Pre-Purchase Testing

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Should X-rays be done as a routine part of a pre-purchase exam on a sound horse' Are flexion tests good enough' And, should blood tests be done as a routine part of a pre-purchase exam'

Veterinary Editor Eleanor Kellon VMD replies:

Flexion tests are controversial with pre-purchase exams, even among veterinarians. The purpose of the exam is to answer the question ?Is this horse sound today'? that's really all the pre-purchase exam can tell you. The question isn?t, ?Is this horse sound with flexion tests'?

Part of the problem is there is no way to standardize the amount of pressure used with a flexion test, so results from one veterinarian may be different from another. Overly aggressive flexion can also cause pain, and it's entirely possible for a flexion test to produce enough pain to make the horse look sore at that moment, even though he might never take another lame step related to that joint for the rest of his life.

X-ray findings can also be a nightmare from the veterinarian?s point of view. With few exceptions, bone changes don't predict future soundness or suitability for a particular form of work. For example, trauma can produce bone changes that last long after the original injury has healed and that aren?t producing pain. In short, a significant question often becomes is this old and quiet or active and ongoing' You can't always tell. they're particularly poor predictors of pain originating from joint inflammation because bone changes such as osteophytes don't appear until later stages of the process.

It is always wise to have blood pulled for toxicology when buying a horse. It can be tested for both long- and short-term tranquilizers, as well as anti-inflammatory/analgesic and local anesthetic drugs in the event the horse starts to go lame. Your veterinarian can freeze the serum and only do testing if a problem arises.

Always inform the seller you want to pull blood for drug testing before you even arrange to see the horse. Some will tell you not to bother to come! it's a good idea to ask them to sign a paper stating that if the horse shows behavior changes or lameness in the first 45 days after purchase you reserve the right to test your stored sample for drugs and in the event of a positive test they will take the horse back and refund your purchase price as well as the pre-purchase exam, X-ray and laboratory costs.

Why Are Horses Shod'
I'm reminded of the words of the late great Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes. When asked why his teams almost never threw the ball he said, ?There are three things that can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad.? I feel the same way about shoeing.

When questioning people about why they shoe I continually get the circuitous non-answers of ?We always shoe? or ?We need to shoe.? But I've yet to hear a good reason for why. Are they brainlessly following tradition without ever questioning the initial premise'

If I understand the history correctly, shoeing was done by the Romans because of their extensive cobbled road systems. But what is the sense of putting shoes on a horse that is ridden on manicured and maintained arena surfaces'

The only semi-valid reasons I have heard for shoes are various correctional ploys, but many times I wonder if the original problem wasn?t caused by the shoeing itself.

I am riding a big Quarter Horse. He?d been a working-ranch horse for eight years and a rodeo pick-up horse for two years. He's now a team penner and trail horse. He's never been shod and never will be. Can you tell me one good, or even necessary, thing about shoeing'

Horse Journal staff reply:

If your horse can go barefoot, it's wise to do that. We're pro-barefoot, but that doesn't mean that we're anti-shoes.

There are many good reasons to shoe. Shoes can be necessary for:

1) The horse's activity/sport, such as for traction (although this can be argued, as many upper-level horses are competitive and barefoot).

2) Therapy for an illness, such as?laminitis, navicular, etc.

3) Horses with genetically poor feet where optimal nutrition isn?t working as the feet still crack too much and endanger their health.

4) Conformation correction, although this is very arguable. If a farrier is trying to do a corrective trim on an older horse chances are great that He's going to cause a lameness somewhere else, as tendons, ligaments and joints react to the change.

5) Added protection for the feet of a hard-working, properly fed?horse that otherwise won?t hold up or will wear down too quickly, such as a driving horse used on paved roads.

There are more reasons, but the bottom line is to do what's best for individual horses. If they can do the job barefoot, all the better. If they can't, consider shoes or boots to help the horse. After proper trims, the most important thing you can do for your horse's feet is to provide optimal nutrition so he can grow strong hooves.