Stick your nose under that horse’s skirt!

9 06 2010

Got an email from a very nice lady the other day who found out the horse she bought the day before had some health issues that weren’t disclosed by the seller.  When I asked if she had a pre-purchase examination by a veterinarian she said no.  Big mistake. 

It’s perfectly reasonable and, in fact, should be anticipated that you want to stick your nose under a prospective mount’s skirt, so to speak.  You have every right to know what’s going on under there!

It’s not that all folks selling horses are dishonest.  They aren’t.  Some are, that’s for sure, but many horse sellers are great folks.  The problem is that horses are complicated beasts from just about every perspective you can imagine, whether it be physiological, mental, logistical, educational….and lots of other “als.”  The result of their complicated nature is that often times they will have latent (not obvious) medical issues that aren’t evident to anyone, even folks who handle them every day.  Sometimes it’s not until you try to use that horse for a specific purpose that you have in mind or have a particular person sit on that horse that the issue becomes evident.  I’ve seen one person sit on a horse and the horse trotted around totally sound and then another person sits on him and he’s lame.  First person gets back on and horse is sound again, all in a period of about 5 minutes.  Weird.  Complicated. 

Accordingly, please, please, please don’t be cheap and try to save a few hundred dollars on your horse purchase transaction when you’re spending thousands purchasing the animal.  It’s not worth the risk you take.  And relying on old vet records isn’t much better than doing nothing.  Perhaps worse. 

If you’re buying a horse or leasing a horse long term (6 months or more) get a pre-purchase (or pre-lease, as the case may be) examination done by a reputable veterinarian who does NOT have a relationship with the Seller.   It will only cost you a $100-$300, depending on whether you want x-rays or not and that could save you exponentially more than that in the event the horse has a significant issue.  I have had more than one vet tell me that she or he would always get a lameness exam, overall health check, blood draw, proof of current vaccinations and x-rays of the hocks and front feet no matter what you’re doing with the horse.   And if the horse is going to be ridden for any purpose, make sure the vet observes the horse’s movement with the relevant person seated on the horse.  Some horses’  bodies just aren’t compatible with certain folks’ body type and you need to know it up front if that’s the case.

Unfortunately we don’t have “lemon laws” with regard to horses like we do with automobiles.  Once you have parted with the purchase money, you will have a hard time getting it back from the seller unless you can show with convincing proof that the seller actively misrepresented the horse to you, altered documents, forged signatures, etc….. and even then you would likely have to sue that person.   And suing someone is expensive.  A lot more expensive than that pre-purchase exam would have been 🙂

If you get into a bind and need assistance or just want to ask some questions to avoid getting in a bind, feel free to email me at I often will answer a short and simple question for free if I have time and know the answer off the top of my head! If you don’t hear back from me quickly, it’s not because I don’t love you or think you have a great question or because I don’t know the answer (usually), I’m probably just really busy and haven’t had a chance to email back. You can check out our firm’s Equine Law Group at if you’re interested, and yes, in addition to providing what I hope are interesting and informative stories, this blog is also an advertisement for legal services.  I have to tell you that in bold, says the State Bar.

Happy riding!




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