The financial and emotional investment of buying a horse can be significant. A pre-purchase examination (PPE) is a specialized examination that looks closely at all systems of the horse. It helps to identify problems, or potential problems, with the horse performing its intended function. The examination is tailored to each horse and buyers needs. It can be as simple as a thorough physical, lameness, and neurologic evaluation. Or, more comprehensive to include any or all of the following diagnostic modalities: radiographs, ultrasound, drug testing and other blood work, endoscopic evaluation of the upper and lower airways and the stomach, bone scan or even MRI.
This evaluation incorporates thorough palpation of the horse, watching the horse in motion through various gaits on several surfaces, flexion tests, and joint or nerve blocks to attempt to localize the area of discomfort. Digital radiography and ultrasound are the mainstay of imaging for lameness problems. However, multiple limb lamenesses, or horses with multiple areas of lameness in a single limb, may need nuclear scintigraphy to identify all areas of inflammation and pain. Nuclear scintigraphy is an excellent screening tool to identify all areas of inflammation in the horse’s skeleton. MRI is used to acquire very detailed information about a portion of the limb that has been identified as the area of pain. Most training problems and poor performance in the elite equine athlete are caused by pain. We specialize in identifying those pain problems; thus, making training easier and preventing injuries to other parts of the horse’s body which can occur secondary to protecting these painful areas.
Endoscopic examination of the stomach is used to evaluate the horse for the presence of stomach (gastric) ulcers or stomach tumors. Gastric ulcers are a common cause of poor performance and/or recurrent colic in the horse.
Videoendoscopy allows direct visualization of the upper airway, guttural pouches, esophagus, bladder, and other areas of the body. It allows us to evaluate these areas for the presence of disease, dysfunction, or masses. Visualizing the airway while a horse is working on the treadmill can help diagnose subtle airway abnormalities. Some surgical procedures can be performed endoscopically, including endoscopic laser surgery. Many performance horses are prone to problems involving the upper respiratory tract. Most of these upper respiratory problems cause partial obstruction of the airway, leading to inability of the horse to take in adequate oxygen during exercise. Most of these problems can be corrected surgically.
A normal functioning nervous system is very important regardless of the level of athletic performance. Neurologic problems can originate anywhere from the brain to the spinal cord down to the level of individual nerves. The goal of neurologic evaluations is to localize where the problem is, determine what is causing the problem, and provide treatment options. Some cases may require radiographs or a myelogram, while others may need a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tap or biopsy sample.
A special high speed digital video camera is used to watch for subtle changes in gait that can not be appreciated at full speed. Hoof balance can be evaluated during motion to refine shoeing or trimming. Slow motion video can also show abnormalities in foot flight, limb movement, foot landing, and joint angles. Slow motion video may help identify abnormalities before they become serious lameness problems. This type of video evaluation is indicated in horses that are performing at a high level and need accurate trimming and shoeing, or the horse with a subtle lameness.