Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Caveat Emptor

Ahh the joys of horse shopping. Anticipation of finding just that perfect equine "mate;" feelings of joy and exuberance when eyes are laid on "the dream come true;" hope and expectation for a partnership that will take ones riding skills or competitive capacity to the next level.

For horse buyers there are a plethora of caveats that come with purchasing a new mount, and the selection process can be daunting when one considers all the questions that must be satisfactorily answered. Temperament? Ease of handling and ground manners? Suitability for the buyer's level of riding and discipline? Vices or stereotypic behaviors? Sensitivities to medications or supplements? Gaps in training? Spookiness? Competitive history and potential? Price?

Eventually one wades through the answers to these questions, views a group of prospects, narrows the fields and finally takes a couple of test rides on an intended mount. If you feel that "click" within the saddle, and are in love with the horse's looks and temperament, you are probably at this stage feeling pretty good about your long term potential with this new horse. Perhaps you have even begun envisioning the moment when he steps off the trailer and into your life for good, walking down your barn aisle to his freshly bedded stall.

You would be remiss, however, if you did not at this point pause for what is potentially the most important step of the process: the pre-purchase vet exam. At this point you will select a qualified veterinarian, who will run flexion tests, perhaps take x-rays, perform endoscopings or bloodwork, and review the horse's previous health history. As disappointing as it may be to sometimes discover that your chosen horse may not be in the appropriate health you need of him, or may be suffering the lingering effects of an undisclosed injury or illness, the risks associated with purchasing a horse without a vetting are far more grave.

This week Horse&Hound.com reported such a cautionary tale, about a young women who is now permanently disabled after suffering from a fall that resulted from her horse's undisclosed wobbler's syndrome. The horse collapsed beneath her while out cantering cross country, resulting in her sustaining a fractured skull, and suffering partial deafness, diminished capacity to smell and taste, and frequent migraines. That this woman will have to live with lifelong consequences of her decision to forgo her horse's vetting is a tragic demonstration of the importance of a good prepurchase exam.

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