The PPE

Ah, the good ol’ pre-purchase exam, a thing that strikes fear into the hearts of buyers and sellers alike. I feel like I’ve been talking and/or reading a lot about PPE’s lately, with several friends horse shopping and the recent discussions on facebook that seem to have been spurred, at least in part, by an EN post that mentioned the term “American vetting”. I’ve heard the term before from friends that import, but this is the first that I’ve ever seen anyone publicly talk about it, and it’s definitely sparked a lot of conversation in my circles.

My English Unicorn Hunter is also responsible for arranging vettings and knows which vets will do a good job and understand how to put potential horses through an “American Vetting.” I vet all my potential horses as they would be vetted by a buyer in the USA; this means a full set of X-rays including back and in some cases scopes and ultrasounds. Many horses with minor issues which I am confident won’t be a problem, I have to pass on, as I know they will not be acceptable in an American vetting even for a low level job.  – Justine Dutton, The Truth about Imports

I will admit up front that I’ve really got no skin in this game. I have owned 14 horses in my life and vetted precisely one, and that one I did not buy. Granted, I bred 2 of those 14, and the highest purchase price among them (aside from my very first horse, who was 5k) was $1500. I’ve always bought low dollar projects that were meant for short term re-sale. If I was spending a lot of money on a horse or looking for something specific, or to keep for the long term, I would probably approach things differently. With my history, though, usually if I’ve found myself involved in a PPE, it’s been on the seller’s side of things. These days I don’t do the project horses anymore, and I’ll probably never have the budget to buy something that’s already going, so PPE’s aren’t something I’ve spent much time thinking about. Thus, watching all of these conversations unfold lately has been relatively fascinating.

Chatt1SJ1
Definitely didn’t vet this one. He probably wouldn’t have “passed” by most peoples’ standards anyway.

Really there are 3 parties involved in the PPE – the buyer, the seller, and the vet. In the modern age of knee-jerk litigation, it’s in the vet’s best interest to go over a horse with a fine toothed comb, pointing out every bump, lump, and pimple. I don’t blame them at all for trying to be thorough. It’s the buyer’s job to sort through those findings and figure out what they can live with. But are most buyers’ expectations unrealistic? If they’re expecting every film to look perfect, they’re probably never going to find a horse to buy. It seems that some buyers think that any little finding means there’s something wrong with the horse, or that it automatically means the horse isn’t suitable for whatever job they had in mind. Yet horses don’t know how to read xrays, and many issues may never actually cause a problem.

The more realistic expectation is for the PPE to show you what’s there so you can determine if it’s something you can live with or not. I think of my horse, and all of my friends’ horses that have been competing for a while, consistently and with general overall soundness. Would any of them have a “clean” PPE? Probably very few, if any. I know horses running 2* with chips, or Advanced with kissing spines, or Training with a roar, or running Prelim with arthritis. Horses that, with some care, have no issues performing well in those jobs. I’ve found myself wondering – if I was the person vetting these horses, would I have bought them?

TR18Pro4

Some of it comes down to experience, of course. Knowing what you think you can manage and what you can’t. And then some of it just comes down to pure luck. Anyone who’s ever been around a horse for more than 2 seconds knows that they just love to up and die (or get hurt) for no actual reason. You could have the cleanest PPE in the world and the horse could still go out and permanently maim himself in the pasture tomorrow, while the horse with a terrible PPE could still be bopping around Prelim at age 20. I think all of us could probably think of examples.

If you listen to the folks who sell a lot of horses, they think that the PPE process and expectations have spiraled out of control. Hence the birth of the term “American vetting”. Do we have an unrealistic expectation of perfection in this country? I wouldn’t find that too hard to believe. This post from a popular and successful OTTB re-seller is very interesting to read.

QuinnAnna1-1
This OTTB resale project had a chip in a fetlock. Still went on to a long career, even though it turned away several buyers.

Of course, it’s easy to see it from the buyer’s point of view too. If you’re laying down whatever is, to you, a large chunk of change, on a horse you intend to keep for a long time, of course you’d like to go into it with as much information and as few issues as possible. Wouldn’t we all like the unicorn with a picture perfect vetting and a lifetime guarantee? So how do you decide how intensive the PPE should be? Do you xray every joint, all 4 feet, the back, ultrasound the legs, scope, etc? Does the price point make a difference? Does the intended purpose make a difference? Some people seem to have their vetting practices down to a science. Other people, maybe those who don’t buy horses very often, often just seem wide eyed and overwhelmed by the whole thing, unable to process what the vet’s finding actually mean for their own situation.

So where do you stand on the PPE issue? Do you think it’s gotten a bit out of hand with buyer expectations? What do you look for in a PPE, and do you know what you can live with and what you can’t, or do you expect a “clean” vetting?

46 thoughts on “The PPE

  1. I bought May without a PPE… Buuuuuut I had a lot of videos of her in fairly consistent work, and I needed to get out from underneath the horse I had, so it was worth the gamble. PLUS, for the cost of her, I knew I could turn her around and sell her for the same amount as a trail/husband/guest horse. Being 15.2, quiet, and yellow has some advantages.

    When I have done a PPE, they have been fairly basic. Lungs, heart, eyes, feet, flexions. If flexions showed something, I would consider moving to x-rays. Now, I would probably still do a basic PPE/Lameness exam (a couple hundred bucks around here if we don’t do x-rays… not a whole lot more if we do), but I would send pics of feet to my farrier. Because I have seen more people have issues with horses due to feet than basically anything else.

    Like you though, I don’t see myself ever being in the position of buying a finished horse for big bucks…. we’re talking MAX high 4 figures here.

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  2. I recently purchased my first OTTB (yay!) for a substantial (haha!) price of $700. I couldn’t believe the number of people who shamed me for NOT getting a PPE. I do have my own farm so if something long term did come up, he would always have a place to stay. So many horses with conformation issues or previous injuries go on to have successful careers, I really wasn’t concerned. I would probably feel differently if that price tag had an additional zero.

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  3. I bought my gelding 15 years ago to get him out of a bad situation. No PPE or anything, didn’t even have a vet look at him. And so far, for 15 years, the only time he was lame was when he had an abscess. He’s 23 and still jumping and trail riding and leaving other horses in the dust.

    I don’t know how picky I’ll be with my next horse, as far as vetting is concerned. I worked for an equine vet, and saw a lot of gnarly radiographs. Think a yearling with a 2 inch bone spur in its hock. So I think it’ll depend on the horse, and how well it’s doing at the moment. If it seems fine and happy in its work, it will probably be fine, assuming the drug screen comes back clean. Honestly, I’m more interested in the drug screen than the radiographs and flexions. Lots of horses get bute and Ace before a trial ride, or at least a lot more than I would have thought. So I would probably prioritize that over anything else, personally.

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  4. I spent a lot of money on runkle and indy, and had very thorough vettings done of both of them. Runkle had the most perfect vetting I’ve ever seen on a horse. clean x-rays, flexed completely sound, perfect everything. and that ended … you know, the way it did.

    Indy should not have passed his vetting. that was bad advice from a vet I thought I could trust and me just not knowing as much.

    I didn’t vet spicy. I bought the other two with the intent to go on to the upper levels. Spicy and I will do SOMETHING, I’m just not sure what yet. He could have bags of potato chips for knees. but hes sound for what we’re doing which is not all that much right now.

    Horses are going to come with problems. They’re living beings and they’re not perfect. They’re going to develop problems. Or they’re going to literally kill themselves in a field. People are trying to get a strangle hold on control when it’s really never ever going to happen.

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  5. I bought all 3, er, 4 of my guys without pre-purchase exams. Subi is the only one I’ve actually spent real money on (still talking mid 4 figures)… To be honest, if I had bought him from an outside trainer, would I have done a PPE? Maybe. But, I started riding him not looking to buy… And, he’d been in the barn for 4 years so I knew his history. And, as my first horse, I didn’t have guidance and I just decided to skip it. And it worked out. I’ll take 4 years of history over a PPE any day.

    I bought Hayley knowing she wasn’t sound. She wouldn’t have passed a PPE. But I was looking for a companion horse/husband horse and she was fine for what I got. Her soundness wasn’t her downfall, it was her digestive issues that would NOT have come up on a PPE as they had not progressed at that point. She retired earlier less due to soundness and more due to Batt. Had I not ended up with Batt, I probably would have ridden her longer. It’s just impossible to work full time and keep 3 horses in work.

    Batt. I’ve known him since he was a 2 year old masquerading as a 5 year old. He has issues. I know his issues. I bought him mostly to keep him from ending up in a bad spot but also because I always wanted him to be horse #2. My trainer just didn’t want to sell him to me when I approached her before buying Hayley. He’d never vet with his hind hoof though he’s sound. I’d have bought him regardless. Again, history (10 years) means a lot.

    As for Jiminy, do people do PPEs on minis?

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    1. I have a mini, we didn’t do a PPE on her. A PPE can’t determine just how ornery a mini will be when they grow up soooo 😂

      My gelding I just wanted a vet to give him a look-see to make sure he was healthy. Found out later he had bone spurs, but they never impacted him and he was able to live out his days on the farm. My paint mare came from my brother so we didn’t do a PPE on her. If I was going to invest more money I’d have a vet do the basics but not go overboard.

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  6. I didn’t vet my weanling filly that I bought, because I knew where she came from, they provided full vet and training history, and I figured she hadn’t had enough time to injure herself yet lol. I did vet an OTTB that I was looking to buy off the track. They wanted a decent amount of money for him (for my budget anyway) and I was looking for my next eventing partner, so I didn’t think it was worth the risk to skip a vetting. I just had flexions and front x-rays done, and ended up passing because he had multiple lesions and issues in his front fetlocks, and the vet predicted that he wouldn’t hold up to more than a few years in a jumping career.

    I think the vetting process should depend on your goals for the horse, purchase price, and what amount of risk you’re willing to take. Spending $500 to vet a $1000 doesn’t really make much sense to me. And I think too many people have unrealistic aspirations for a new horse. Wanting to buy a horse that is capable of going to a 1* when you’ve only ever jumped around a BN course is a bit ridiculous. On the other hand, I also understand wanting to go into a situation with as much info as possible, if nothing else to maybe be able to lessen or mitigate potential future issues. And unless you’re buying from someone you know or with a really good reputation, it’s hard to know if a seller is being honest about a horse’s history.

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  7. You know where I stand on this haha. If I had a farm I would probably take more risks re PPE. For a horse 5k and under my general thoughts would be to have a basic exam/flexions done and then take pictures of the front feet for the farrier and address any concerns. After talking with the vet this time around I added some more baseline images. All that said I know that no horse is perfect and I just needed to rule out debilitating issues (at that point in time anyways). Houston had an OCD that I didn’t even know about that has never affected him.

    I have certainly passed on horses due to findings in xrays though but only after determining that for me the risk of the horse not being able to do the job at hand is too high.
    I think a lot of people don’t realize that even with imperfect xrays if a horse has been soundly doing the job that you would be asking of it for years it will probably be fine.

    I also am frustrated that all of the crazy PPE yahoos are making sellers defensive and unhappy about buyers wanting PPE.

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  8. I think “American Vetting” is a very accurate term. People are ridiculous to think they can buy a 100% flawless horse. I’ve only vetted 1 horse. A horse that cost less than $1,500, but I wanted to have a baseline of soundness since he’d been on the track. I really think that in today’s day and age I’d be more compelled to have a horse thoroughly drug tested than have a soundness exam if I were buying something in the 5 figures from a trainer and it had show miles. I think that horse is more likely to have a blatant lameness that some sketchy trainer is trying to cover up with drugs.
    Obviously not all trainers would do that, but that is where I’d start.

    A horse is an animal, and like you said, it can pass a PPE with flying colors and then try to kill itself in the pasture 5 hours later. I’m grateful that my vet is thorough, but realistic. He’ll tell me when he sees something and he will roll his eyes if someone acts like that thing he found is a deal breaker, when in fact it is just a good-to-know fact.

    Part of what I enjoy about horses is the gray area. I have a lovely 4yo OTTB that I think will be competitive in the hunters at a regional level, but in the meantime I’m just going to enjoy foxhunting on him, going on trail rides, and dreaming of what might be but also know that it could all fall apart tomorrow. But dang, it would sure be fun to beat some warmbloods on an OTTB in the hunter ring. 😉

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  9. I did a PPE on my first horse. Nothing crazy. It really was just a general health check with the name “PPE” slapped onto it. No x-rays, nothing.

    I bought Luna as a not even 3 year old and knew any issues she had had. I didn’t do anything. Just handed over the check. And she was pricey for a not even 3 year old that had done nothing. Maybe I should have had some baseline x-rays on her, but I didn’t. Oh well.

    I think this PPE culture that is going on is getting a bit ridiculous. I don’t want a horse that needs a ton of maintenance because I wouldn’t be able to afford it, but I am also not going to x-ray EVERYTHING. And I would only probably start x-raying if anything showed up in flexions. The one thing I WILL do is PULL BLOOD. Seems to be a thing around here that people are being shady AF and drugging horses.

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  10. I didn’t vet my first horse, Diablo, because the money we spent on him wasn’t anything significant. I do wonder what that PPE would have looked liked considering that he is semi-retired now due to negative palmar angles and coffin joint arthritis. Either way, I think that a PPE wouldn’t have been worth it as it would have costed almost as much as the horse ($1000 PPE for a $1500 horse).

    However, I did vet Diesel. His PPE included all the basics like checking his heart, lungs, eyes, etc, flexion testing, a blood test, and a full set of rads. There were several reasons that I did so: his purchase price was a decent amount of money for me, he was being bought from out-of-state from a seller I was not familiar with, and he was bought to be my long-term partner. I do not regret getting the PPE on him at all. It gave me a lot of information about him that I needed to take into account before making the leap.

    I think that the level at which you vet a horse should depend on the purchase price and your long-term goals for the horse. It doesn’t make much sense to spend the money on vetting something that you just want to trail ride around on. However, it does make sense to vet a horse you plan on running a 1* with or that will be doing the rated stuff with. I also think that PPEs should be taken with a grain of salt. PPEs are not the end-all-be-all. They are just tools for the buyer to use when making a decision. Very few horses will have a 100% clean vetting. That doesn’t mean that they should be immediately passed on. It is up to the buyer to take the findings and use them to make an educated decision on whether or not they can live with the type of maintenance that horse may have to have and whether or not it can do the job they are going to ask of it.

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    1. I think one of your comments hits the nail on the head beautifully with no need for any further explanation. “They are just tools for the buyer to use when making a decision.”

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  11. Did a pre-purchase on a horse I spent $10k on because that’s just what you did when you spend that much (at least that was the norm at the time). He passed and he was 6 at the time so not a lot of miles. About a year later he got Lyme disease and it permanently lamed him. Thankfully I have land so he’s been a happy pasture ornament for the past 12 years. Never did a pre-purchase again (nor did I ever spend that much again), other then one horse I did have his feet x-rayed because they had a weird groove and I was afraid of founder or rotation issues. Nope. He just has a weird groove even after 6 years and he is sound as can be. I think many people get pre-purchase exams done because they don’t have enough horse-life experience to judge on their own. It’s logical. I get it. I am comfortable enough with my own experiences to take a chance with horses. However if I were buying a used car I would probably ask a mechanic to look at it because in know nothing about cars.

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  12. I always do a basic PPE – general exam and flexions. If the vet sees something that concerns them, then maybe I’ll go further. I had my last horse scoped because the vet thought it was a good idea. $75 for peace of mind. But really, my main purpose of a PPE is to have a baseline for the future. I would only pass if the vet found something awful.

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  13. My first horse we did not do a PPE, only because we were pulling her out of a bad situation. She had been born on my instructor’s farm, and instructor and her husband had told my parents (though I was unaware at the time being only 13 years old) that they would buy her back if she didn’t work out for me. We literally showed up with a trailer and knew we were buying the mare no matter what anyway. It was the best $800 my parents ever spent! My three Standardbreds were all given to me, so I never bothered to vet them. And with Ellie, though I only spent mid four figures on her, I didn’t vet her either because she had been living outside her entire five years and I felt confident enough in my own knowledge to tell her legs and hooves were excellent. The farm had all her records, since she was born there, and I was able to chat with her vet. I felt confident she is going to be fine for the low level stuff I want to do with her.

    The other part of this is my horses are able to live here at my farm until they die, so I don’t go into any ownership with the thought of reselling. Dreamy has been essentially retired for four years and just hanging out getting fat and happy, and I know I am lucky to be able to do that. She will be 28 this coming year. If I were thinking of putting miles on a horse just to sell it down the road, I would be MUCH more cautious knowing the buyer might do a PPE. And knowing horses are rarely “perfect”, I don’t even think I could handle resales like that because I am sure buyers could find something wrong (not to mention I get way too attached haha).

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  14. Most fascinating to me in this debate would be an analysis of the actual horse outcomes after PPEs. What do the vets predict will be problems, and what ends up actually being treated, or a problem? I’m not expecting vets to predict the future, but as with navicular disease, the more we learn the more we realize that a diagnosis may not be the (sport career) death sentence we once thought.

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    1. yeah. I have had some great vets that I had a long, lasting relationship with who would give me their opinion on an issue that would crop up…. but in our sue-happy society, I think a lot of vets are unwilling to give their experience with these types of things. If there was hard data, that would give everyone a reference point.

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  15. Ahhh the PPE. I could write a book from past experiences, from both sides. I vet everything I buy because my horses tend to find unique and successful ways to end their careers early.
    My opinion: I want the PPE. But I go into knowing that there will be stuff there. For me, it’s what I can live with, and what my vet thinks he can keep maintained (because it will be his job to do that should I buy the horse). I’m going to be more picky about what we find in that PPE if the horse costs more.
    Truthfully, I think the PPE is used a lot for negotiation. As a buyer, I know things are going to show up and hope to use that to get the price down some. As a seller, I find that annoying… but you price accordingly right?
    All that said, I’ve had horses vet pretty well and wind up to be tough to keep sound. (Looking at you Rio.) I spent more to vet my OTTB than I did to buy him, and after all that, he had an old fracture way up high that we never would have found on a PPE (and didn’t). Eros didn’t vet well at all, but so far, we’ve had no issues. Granted we’ve only had him a couple months, but he works hard and is holding up well so far.
    At the end of the day, I think it’s a necessary evil, especially if you’re spending well into the five figures or more. You have to be practical about the results. What do the findings mean for the intended job? Or for the potential rider and her/his abilities? It’s a good guide to know what sort of maintenance you MAY be facing. But it’s really a crap shoot either way. Because horses.

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  16. um I never do a PPE really but considering all my horses so far the highest I paid was 5k many years ago when I was young and stupid and I did have a basic vet exam on her (Morgan mare). Otherwise under 1500 is my limit and Remus was basically free.

    I feel if I pay a low price I am not so worried. Considering I am never going to pay 5k or above again I dont see a PPE in my life again. Also having a farm and somewhere to put said lame horse is also a great factor. I am sure Remus would not pass a PPE. Even though he is sound he has some wonky looking legs…But luckily no worries about that.

    I did do a PPE one other time when in TX on a paint horse and he was pricier than i wanted to spend. he was also only 8 and he came back with some wiffy thing going on at only 8 so I pulled out of the sale. I think he would have been fine but….he was not cheap. The 300 or a bit less (Cant remember now) i spent was worth it to pull out I feel. I think it made me think…wait a minute do you really want to spend that much….(he had beginnings of arthritis in all four legs….not bad but for 8…ehhh)….So I do think PPE have their places….

    I think flexion tests are still the worse way to diagnose issues anyway. If someone held my leg up for however long and then made me trot off I would be lamer than any horse I look at. IF I ever won the lottery and could spend 10k or more for a nice horse, sure I would PPE it and would get xrays not do that silly flexion shit HA. But that is probably not going to happen is it?

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  17. I’ve seen horses whose slide stops are enormous and they have OCDs in both stifles. I’ve seen horses that barely had the teensiest bit of an OCD be 3-legged lame. Amber had an injury and has 2 existing bone chips in her knee and yet was sound (and remains so) on that leg. I have looked at horses online as Amber has been retired, but never moved past “they might be nice” so I’m not too sure what I’d do. I personally did not have a PPE done on Amber before I bought her, but the school had, and said that all her x-rays had come back clean but I never actually saw the x-rays they got. After knowing so many horses (including Whisper to be honest) that had issues from the canon bone to the foot, that’s really the first place I look. I’ve been lucky that Amber is so low-maintenance there. I don’t mind a little pigeon toed or if their toes point out – we as people all have something that’s not right, or that wouldn’t pass a “human PPE” and we still do lots of things. But I’ve seen more horses brought down by hoof issues than anything else, so that’s honestly where I look first. I think in some ways PPEs have gotten out of hand, but I am not completely sure what I’d do. I think I’d decide to do x-rays if something showed up in the flexion test, but at the same time, I think I’d just like to know and have a baseline, because otherwise I may feel like I’m going in blind. What we may or may not find probably won’t affect my decision, but I’m a person that just wants to know. So maybe I would do x-rays and everything. But I do think that sometimes as buyers we want the horse to be perfect, but that won’t ever happen. Like the ones that have the best pedigrees, and yet are flops in their discipline they were bred for. Like Seabiscuit who was all sorts of wonky, and was a great racehorse. With horses, I feel it’s always a toss-up lol.

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  18. I didn’t do anything except hand over a check for Gem. She was 200lbs underweight and awful looking. She cost $800 and there was no point in spending money on a PPE.

    I did get a PPE on the first horse I put a deposit on because he came out lame on my return trip. Glad I did as it turned out he has some nasty navicular issues.

    This made me pretty paranoid when I got H’Appy and I ended up doing exam, flexions and front foot X-rays. It’s was spendy but knowing he had no internal issues really helped get me through his summer of lameness without losing my mind. He was also $5000 and even though he has a place with me forever, I couldn’t drop that on a horse I couldn’t ride.

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  19. When I was younger I bought a horse from *my* trainer without a PPE. He was a train wreck. I loved him dearly, but had I not implicitly trusted that trainer and had a PPE done, I likely wouldn’t have purchased him and that would have saved me a great deal of heartache and money.

    When I bought my current horse who was fresh out of the field as a youngster, I had the vet look him over, but no xrays of everything. I’d likely do something similar again, but nothing too outrageous.

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  20. Interesting thoughts here. My perspective, I’ve bought three, vetted all to some extent:
    -I don’t think of a PPE investment in relation to purchase price of the horse, I think of it as an investment to the KEEPING cost of the horse (including my emotional investment). Yes, horses are creative at hurting themselves, but I try to collect some information about what I can reasonably expect BESIDES the “giant suicidal animal” factor.
    -I believe there is no such thing as “passing” or “failing” a PPE, a vet should just present all findings, it’s up to you to decide what to do with that.
    -Just like every human thing, sure expectations get out of hand. But seems like that’s between buyer & seller, either party can walk away. I’ve gotten old enough to learn that I’m unlikely to change someone else’s behaviour.
    -My PPE’s consist of a basic physical exam, including watching the horse move, simple flexions, and body palpation. This is about $100, I have always gotten a lot of information from this, I consider it sensible due diligence, just like a house inspection. I only do specific rads if I have a specific concern, less likely to do so if the horse is currently working sound. This has consisted of front feet on one horse.
    -I have a fairly experienced eye & I can feel a lot riding a horse too, so I consider that part of my PPE. Those skills take time to develop, not everyone has them, so they have to rely more heavily on a vet exam — I don’t think it’s fair to disparage that, it’s their money. Also, some people who don’t do PPE’s just get lucky a lot, it can happen, that’s how statistics work. And for every horse who is “doing great” with chips or other issues, there are probably a lot more who aren’t, there are many more variables in that equation, like position, size, age, work level, time… So it doesn’t mean a lot to discuss one variable without including the others.
    -Comfort with risk can also be directly related to a person’s financial capacity to absorb management needs down the road. A known up-front cost can be easier to manage, even though it’s not a perfect tool. You (general you) may be wealthy enough to absorb a number of surprise added management costs you think of as “routine” but that threshold is a lot lower for many other people. And that’s fine, just like every horse doesn’t need to be boarded at a $1200/mo facility.

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  21. None of the three horses I have owned have had PPEs. They were relatively “cheap” horses and I didn’t feel the need to pursue it. I feel like it can be a toss up sometimes – horses can hurt themselves in the field type thing

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  22. Interesting that the vetting is so comprehensive. What does that cost the potential buyer? How does it effect insurance? I would assume if the exam finds missing spine etc than your automatically excluded for those things when you insure. In the U.K. there is 5 or 3 stage vetting. But neither are as comprehensive as actual x rays.

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    1. I just had a buyer vet a 3 year old. By the time all the xray views were done, the bill was almost $2800, including shipping 3 hours each way to the vet they insisted on. The price of the horse was not cheap, but that was about 10% of the purchase price for the vet to say “she’s 3 and been ridden for two months, there’s nothing to see here.”

      I bought said horse as a foal at side and the only vetting she got was the foal visit when she was born and for her inspection papers.

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  23. I have bought inexpensive (less than 2K) horses all my life, and haven’t ever done a PPE. I think though, that if I were to buy one being advertised as “dog-gentle, safe for anyone” from someone I didn’t know, I would opt for drug screening at the very least. I just don’t trust most people when they make such claims.

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  24. I choose not to vet, in fact I’ve never vetted one because I feel in general most horses will won’t “pass” a perfect PPE.

    I’ve bought/sold many horses, mostly in the <3k range with the most expensive being in the mid 4 figure range. I purchased that horse knowing he would NOT pass a ppe. With that said he’s my most experienced horse and has competed sound with little to no maintenance for years!

    There is just no certainty either way. the horse is going to tell you, if your smart enough to listen, when something is up and until then “what I don’t know doesn’t hurt me”

    Side note, if I were to ever get a vet involved in the future purchase of a horse, it would be bloodwork! Knowing if a horse is being doped up on something is going to likely answer multiple questions in and of itself

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  25. Of the eight or so horses I’ve had, I PPE’d exactly one of them — and his PPE exceeded his purchase price 😂 (it was my mom’s call, not mine). I’ve been relatively lucky, I know, but most of mine have been low-dollar purchases (or homebreds), I don’t have high-level aspirations, and I have my own farm to retire them on in case of any career-ending injury. While I think there are certainly merits to a PPE, particularly if you’re buying a horse for a specific goal (whether that’s showing or breeding), I don’t think they’re the end-all, be-all, and some people do get quite ridiculous with them. But horse people are crazy, yo 😂

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  26. What I don’t understand is why the purchase price of the horse has much to do with the decision to vet or not. At the end of the day, the price tag is just the initial investment; you still have to feed, house, bed, vet care, etc. Costs just as much to keep a 1k horse as a 10k horse. If someone doesn’t have land, aren’t willing to pay for a pasture puff, or can’t afford a horse that can’t do its job, then they’re going to need to know as much as possible before buying. What are you going to do with that horse if it breaks down? Most people aren’t equipped or don’t want a horse that can’t do a job. Obviously this can happen to a perfectly sound horse, but I think it’s good to get the most educated guess you can. I suppose when horses are involved, it’s all a gamble, but you can possibly up the odds in your favor.

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    1. I think in that case many people would opt for humane euthanization, if they’re unable to place the horse in a safe, suitable home and/or it will never be sound enough to have a good quality of life. Luckily I haven’t had to make this choice, despite never vetting one. I haven’t had one not be sound enough for some kind of useful job, despite a variety of imperfections, but I do realize that it can happen.

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  27. I don’t PPE, but I am often buying cheap prospects on talent and temperament who generally have low miles. I don’t get within 10 miles of anything that ever even thought about seeing a racetrack. This is going to be a generalization, but everyone I know who has gotten something off the track has had the most expensive issues that are hard to source and constant.

    Every horse I have lives a dream life and gets a lot of “maintenance” anyway. I have a PEMF blanket, I’m trained in myofascial massage, my farrier is excellent, so a “needs maintenance” issue is almost a nonissue for me. I just assume everything is going to need it’s hocks done etc at some point so there’s nothing a vetting can tell me that I don’t already know. If a horse is questionably sound enough for me to wonder if a vet should look at it – I’m not buying it anyway.

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  28. I used to do a fair share of resale but also own my own farm and have room for turnout. What I would accept for a resale horse vs personal horse are vastly different. I have had three decently priced resale horses fail a PPE with issues that we did not uncover with rising. In fact, one never took a bad step and we put some miles on him. Finally sold at a reduced price with the chip fully disclosed and having never caused an issue. I think it’s all about a buyers risk tolerance. If I boarded out and could only have one, I might be a lot less risk tolerant. As it is, two of my personal horses have distinct “issues” which would make them challenging resales without a substantial show record. Buying or selling, the PPE is a ridiculous source of stress for me.

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  29. I think of vetting almost like an inspection on a house. Not even a brand new house is going to be perfect and flawless and anything can happen after you buy. It’s more or less a “how bad is it and can we fix or live with it?”

    I have seen people use a vetting to negotiate on price to an extreme, and to argue a low-ball price on something that the vet didn’t think would ever be a problem. THAT shit is rude and just insulting IMO.

    I also often think to myself, hell, I probably wouldn’t vet either. 10 lb baby and a bad shoulder from swimming- probably not even broodmare sound anymore, lol.

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    1. This is exactly how I think of a PPE – a house inspection. There WILL be issues, that’s fine – what can I fix or live with? Some cracks in concrete, fine. Asbestos? H-No.
      I think unless a horse was < $1000 I'd always at least do basics – to have a baseline and blood work at the LEAST. Just to go in with my eyes open. My show horse as a junior had a full 9 yards vetting on her, but she was also a mid 5 figure purchase. Of course, she ended up retired with two suspensory tears so *shrug*

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  30. Never done one, my horses are all usually very cheap or free. That being said, I know someone who sold her horse ($75K) and had a $5000 vetting bill (full x rays, blood, you name it). Horse vetted clean, now 8 months later the horse is unsound and has to have major diagnostics done on its feet to determine whats wrong.

    I think it’s a good tool for a rough idea, but thats really all it gives you. A rough idea.

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  31. I have not personally done a pre-purchase exam on a horse I have bought because I was buying all of the horses for low level jobs that they were currently sound doing when purchased. They were all purchased for less than 4k each, so I couldn’t at the time justify a 1k plus pre-purchase.

    I sold a horse for around 2k and his soon-to-be-owner did a pre-purchase exam. I don’t know what the cost was, but she has x-rays of front feet and hocks, as well as a physical exam, so at minimum several hundred dollars. The horse stayed sound for his intended job (low level dressage), but started having lameness issue that took a while to diagnose. The eventual diagnosis: degenerative arthritis in his heck and shoulder. Terrible prognosis. He was euthanized at 11 years old.

    I think PPEs can be useful as a baseline, but like many other have said, it’s all about what you can live with in the end.

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  32. Price point and job are the determining factors to what extent if any a PPE is done for me. I have watched way too many people spend way to much money vetting horse after horse after horse and still not coming away satisfied their purchase. At this point in my horse ownership, everything I have would fail on multiple levels but work or just eat in some cases just fine for what is asked of them.

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  33. I skipped the PPE on my horse, mainly because I was given access to his complete vet records prior to purchase. His current vet boarded at the same barn, and chatted with me informally about his history. There was full disclosure of his issues, current and potential. As many others have already mentioned – purchase price would impact future decisions re the PPE for me – if I were ever in a position to spend over four figures lol…

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  34. I used to think a PPE was kind of over-rated. Then I bought 3 horses in a span of 4 years and ended up having to retire/give away all 3. If I added up the months of board, farrier, vaccinations, lameness exams, injections, surgeries, saddle fitters, body workers, chiropractors, the hours spent rehabbing, hand walking, the hours out of work for vet appointments, farrier appointments, saddle fitters, body workers, the cost to my marriage of all the hours spent at the barn rehabbing and the financial cost, the emotional toll…. It’s immeasurable. I was lucky in that I was able to place all 3 horses in great homes.

    It goes without saying that I now consider the PPE very valuable. I still don’t consider myself unreasonable. There are just certain things I would not sign up for, should they turn up on a PPE. And I have already had some surprising results.

    One 5 yr old low-mileage horse that I vetted that flexed positive, turned out to have a 2″ bone spur in one hock, plus significant arthritis in the opposite hock. I passed. Another horse had the worst kissing spine on x-ray that I have ever seen – from withers to lumbar spine. My vet rated the x-rays a 4 on a scale of 1-4, 4 being the worst. Again, x-rays were done when the horse presented significantly sore upon palpation. I passed. Conversely, one horse I looked at had a chip in a Hind fetlock. Another buyer passed because of it. For other reasons, the horse didn’t work out for me, but my vet had a look at the existing x-rays and felt the chip wouldn’t cause a problem. If the horse had been right for me, I would have bought it.

    I read so many instances (even in the comments above) where people buy horses without a PPE and it all works out, but that’s just not the way it has worked out for me.

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  35. I did pass on a horse because he didn’t “pass” the PPE- our vet pointed out some underlying issues that would’ve likely made it hard to keep him sound for the job I wanted him to do. Frankie didn’t have a spotless perfect exam, but it was all livable. We took selected xrays as a baseline to compare to in the future, which has worked out well as we figure out what maintenance he needs. Knowing I wanted to go in the show ring pretty quickly, I wanted my vet’s opinion on how well he’d hold up as of that moment, and luckily he was right! It’s interesting how the need for a PPE changes as the price tag or job description changes.

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  36. I think PPE’s have gotten out of control. The judge doesn’t know what your horses xray look like though, and I feel like people forget that. They also forget that most PEOPLE have small issues and that we can along just fine. If we only thought horses with perfect PPEs were worth having then I feel that a large majority of happy-in-work horses would be turned out with no job at all. I’m of the strong opinion that many “findings are perfectly manageable. My horse has some small issues. I probably wouldn’t have bought him to be a Grand Prix jumper or an upper level eventer, but he can jump 8 fences at 3 feet just fine. Just my 2 cents!

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  37. My first horse was older, had known issues, and $1, so no vetting there. Holly got a basic PPE and front feet xrays because she was $5k which seemed worth it. She had a ” probably nothing” on one foot, and true enough, sound as heck for 3 years I had her. Finn, basic PPE as he was much cheaper. I had no high goals for them, they were young, and I didnt really know their pasts so wanted what info I could get. I value my vet’s overall opinion of personality and movement, just like my trainers. One barn mate didn’t xray fronts on older gelding and after months soundness found nasty navicular. I think when buying older horses with real work history it makes more sense to do xrays. I dont buy expensive top performers but would xray them, and know what I’d take or not as ok negatives.

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  38. About 60% of my job is writing up PPE reports, so I see a LOT of them. The extent of the exam varies depending on what the buyer wants, but essentially it isn’t a pass/fail, but a determination of the horse’s present soundness and suitability for the intended job. Plenty of horses have all kinds of things show up on x-rays, and are still suitable. It also serves to start a conversation between the buyer and vet as to what and how much maintenance a particular animal will require to stay sound and happy. Having seen numerous reports in which a serious issue was uncovered during a PPE (neurological problems, fractures, arthritic changes in young horses) I personally would not buy a horse without one. I think it’s important to have as much information as possible when making a decision to purchase a horse!

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