day on
days they are not ridden.
"The ideal situation is if a horse
could be out 8-12 hours per day," says Martin.
Prospective buyers are often not
aware of the daily requirements of caring for a horse, and are more
focused on getting the most enjoyment out of the experience. Asking
questions about the horse that you are thinking about purchasing,
taking someone knowledgeable with you, and including a
veterinarian's evaluation in the process can go a long way towards
making the right decision for you and your new
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