The decision to buy a horse is a major commitment. It involves an outlay of time, emotion and money. For most current horse owners these are expenses that they have already considered many times. The choice to purchase "that horse" should be a joint venture between the prospective owner and the information that may be provided by professionals such as a trainer or coach and their veterinarian.
Veterinary purchase exams are designed to uncover as much medical and soundness information on the prospective horse as is possible in a limited time frame. Although it is impossible through a single clinical examination to predict the future wellness of any particular animal, it is quite valuable to know as much as possible regarding the animals current medical condition and soundness. The exam is not designed as a "pass or fail" test, rather it is designed as a medical information report that can help in deciding if a particular prospective athlete may perform their intended job, and how they may hold up in the future.
A major red flag in purchase exam is the detection of a lameness. Although a red flag, this does not mean that the horse is not suitable for purchase. The decision for purchase is based on many factors including the age and condition of the horse, the level of training, the intended use of the horse, the severity of the problem, and treatment options for the condition, as well as the purchase price. In fact, many valuable performance horses are purchased with full knowledge of existing medical conditions including lameness. They are purchased based on their ability to perform their jobs and to excel in a particular sport.
The decision to have a purchase exam performed prior to buying an animal is usually a sound investment. To limit the amount of money spent on such exams the purchaser should spend as much time researching the horses abilities and suitability prior to calling for the veterinary exam. If you are thinking about buying a horse, and you have researched and found one that you think will fit your needs, than call the clinic to schedule a pre-purchase exam. Keep in mind when scheduling an appointment that although the exam usually averages an hour and a half, these exams can take up to three hours if additional diagnostics have been requested.