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Title of Article: "The Pre-purchase Exam vs. The Insurance Exam"
Author: David D. Johnson

In buying a new horse there are several things to consider relative to the health and soundness of the prospect. A pre-purchase health and soundness examination may be more than you want to spend but what if a problem is detected in the more complete pre-purchase examination. You could easily save yourself lots more money because the vet found degenerative joint disease, (As an example).

Interestingly enough the purchase price of the horse should NOT be a factor and, in fact, it's none of the vet's business what the price is. That determination as to value and suitability must be made by you and your professional trainer.

Make sure that the veterinarian you choose, (not the seller's choice), has no close or barn relationship with the seller. Amazing as it may seem, I hear lots of instances where the buyer just accepts the seller's vet as the one to make the pre-purchase examination.

The fact that the seller is using their own vet to do "your" soundness exam should raise all sorts of red flags:

a. The seller's vet may not be as impartial as should be in supposedly looking out for your best interests.

b. The ethical dilemma brought on by the seller getting his own vet to do the exam should also be an unacceptable item. The AAEP, (American Association of Equine Practioners), demands the highest ethical standards to which all vets should adhere; again, another red flag. (For instance, our "barn" vet will NOT do a pre-purchase exam for anyone out of the barn who's purchasing a horse from our barn for ethical reasons. He does not want even a "perception" of unethical behavior).

If the horse you're having examined is out of town, it's customary to have the x-rays and preliminary results of the physical sent to your vet's office back home; it just makes sense to have another pair of trained eyes looking at your prospective horse's exam. Plus they are familiar with you and your potential use of the new horse.

In some cases, the seller will suggest an insurance exam as a way of saving you some money, explaining to you that the vet can "look" at the horse as well as performing the insurance exam.

On the face of it, all seems ok except that the insurance exam is not at all rigorous and is NOT a legitimate way of determining if the prospective animal is indeed completely sound. In addition, x-rays are almost never done in an insurance physical except in a "loss of Use" policy where x-rays are required.

I can tell you that in my professional capacity as a trainer, I won't let a horse be sold unless the buyer has a thorough pre-purchase examination performed.

If the prospective buyer doesn't want to spend the money, you may have a buyer who will be the first one to sue you for recision, (cancel the whole deal, plus stick you with additional health expenses on the horse).

Oh yes, make sure that any and all veterinary problems are disclosed including the records at you vet's office. The reason is that if those records are not easily made available to the potential buyer and their vet, and something untoward happens after the sale is made, some states look at your "non-disclosure", as a fraudulent act.

Also, don't be cheap when asking the vet you've hired to examine the prospect. Not having enough x-rays can be a problem down the road since a good set of "baseline" radiographs can be a real aid in marketing the animal in the future.

Now, for the insurance exam: Insurance companies have a right to know if the animal they're insuring is still sound. The vet simply visits the barn and checks the vital signs. The soundness part of the exam should be simply trotting the horse back and forth in front of the vet.

Ordinarily, no x-rays are taken, (except as mentioned above), but you do get to pay for the exam so try and get other clients of your vet to have their horses done at the same time to limit costs. The vet simply fills out and signs a form supplied by the insurance company and then faxes it back to the agent. It is the owner's responsibility to mail the original document; although most licensed agents can bind coverage over the phone, pending receipt of the original veterinary exam.

In short, when buying a new horse just "bite the bullet" and spend the dollars to make sure your new horse is completely healthy.

Even if the vet finds a small problem it may help to get the seller to lower the price, (After consultation with your trainer, of course). Sometimes its ok to make an educated "gamble".

Now the MOST important part of the whole process is to make sure there is a contract made up to protect both yours and the seller's interests. The contract can save lots of time and aggravation later.

Please let me know if you have any comments.

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