McKee-Pownall Equine Services | Pre-Purchase Exam


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Pre-Purchase Exam

We offer protection to horse buyers by helping to identify existing and potential problems with their prospective horse. We offer a range of diagnostic equipment to maximize the information available in making your purchase decision.

In advance of a pre-purchase we ask that the Seller or Agent complete the Pre-Purchase History Exam form. Pre-Purchase Exam History

Physical Assessment

Physical exam

Every prepurchase examination begins with a physical exam of the horse. At this stage we assess the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, eyes, teeth, conformation, and palpate the limbs for areas of current and chronic injury. We also obtain a medical and competitive history of the animal.

Performance exam

Following the initial examination, we observe the horse on the lunge line on sand footing to assess gait, soundness, and level of fitness. The heart and lungs are listened to again after exercise to check for stress related abnormalities. The horse is then observed on hard footing to reveal lamenesses that are exaggerated by concussion. We can also perform these tests with a rider if requested.

Joint exam

Flexion tests are performed on the lower limbs. These tests involve bending a specific joint for a set period of time and then immediately trotting the horse off. Arthritic or inflamed joints can be identified this way, as the horse will show stiffness or a slight limp for a few strides.

"Understanding Flexion Tests"


Under Saddle Exam

In addition to the regular "in hand" pre-purchase McKee Pownall offers an under tack option.

The under tack pre-purchase option includes all of the standard in hand work, with an add-on of observing the horse under saddle and at all 3 gaits.

Some conditions are only observed when the horse has the weight of the rider or with the addition of tack and rider. Other subtle conditions are exacerbated under tight turns, or when in a frame. This is particularly true for neck and back conditions. Any limb in question can be then reassessed and flexed under tack as needed.

This adds another layer of information to the pre-purchase exam and gives you more information for your money.


If the horse performs well on the above tests, we move onto the imaging section of the examination. This typically involves fluoroscopy, digital radiography, or a combination of both.

Imaging for Soundness

We examine the bones and joints of the limbs for signs of injury, arthritis, and the potential for future problems. No horse is perfect, so our goal is to decide which findings are unlikely to interfere with the horse's soundness , verses those which will become a problem. The past record of soundness, age of the horse, and intended use are obviously important factors in these decisions.

Soft Tissues and Blood Testing

We often examine the soft tissues, such as a thickened tendon, with digital ultrasonography. If the horse makes an abnormal noise in the throat, or is expected to perform at a high level athletically, the airway can be examined by endoscopy to check for proper anatomy and function.

Blood tests can be drawn if illness or abnormality is suspected. Our policy is to hold a blood sample for 30 days from every prepurchase examination in the event that drug testing is requested. This is for protection of the buyer and the seller, to relieve any suspicion that the horse was given enhancing drugs prior to the exam. An insurance form will be completed for you if desired.

Digital Results Storage

Hopefully, all has gone well and the exam concludes with you taking home your new horse. All of the images are stored in an image archiving database. Many horses have been resold successfully because we can demonstrate that a small abnormality on xray was present on the last prepurchase examination and has not worsened or affected performance. The CD can also be sent to another veterinarian, as we frequently perform exams for buyers in other countries and forward the xrays to their own veterinarian.

All exam results and images are confidential and are only released on authorization of the individual who commissioned the exam.

Options and Details

This describes a prepurchase examination performed at our facility. Of course, if the horse is found to be unsuitable at any point, the exam is terminated and no further charges are incurred. We also do these exams on-farm if the horse is unable to ship in. Digital radiography, ultrasonography, and endoscopy can be offered however fluroscopy is not portable. Appropriate footing may vary, this can sometimes limit our gait evaluations.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our prepurchase services.


Understanding Pre-Purchase Exams

Looking for more information about pre-purchase exams? Try our two part video "Understanding pre-purchase exams".