View Full Version : Do YOU Xray on a PPE?

Dec. 6, 2011, 02:25 PM
One of these days I will be buying a new horse for myself. In the past, I have never done Xrays on a PPE. Unfortunately I am now stuck with a horse that has some pretty hefty navicular issues that limit his ability to do more than 3-4 light rides a week. I'm totally kicking myself for not doing the xrays on the initial PPE:no: and I am in constant fear of overworking this horse (who is currently very sound and teaches beginner lessons, just can't hold up to harder riding).

The next horse will be used for mostly dressage but maybe a few BN or N horse trials. I am a big chicken and never intend on going above novice...EVER:lol: I imagine I will be purchasing something fairly green, fairly cheap, and possibly OTTB.

What would you do on a PPE for a low level "budget" horse?

Dec. 6, 2011, 02:32 PM
Absolutely. The purchase price is such a small piece of the overall cost of owning. At least having no known issues going in is worthwhile, which isn't to say the horse won't end up lame. I do hocks, ankles and navicular shots on OTTBs and have gotten prepurchases on everything I have bought from $900 to $6500 (most expensive that I have gone).

Dec. 6, 2011, 03:11 PM
I did on the first one, just the front feet to check for navicular since he was 1/2 QH. I did not on the OTTB (second horse) -- he'd raced 3 years, retired sound, flexed clean all the way around. I figured if he stood up to racing, plus he had big, clean joints, then he'd probably be ok for a while. I could see some small, old osselets, they didn't bother me, so I did not spend the money.

Funnily enough, after I had him about a month, I did end up having my vet shoot one view apiece of his front feet and we found some angles that needed fixing a la hoof adjustment. I haven't done anything else though. I did also get him from CANTER MA, so I knew that if he'd shown any issues, they would tell me. There are no guarantees of course, but overall, I've decided it's a case by case thing.

Dec. 6, 2011, 03:19 PM
Yes. It's worth the peace of mind to know there's nothing major showing at the time of purchase _and_ to have the baseline views to compare to later if something does come up.

Dec. 6, 2011, 03:54 PM
Absolutely. The purchase price is such a small piece of the overall cost of owning. At least having no known issues going in is worthwhile, which isn't to say the horse won't end up lame. I do hocks, ankles and navicular shots on OTTBs and have gotten prepurchases on everything I have bought from $900 to $6500 (most expensive that I have gone).

What Scubed said.

Dec. 6, 2011, 04:12 PM
I have done both.

I never X-rayed Gwen because she was 16 when I bought her and had been as sound as a rock for 12 years competing, so I was pretty sure that she was a) built to last and b) going to have some findings which didn't change "a". :)

I did X-ray Boscoe since he was a young horse with modest mileage and the veterinary practice that vetted him did the X-rays along with the full PPE with a deep discount on all the films.

Depending on the price of the horse, its conformation, and what it had done thus far I might or might not. :)

Dec. 6, 2011, 04:16 PM
I would do a thorough vetting without xrays for a horse for me at that level no question. However...if this might be a resale horse or you want to leave that option open than you should do xrays. The chance someone else would buy a horse without a vetting especially if you wanted to get some of the value of your training out of him is smaller these days. Do the xrays and hang on to them they may make it easier to sell him if he has more talent than you need or doesn't suit you. Also I am usually buying youngsters or mares and not horses with known wear and tear but if I had good recomendations on the trainers and owners that counts for a lot.

My last vetting with xrays cost 2000 and they missed a major respiratory issue I should sue them for. He was deadly sick and passed with flying colors...no one offers you your money back so what you have is only worth the vet you use.

I am very experienced and I actually saw this issue but defered to the well recommended vet. I would have been better off to trust myself but I know that no one else would and if we sold as a performance horse he would need a vetting. You could cut the cost by taking along someone with that good eye and tell tham to be the devils advocate. A horse that passed with flying colors can lame themselves walking out the trailer. Personally I have done better without thorough vettings but I also might visit them a number of times...especially watch them loose...watch them being handled and worked...visit un announced...you can't do that sometimes, but be aware that a vetting doesn't take the place of a good and serious study of the horse. PatO

Dec. 6, 2011, 04:17 PM
I x-ray on PPE's (the price range I shop in is ~4-9k). My first PPE was on a 4 y/o who was very sound with low mileage. The x-rays showed mild hock changes, so I passed. Within 6 months, I was told that the horse went lame behind and started bucking under saddle, even after injections. :( Really sad, but the x-rays were certainly worth the money.

Dec. 6, 2011, 04:24 PM
I didn't vet the last 5 horses I bought. Of the 5 I had one epic fail (arrived 5/5 lame with a fractured knee) and another with some challenges that may have been evident on a PPE, but it's working out. The two I sold on were vetted extensively by the buyers - like crazy thorough - and passed.

I'm fortunate to have my own place so I was willing to take a chance and give my prospects as much time as they needed.

If I were boarding and had specific competition goals, I'd definitely do a PPE.

Dec. 6, 2011, 04:37 PM
I didn't vet my first horse, however he flexed all 0s and was very very sound. My newest horse who was larger and had raced, we did a PPE with xrays. Mostly because of his past record racing as well as the fact that he had a slightly clubbed hoof.

I would definitely recommend it.

Dec. 6, 2011, 04:42 PM
No doubt. Always and everything.

My last purchase was clean on every film (digital so we could see them as we went along) we took. I had my vet take every view of every joint...until she got to the stifles. We discussed at length, decided he was so clean so far, let's not bother. A month later he was on the table having OCD fragments removed. Chi-ching, add another 3000 to the already too high purchase price.

OTOH, I had a TB on whom I x-rayed every joint. There was nothing anywhere that needed addressing in a complete and very thorough PPE. Guess what, he had massive food allergies and EPSM-neither of those things would show up on a pre-purchase...He was the first TB my vet had heard of as having EPSM and became the poster child for their clinic. Not good for me but great for other horses/owners with the same affliction...

Huh, another TB I had was home-bred by my vet. She gave him to me as a 3 year old. No films, no PPE, no nuthin. He didn't take a lame step (BN -Intermediate) until he bowed/severed his DDFT walking in his pasture at the age of 23.

A 3 year old mare I had in on trial had horrific navicular changes in 1 front foot tho was sound as a rock. I passed on her. Another had a broken sesamoid. He too was sound. Pass.

I won't keep going, each one I've taken films on has shown me something-either I could live with it or not. I guess I just like to know what I'm getting.

Dec. 6, 2011, 05:02 PM
I do on anything over $1500.00 and/or if the vet feels after the basic PPE that I should. Usually front feet, all four ankles and knees and sometimes hocks (depending on age, what it's done, etc). So far I have never been disappointed that I did it.

Dec. 6, 2011, 05:39 PM
In ottb's who aren't very long off the track I think you get a better bang for your buck doing x-rays because flexions often don't tell me much at that stage of the game. They are often still body sore and a bit funky.

For resale in today's market I think you have to x-rays at least feet, ankles, knees and hocks.

Personally, I have never x-rayed or PPE a horse that I have bought:eek: I have my own farm and I've never spent over $3500 so I feel like I can afford to gamble.

Dec. 6, 2011, 11:21 PM
I always do front feet and hocks, and then maybe add another joint as needed, like an ankle that didn't flex very well.

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Dec. 6, 2011, 11:49 PM
Costs the same to keep a sound horse as an unsound one - a lot! May as well stack the odds in your favor and at least start with a sound one.

That said I PPE'd a horse at a cost of $1450 2 years ago, and the (highly recommended) vet was VERY lax - didn't check the teeth/notice the horse was 20, despite me making it clear age was a concern. Or notice the huge navicular lesions. Net result: my 12 yr old, $10k eventer is a 20 yr old pasture puff. Called the vet to ask for a refund of the PPE price, and he got nasty.

Lesson: vet the vet first!

Dec. 7, 2011, 12:38 AM
I used to PPE everything, with X-rays, and had completely clean horses get hit with navicular issues in <2 years while those that were slightly "iffy" were sound for many years. I have no evidence supporting the PPE/X-rays being linked in any way to long term soundness, so I no longer do PPEs or X-rays. I have a good eye and either buy young horses that haven't done anything or an older horse from someone I know and trust. I have put down 3 horses - one from a brain tumor, one from a broken leg caused by taking a bad step in the field, and one from an injury caused by getting cast in her stall. Of the horses I have sold, all but one were for behavior/rider incompatibility/life changes issues except one, which was the one with navicular issues after a completely clean PPE with X-rays! Of course, YMMV.

Dec. 7, 2011, 02:11 AM
The price range I shop in and having some years experience, I generally don't do PPEs.

The ONLY two horses I have ever had PPEs on, got a clean bill... and didn't stay sound for more than a year or two.

Haven't had any issues with the others. *knock wood*

I think it's a gamble no matter what you do.

That said, if I was buying something expensive then I'd do the whole deal.

Dec. 7, 2011, 06:28 AM
Good rule of thumb most vets will tell you is that a pre-purchase should be roughly 10% of the purchase price of the horse.

That being said, on a budget, I still support taking a few shots of whatever was most questionable on the flexion. If nothing questionable, hocks, ankles, navic are all good to have...but unfortunately there's no guarantee, the horse with perfect x-rays will go out in the pasture and get hurt doing something stupid. :lol:

Dec. 7, 2011, 08:20 AM
Thanks for all the responses :)

I think at the very least I'll be doing feet and hocks. A quick question on stifles: Last time I purchased a horse we talked about doing stifles due to some stiffness in the back end (this is the same horse with pretty bad navicular lesions but stifles and back have been fine...go figure). This was 7 years ago and at the time that would have required going to NC State for the shots. Do shots of the stifles have to be performed in a clinic, or are there vets that can do them at the horse's location?

Dec. 7, 2011, 08:43 AM
Stifles can definitely be done in the field. I wonder if your vet didn't have the large plates that are required for taking stifle films. I've had stifles done multiple times in the field over the years.

If the horse is young and has not been in consistent work, my vet insists on shooting 2-3 views of each stifle to rule out OCD, even if the horse flexes just fine. If it is older and has been sound in consistent work, it is less likely to be a problem.

I also do front feet and hocks, then whatever other joints the flexions or lungeing may have pointed to soundness issues in. I don't mind minor changes in hocks, even in young horses. Hocks are very manageable, and pretty much every horse is eventually going to end up with changes in them (as is the opinion of two different, very good sporthorse vets I've worked with).

Dec. 7, 2011, 09:22 AM
I feel like a vet check really helps with "peace of mind" about a purchase. No matter how much money you are about to spend, it seems like if you are worried about some part of the horse's conformation- you should definitely get it checked out before purchasing.

I definitely did NOT do this when I purchased my gelding- he was cheap and I LOVED him instantly- but I was worried about his left front ankle. Sure enough, four months after I got him- he had too much fun in turnout and ended up with a suspensory flare up. He had an old track injury in the ankle I was worried about! We BOTH paid the price with 6 months of stall rest & rehab through the summer of 90+ degrees and holy heck humidity!!

Lesson learned: follow the gut & get something checked out if it doesn't look/feel right. Even if there is an issue somewhere & you still go forward with purchase, at least you will know in advance instead of finding out the hard way :)

Dec. 7, 2011, 09:54 AM

In your situation, yes I would. The ones I generally have not have either been too young, or too old, or for a purpose that it wouldn't matter (in utero and sucklings, a 23 yo gelding bought for companion/ pony rides, a broodmare, etc).

Dec. 7, 2011, 10:28 AM
All the horses I've owned, I've never done a true PPE. One of the horses that I got I did rads on after getting her OTT because I KNEW she had a bone chip in her front ankle. She was sound, but that the chip is why I got her for nothing! So I figured her purchase price was the $900 joint surgery that she got! I never regretted it. She allowed me to get up to the training level before she reached her limit and is now a very low level pony club horse!

The other horse that I got for myself was another 3 yo OTTB that we trotted up at the track and I took a gamble. Besides dealing with a broken splint bone now (at 7) she has been very sound. She does have allergies which has manifested into respiratory problems which are manageable which wouldn't have been found on a PPE.

I have bought and sold a number of resale horses, but I buy really low, and typically sell for low too. Maybe not the most profitable venture, but I don't keep them long. I like to flip them in 2-3 months so my cost involved is minimal and I had my own place so cost on keeping them was low too.

The most I've ever paid for a horse was $1600. That said if I was buying a horse for probably anything over 4-5K I would at least PPE it. And now that I don't have my own place and board out, this too would enforce the PPE.

Mtn trails
Dec. 7, 2011, 11:32 AM
I haven't bought a horse strictly for eventing in at least 25-30 years so no, hadn't done any x-rays. However, recently I had a 6 year old OTTB on trial and noticed she was a little NQR when I was lunging her. Did the PPE and she didn't pass the flexion, did x-rays and found she had cartilage degeneration in her right front pastern. So no deal and this was just a $500 horse.

Now, I have a 6 year old TB, unraced greenie on trial for the next 2 months. He has a lump on his right knee that I'm having x-rayed tomorrow. He is sound at w/t/c but want to make sure there's nothing in there to exclude jumping. Keeping my fingers crossed it's nothing major.

Dec. 7, 2011, 12:15 PM
Myself? Last time I did a PPE at all was 19 years ago. That horse ended up having a bone chip in an ankle (showed up on rads) but was sounds as a dollar before that. Bought the mare, and she was sound as they come ever since. Finally retired her this year @ 26, when she pinched a nerve in her neck which caused her hind end to get wonky. Still no issues with the chip! Lol. The roughly 20 horses I've gotten since (all price ranges from free to ridiculously expensive, mostly TB's with the odd QH, Morgan, paint, from babies to OTTB, broodmares, show horses, really the whole gamut) I haven't bothered doing PPEs on. I've gotten lucky in that in most cases, I've known where they've come from, have known owners/trainers/etc, that have vouched for the horse. The horses I haven't known, I generally get a second opinion from a friend, to make sure they don't see something I'm missing. And I've yet (knock on wood) to have any issues that a) I didn't already know about or b) wasn't purely an accident. So, all that being said, I've got a place to keep anything that has issues, needs time, etc. For 99% of the 'normal' horse owners, who can't afford to have a bunch of pasture puffs, I ABSOLUTELY recommend a PPE with a trusted vet, and get shots of anything that gives you pause, no matter how silly It seems.

Perfect Pony
Dec. 7, 2011, 12:55 PM
I had my vet take every view of every joint...until she got to the stifles. We discussed at length, decided he was so clean so far, let's not bother. A month later he was on the table having OCD fragments removed. Chi-ching, add another 3000 to the already too high purchase price.

I have 2 similar stories. One was an OTTB that I did hocks and feet on, and asked for knees but the vet said since he flexed fine on the knees that I didn't need to. To this day I am CERTAIN the vet was in cahoots with the seller, because a vet later said I was right to be concerned about the knees, and sure enough the horse had a fractured knee that healed, but with work re-fractured.

My 4 year old mare was bought from a breeder from someone I really trusted at the time. She told me I was imagining things when I thought she was slightly dragging the right hind. She passed flexions all the way around, and was proclaimed "sound" by several vets over a 2 year period. Turns out that she actually had a large chip in her Right stifle that was causing her under saddle behavior AND she was mildly neurological which was the cause of the foot dragging, and probably the reason she always flexed sound.

Both I should have xrayed everything and most importantly listened to my gut. 2 huge lessons, but never again.

Dec. 7, 2011, 04:27 PM
I've taken and re-sold many over the years and I always do at least one hoof, one of the same ankle in the front, one hock on the diagonal side of the front leg. I pick left or right by any funny things in movement, flexion or by how they're built. (horses are never symmetrical.) Usually it will catch the major problems, gives me an idea of any shoeing issues and gives me a pretty good baseline for less money. Even if the horse is free, it costs the same amount to keep them.

Dec. 7, 2011, 04:40 PM
It's not the purchase price cost of the horse, but the cost of boarding/keeping that horse that matters in your calculation.

If it's a $1k horse that will cost you $10k a year to board, your potential loss is much much greater than $1k.

I figure with any horse I buy and plan to be riding seriously, it's likely I'll be doing x-rays sooner or later anyway. Might as well do it before I'm unable to walk away.

At the very least it's a baseline for when problems do come up. It can also be used to negotiate a price down if the results are acceptable but not what was expected.

If you'd be okay if the horse was only sound for very light work, then you might skip it in that case - say a trail horse or a mount for a dead beginner.

Dec. 7, 2011, 06:53 PM
Here's a take from a different perspective.

I moved here over two years ago, started a not young but not old gelding undersaddle for my land lady. Been a pasture puff his whole life. In the time since I first met him, never saw him take a lame step. No known lameness issues before I met him or before land lady purchased him, either.

He's going good, she decides to sell as my horses now serve the purpose of keeping her personal riding horse company. No big deal, right?

Find ideal buyer, she comes out and tries him same day we make contact. Loves him. He's perfect, she feels totally safe with him and loves his personality.

PPE minus x-rays. Passes with flying colors. Deposit is made, payment plan agreed on.

A month at a pro trainer. Going great! She's in heaven and over the moon with her new horse.

Goes to a swim clinic, has a great time, horse swims like a fish. Has a little hissy fit at the trailer. Next day, three legged lame. Thinks "OK maybe hit his leg on the trailer." A month later, still lame. Vet comes out for rads.

Turns out he has a VERY old sesamoid injury. Heavy and smooth calcification. The vet's amazed he's held up without coming up lame as long as he has, especially with me having been taking him over fences and up trails. Buyer devastated, her hopes for him being her performance horse shattered. She was fortunate, and while no refund for payment made or time and money invested was discussed, the gelding came back here.

Moral of the story: Young, old, known issues, no known issues, whatever direction you want to go with training, or the sale price, unless you don't mind ending up with an unsound horse to care for, invest the extra $$ in the xrays at PPE. Saves everyone a lot of headache.

Dec. 7, 2011, 07:29 PM
I don't always do xrays in a PPE. But I do on get a baseline set on any horse who I think I'm either going to re-sell...and eventually tend to get a baseline set on all my riding horses once they reach a certain level. So sometimes this baseline set is gotten after I've already purchased the horse. I will also get a baseline set done on my youngsters that I've breed when they are 2/3 year olds. This I think will be useful whether I sell or compete them.

There is a hell of a lot you can live with for a horse who is only going to do dressage and low level eventing. So I'm not sure I would feel as strong about xrays in a PPE unless I was spending 10K+. But I would get a PPE from a vet I trust and trust my own instincts.

I didn't do xrays on one of my current horses. He has some issues but would be fine for your purposes---not so fine for the **+ hopes that I had for him. I did do a PPE and eventually I've now xrayed just about every part of him. Honestly....none of the issues he has now that are preventing an UL eventing career would have been discovered in a PPE even if I had done extensive xrays in his PPE.

Bottom line...there is no right or wrong answer to this question. It is all what makes you most comfortable and what you can afford to spend.

Dec. 7, 2011, 11:41 PM

Primarily the things it depends on:

Price (of horse, and of xrays).

Familiarity with seller.

Known history of horse: as in, do I know about any injuries I want to check on, or, does it a have a competition record that would indicate either a problem (big gaps of inactivity) or no problem (consistent performer for years).

How long I've had/known the horse. (As in, if I've been leasing it for a year, I've got a pretty good feel for it's soundness).

All things being equal, I've probably on xrayed 50% of the time, and have never had an issue.

Dec. 8, 2011, 12:03 AM
I think rads are wise, especially if there is a chance this horse will be sold down the road.

But, just keep in mind, they guarantee NOTHING. The best example of this was a horse PPEed. His rads were nothing spectacular. Pretty much expected for a horse of his age (7ish), with his mileage (nothing hard). They weren't 100% perfect, but nothing was glaringly wrong. The two biggest concerns of the PPE were an old hind suspensory (we were VERY familiar with this horse and knew all about the injury and had full disclosure), and his eyes. Neither of those things, to this day, 7ish years on, have EVER been an issue.

However, the horse was a navicular nightmare about 18 months into his purchase. Nothing in the rads really pointed to a potential problem, but, boy! did he have them!

Moral of the story? Do them. It's a good idea to have the baseline (we confirmed that his rads were acceptable when his soundness started to go out the window). But remember they are not a guarantee of future soundness and just because there is nothing there now does not mean you still won't have an issue down the road.

Dec. 8, 2011, 09:15 AM
Anyone have stories of rads that don't look great (I don't mean obvious injury, but like yellowbritches described, maybe some changes but within normal ranges for horse's age and work history) but horse remains sound for its intended use?

Sigh. Just seems like something (radiography) that doesn't have really good predictiveness.

And of course it's always nice when the rads and lab tests line up with the presentation, isn't it? But when movement is fine even with flex tests, but rads don't look great, or when NQR in movement but rads don't show anything, those are the rubs!

I guess I tend to be more persuaded by behavior/work history of the horse -- that is, I tend to put more weight in just knowing the horse and its history and previous owners, or if that isn't possible, getting lease to purchase agreements or a trial period. That gives me a whole range of info about a potential purchase, from health to behavior to do-I-like-to-be-around-him types of info. But of course, I've never purchased with an eye to reselling, so in that case rads for a baseline for future buyers could be important.