Melbourne equine veterinarian Dr Ian Church shares top tips to ensure you buy a healthy horse for competition or other purposes.


If you’re reading this, we already know you love horses.

And you’ll love yours no matter what.

But buying a horse is a little bit like buying a car.

Sometimes, it’s not immediately apparent just how healthy your prospective investment is.

If you’re buying for racing or competition purposes, a fit and healthy horse is much more capable of performing at its peak than one with any hidden problems.

You wouldn’t buy a house without inspecting it for termites – or a car without ensuring it is roadworthy.

And you shouldn’t buy a horse without it having been properly inspected by a professional equine veterinarian.

Here are some tips to help you make a sensible choice first.

Before you travel

It’s possible to spend a lot of time and money driving all over the countryside before finding the right horse for you.

That’s why it’s important to gain as much information about your prospective purchase before committing to inspect.

By having a detailed conversation with the horse’s owner you can assess them and also by asking the right questions you’ll gain a much better feel for whether the horse is suitable for you.

Obviously, you’ll need some basic information such as the horse’s age, general health, vaccination and worming status.

You’ll also want to know why it is now for sale.

And you should also be asking the following:

  • What is its general temperament and suitability for proposed use?
  • What is the horse ownership history and what work has been done with it over what period of time?
  • How does it behave around other horses?
  • What medical and lameness issues has the horse had?

Inspecting a horse up close

If it’s so far, so good and you’ve decided to personally inspect your potential purchase, make sure you take a second pair of eyes. 

That person should be someone experienced with horses, preferably a trainer if you work with one.

You’ll want to closely examine the following:

Health and condition – does the horse appear to be well looked after and relaxed in its current environment?

Front and hind legs – are they straight and in good condition?

Feet – is the horse shod or barefoot and do the pastern angles on all feet appear uniform? They should be around 50%.

Eyes – are they bright and free from discharge?

Inspecting a horse from a distance

Request the owner bring the horse out of its stall or pasture and ask them to groom, saddle and bridle it while you watch closely for any behavioural issues.

You should insist this is done in front of you and not prior to your arrival.

Now it’s time to see how the horse moves. Ask to see it walk, trot and canter in both directions around a lunge line.

A hard surface is better because it is more likely to reveal any issues.

Then have the horse trot towards you and away from you, looking closely for any problems.

Take note of the equipment used with the horse, especially when saddling and how it responds to cues.

Riding the horse yourself is a must and you should do so outside of its domain to see how it reacts away from its comfort zone.

Hire a professional equine veterinarian

If everything still appears in order, it’s time to hire the services of a professional equine vet.

Ideally ensure this person is one that you choose and unfamiliar to the horse, rather than one determined by the owner.

Stay present throughout the examination, informing the vet of your intentions for the horse and asking about its suitability for that purpose.

It’s also a good idea to ask them of their assessment of the horse’s age to see if it matches closely with what you have been told.

Try not to be seduced by a horse’s looks or temperament and ensure it is fit and able to satisfy your needs.

Even without X-rays, ultrasounds and blood tests an inspection will come at a cost but it could potentially save you many thousands of dollars if it stops you from buying an unhealthy horse.

Contact Newmarket Equine today

Before investing in a horse, it is crucial to engage an equine vet for an independent pre-purchase examination.

We provide pre-purchase examinations for all types of performance horses and racehorses, and also provide pre and post sale scoping for Inglis Auctioneers and their clients in Melbourne.

Our full pre-purchase service includes a complete clinical examination, endoscopic examination, digital radiographs and ultrasound. 

We provide a full written report advising any findings with professional opinions. 

Please contact the office for more information.

The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your horse’s individual needs. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your horse’s needs, and seek professional advice from a qualified vet.

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