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PRE-PURCHASE EXAM...What to expect?

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  • PRE-PURCHASE EXAM...What to expect?

    For anyone with a somewhat measurable experience in having done PPE's, any input would be greatly appreciated. I am currently selling a 13 year old gelding that has an incredible amount of training in multiple disciplines...but being no fault of his own, he has pretty much sat idle, with only an occasional ride here and there, for the last 3 years. When he was purchased by his previous owner, he vetted and xrayed clean at that time. Well, to get to the point here, i have someone very interested in him, and they are sending a vet out to do a PPE and xrays of all of his limbs, from the hoof up. Here's my concern...the lady interested made a comment about him seeming stiff or short strided in his rear legs...I definitely didn't notice anything, but i am no lameness expert either. Could he just be "stiff" from not working much at all over the last few years, with hopefully no significant arthritic changes? And...(here's my main question) IF he doesn't flex the best (showing some sort of "mild" lameness) but the xrays are CLEAN...would he "pass" an PPE? Can a horse show a mild lameness (stiffness) from lack of work, with nothing truly being wrong? And, how would the vet. "interpret" that sort of PPE (assuming he xrays clean)??
  • Original Poster

    I apologize if what I wrote above is confusing in any way...I went back to read it over, and I have confused myself!


    • #3
      A PPE isn't a "pass or fail" endeavor. It's up to the buyer to decided if the horse will be suitable for its intended use.

      For a basic PPE, you can expect to have the horse jogged in a straight line and on a circle on hard and soft ground, flexion tests on all four legs, Chevks of vision, hearing, teeth, and wind. X-rays may be taken based on flexions and what's x-rayed varies. Some people do every possible joint and angle, others do a few based on the horse's breed and conformation or on what was seen in other parts of the exam. For example, my horse flexed and jogged clean (well, was .5 lame on hard ground, which vet attributed to the fact that he'd had the same shoes on for over four months without a reset. He turned out to be correct, horse was 100% after getting his feet done!) so we chose to X-ray just his front feet (He's a QH, a breed prone to navicular). Buyer may also choose to do other diagnostics. If the horse is a roarer, for example, they may choose to have a scope done. The extent of the PPE can vary depending on several factors including horse's age, breed, past and intended use, price, etc.

      If horse flexes positive but x-rays clean, it's up to the buyer to decide if they can live with what was found. On an older horse, a mild positive flex with a clean x-ray wouldn't concern me too much for a horse intended for pleasure and lower level competition.

      But in any case, the vet doesn't stamp the those as "passed" or "failed." He discusses whatever he finds during the exam with the potential buyer, who then decides whether to purchase the horse based on the vet's findings.


      • #4
        Theoretically, a good vet does not provide a Pass/Fail grade on a PPE. The exam is an evaluation of the horse at a given point in time. The vet will discuss what the buyer plans to do with the horse. If the vet finds anything "funny", most will comment whether that issue could impact the buyer's intended use. But, really, it's up to the buyer to decide if they can deal with any potential finding.

        In your case, you should ask the previous owner if they will release the PPE findings - especially rads - from the last time he was purchased. It might be very helpful to have a comparison if anything shows up.

        I just recently bought a horse who had a small finding on x-ray (100% sound on all flexions). The prior owner had released the rads from her purchase one year previous. Comparing current to old x-rays, the vet and I agreed that it was very unlikely that his finding would ever be a problem.

        Some buyers might have walked away and said "Horse failed the PPE". I bought him without reservations.

        And then there was the time I drove a 20 hour round trip for what I thought was going to be a sure bet. Had a short, quiet ride in the evening. PPE next day - horse crow-hopped off on both rear leg hock flexions. I stopped the exam at that point. (And seller blamed me for the horse being sore after my quiet little test ride the day before!!!)

        Good Luck!
        Fox Wood Farm


        • #5
          Mine flexed 0/5 with one vet. Then 1.5/5 with another.

          I. Don't. Get. It. The people with the 1.5/5 vet took him. ?


          • #6
            It's a crapshoot period.....and if he X-rays clean but has mild stiffness you can offer a discount towards them putting him on say Pentosan and getting his hocks injected....


            • #7
              Originally posted by Fox Wood Farm View Post
              Theoretically, a good vet does not provide a Pass/Fail grade on a PPE. The exam is an evaluation of the horse at a given point in time. The vet will discuss what the buyer plans to do with the horse. If the vet finds anything "funny", most will comment whether that issue could impact the buyer's intended use. But, really, it's up to the buyer to decide if they can deal with any potential finding.
              This, exactly.

              I just bought a warmblood mare that had seemed to slip through the cracks - still relatively young but had not "done anything" really. I was worried that there might be a reason - that she was unsound in some way, so I shared that concern with my vet.

              The PPE was a basic physical eval - heart, lungs, vision, hoof exam and hoof testers, etc. and a lameness exam, then a series of flexions. After the flexions, my vet discussed his findings with me -- conformation pros and cons, his thoughts about her current conditioning, his findings on the physical exam, and then his feelings about the lameness eval and the flexions. He did not find anything that worried him, although he was able to explain some of her movement to me (conformation) and also lack of condition, and things he thought she needed - different trim, etc. He also found things like an old splint, and a slightly "stickier" knee...and gave me his thoughts on their overall impact on her soundness. (He actually said if he had found *nothing* wrong with her he would have been sort of surprised and almost suspicious - even lightly used horses should have some "issues").

              Had I been interested in further evaluation - xrays, drug test, blood tests, etc. he would have done them and used their findings to advise me. As it turned out, he found nothing that made him feel HE had to have more information, so I did not do any further testing.

              In the end, however, the decision was entirely up to me. It's not a pass/fail situation.

              Keep in mind that people who pay for a PPE want to buy the horse, and their vets are just the stop gap between them making a bad decision. The vet definitely doesn't want to find anything bad, but do have an obligation to be honest. That doesn't mean the buyer won't want the horse anyway.


              • #8
                The best definition I've heard for a pre purchase exam goes like this;

                "Where a veterinarian does an autopsy on a living corps and reports their findings to the prospective buyer."


                • #9
                  My sample may be skewed ( ) but in my experience, horses all seem to have "something " in their PPEs;the issue is if that "something" is okay to the buyer and will allow the horse to meet his/her needs.

                  Your boy sounds like a very nice horse. I bought a 13yo gelding, also trained in a variety of disciplines, but...has OCD. As a buyer, and the one paying for the PPE, the vet works for ME, so ahead of time, had spoken with me, knew my goals and interests for the horse and so on. Again, as a buyer, I have had rads done on 3 of the past 4 horses I've bought and am glad I did. I bought the horses but have a great baseline of information and know about their potential issues. I also was very happy to allow the owner access to the rads (the 13yo with OCD the owner was great, reasonable, wanted her vet to see them, and he concurred with my vet, always handy).

                  And,at the end of the day, a buyer MAY decide that given what the PPE revealed, they are not interested. I HAVE walked when one horse I really liked just remained lame. Never found out the issue but did not want to take it on. In my opinion, depending on the money involved, I have seen vets CAN over react when really, "findings"do NOT always mean that the horse won't work for the purposes of the buyer. The vet who did the PPE on my guy with OCD, and my (very practical) vet here in Montana looked at the pics and basically said, "Meh, he wil likely be fine but here's the worse case scenario...". The colleague of the first vet (who was, thankfully, NOT involved in the PPE) was much more "OMG!! THAT IS NOT A CLEAN PPE! ITS POSSIBLE DOWN THE LINE YOU'LL HAVE ISSUES. THAT HORSE IS A CRIPPLE" (he has not taken an lame step since I've gotten him, been wonderful).If I was paying top dollar for him, his reaction is likely reasonable.

                  Anyway hopefully both the buyer and the vet are reasonable,but if not, then perhaps the next lookers will be. My point about the vets is that sometimes a buyer will pass on a very nice, and very suitable HEALTHY horse, so not to take it personally!! hope things work out!


                  • #10
                    I'd say if they take pics of his hocks they will find some changes. The vet who did my guy looked at them, pointed it out to me and then said that they were exactly the sort of stuff she expected. Show her a horse who has jumped, and she'd show you these kind of changes. Made me feel good enough to buy him, and after almost 11 years he is still going strong, showing hunter at the 3' level.
                    Good luck, he sounds like a peach.


                    • #11
                      IMO it's well worth having a talk with the vet performing the PPE ahead of time. They should know what you intend to do with the horse, for starters, and you should also speak up about any particular health concerns that YOU would consider potentially more important. (a history of colic, certain lameness or conformational issues that you really want to avoid, etc.)

                      Most vets who routinely do formal PPEs will have an "a la carte" menu--do you want X-rays? If so, which joints? How about ultrasound if any abnormalities are found on exam? Flexions or no? Bloodwork? What KIND of bloodwork? Gait evaluation or no? Endoscopy, maybe?

                      You have the right to say yes or no to any of these. Personally I would say "no" to endoscopy and probably ultrasounds unless a glaring abnormality popped up or the horse had a relevant history suggesting those might help.

                      It pays to have a healthy understanding of what Xrays and flexions can tell you. Which is next to nothing about the future and maybe some stuff that is relevant right now, or maybe not.

                      FWIW, last week's issue of Horse & Hound (UK) has an article about horses who've failed the vet that was pretty good. It's available on line or at bigger magazine sellers.
                      Click here before you buy.


                      • #12
                        DW is exactly right: what you want to see on a PPE depends on what you want to do with the horse. I'll tolerate a lot more on a horse who is solidly and comfortably going at a level I want to do than I would on a youngster who hasn't ever done much of anything. For example, if you're looking at an upper level eventer or H/J who is going strong at 12-13 years old but has substantial mileage, I wouldn't be surprised if he flexes 1-1.5 on a couple of legs and has some jewelry on his xrays. That horse can still be an awesome horse for someone, though may need a bit of a maintenance program. In contrast, a 5 year old warmblood cross for resale that has done some basic w/t/c? I'd want those xrays to be nearly perfect, ditto the exam.

                        Most good sport horse vets understand that no horse is perfect and you can find something to haggle over on just about any PPE if you look hard enough - the question is the suitability of a particular animal for a specific job. A good vet and trainer should help you understand the implications of a particular finding on a vet check.


                        • #13
                          From what I'm reading, OP is the seller, not the buyer.

                          As such, don't expect to be privy to all the results; the vet and buyer will discuss the findings in private. The buyer pays for the PPE, and that means the buyer can choose whether or not to disclose anything to you, the owner. Some buyers will turn over everything, especially if they pass on purchasing the horse, and others will not release anything. So, as seller, be prepared not to see any of the x-rays or other diagnostics and not to be involved in any conversation with the vet. If you are included or given the file, consider it a bonus. In a nutshell, though you will likely be there to present the horse and watch, the PPE is between the vet and the buyer.


                          • #14
                            As has been pointed out. The PP is at the behest of the purchaser, the vet is their choice, and the information is theirs.

                            You can only hope that the veterinarian of their choice has enough knowledge of their chosen discipline to form an educated guess as to the relevance of any of his findings.

                            There now, isn't that comforting.
                            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                            • Original Poster

                              Thank you all so much on the insight! I am pretty sure he will vet out "ok"...but i imagine not "perfect"... He is 13 years old...I am really hopeful he meets the buyers expectations, as i couldn't ask for a more perfect home for him...Wish us luck!


                              • #16
                                Good luck!


                                • Original Poster

                                  An update on the PPE...

                                  Well, today was the day of the PPE, and Nate passed with FLYING COLORS!! The potential buyer was VERY thorough...they had the vet take at least a dozen xrays, did flexion tests and pulled blood for a drug test. It was all very cool to watch (we trailered him to the facility)...This gelding is Training level III dressage, has some jumping training, and had some HUS training years ago...he is also an excellent trail horse! The vet couldn't find.one.single.thing.wrong. YIPPEE!!!! He was such a star, and i'm super excited about his up and coming new home!!!


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by AzulBlue View Post
                                    Well, today was the day of the PPE, and Nate passed with FLYING COLORS!! The potential buyer was VERY thorough...they had the vet take at least a dozen xrays, did flexion tests and pulled blood for a drug test. It was all very cool to watch (we trailered him to the facility)...This gelding is Training level III dressage, has some jumping training, and had some HUS training years ago...he is also an excellent trail horse! The vet couldn't find.one.single.thing.wrong. YIPPEE!!!! He was such a star, and i'm super excited about his up and coming new home!!!
                                    This is great news both for you and the buyers!