Horse Pre-Purchase Vet Exam Cost Breakdown (With Numbers)

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an experienced horse owner or a first-time buyer, a pre-purchase vet exam always makes sense when you’re in the market to buy one. However, most people are unsure about the price of this exam and whether it’s worth it or not. Here’s how much a pre-purchase vet exam costs.

On average, a pre-purchase vet exam costs $200-500. Sometimes, the vet may suggest a few extra tests, which can increase the price manifold. However, it’s highly recommended not to avoid these tests since they can save you thousand of dollars down the road.

However, how much you’ll actually end up paying will depend on many factors that can inflate the price to thousands of dollars. Keep on reading for a detailed breakdown of the various factors that affect the exam cost.

What Does a Vet do in a Pre-Purchase Exam?

You now understand why doing a pre-purchase examination is critical, and you have all of the necessary pieces in place. So, what’s next? Here’s a rundown of the procedures a vet will follow throughout a routine pre-purchase examination.

Review of the past

Your veterinarian should want to look through the horse’s health files and read on its regular vet checkups. At this point, the vet is looking for any unresolved ailments from the past, any medications that the horse is or should currently be taking along with details on its vaccinations. If the horse is unvaccinated, then you should expect to pay around $100 for all core vaccines. We’ve added details on horse vaccination costs in this article.

Basic health examination

Hearing the horse’s heart and lungs, inspecting its eyesight, mouth, jaws, and body, and taking its temperature are all part of this process. The veterinarian will visually inspect the horse’s stomach and limbs for signs of disability or soreness. 

The vet may utilize foot tests in addition to a visual assessment of the soles and shoeing to look for hypersensitivity or a response that might suggest bruises, heel discomfort, or infection. Your veterinarian will also examine the horse’s general shape and bodily health, as well as any past wounds or diseases.

Basic neurological examination

The horse’s senses, responsiveness to stimulation, sense of stability, and coordination will all be tested by your veterinarian. The vet will also look for spasms, trouble in eating or ingesting, and other indicators of possible nervous-system problems, such as aberrant posture and movement.

Flexibility Exam

The veterinarian will bend several joints like the knee and fetlock. Then, hold them in place for longer than 30 seconds to examine each of the horse’s legs. The horse is then allowed to trot away whilst the vet looks for symptoms of lameness.

The value of this lengthy soundness test is debatable, as findings might vary based on factors such as how a veterinarian administers stress towards the joint. Take flexion observations with a grain of salt and weigh them against the rest of the test’s observations.

Evaluation of Motion

This stage includes numerous parts and is yet another soundness check. 

Your veterinarian will look for evident indicators of lameness, abnormalities or shortening in strides or body movement, and irregularities in limb action or footfalls, among other things. Following the activity, your veterinarian should examine the horse’s heart and lungs. In the case of a riding horse, veterinarians advise keeping an eye on the horse while he is in the saddle.

Is a Pre-Purchase Vet Exam Worth the Cost?

The cost of your horse is not the only main investment. It is the least important aspect. There is a lot more to consider when it comes to purchasing a horse, especially the pre-purchase exams. They are surely costly, but they are done merely for your benefit!

As a result, it is essential to spend on and conduct a pre-purchase vet exam. It ensures that the horse you are purchasing is healthy and fit for purchase. Moreover, it ensures that the price you are paying is worth it. 

The assessment can help you determine problems and make an educated choice depending on the data you have. Is there a cardiac issue or any arthritis in the horse’s hocks? What are the usual lumps and bumps? And to what extent are you ready to accept risk or management?

It is very common for many horses to become lame, slow, and show signs of sickness soon after purchase. This is not only a loss over your purchase cost, but adds to your monthly/yearly expense of maintaining a horse. 

Hence, it is best to hire a good vet that you trust. As many people usually sell their horses when their well-being starts to decline with high prices. So it is better to get a few opinions and inspect properly before you spend a hefty amount on a horse that is not even worth the price that you have paid. 

Extra Measures to Be Taken

In racehorses and high-dollar performance horses, X-rays are routine. The buyer’s aim and the flexion test determine whether simply a few photos are enough, or comprehensive photographs are required to show every joint in the legs. 

The price is relatively low, a couple of hundred bucks. Clinical exams are perhaps the most important aspect of buying a horse.

Another important thing is doing a drug screen—a blood diagnostic test. This detects the level of medicines like anti-inflammatories or painkillers. It might disguise demeanor, fitness, or other health complications.

Sellers are also protected by a drug test. It’s not unusual for a horse to change its behavior after being purchased from a skilled or knowledgeable horse person. Any extra testing will be based on any concerns expressed during the examination or requests made by the buyer.

Gastroscopy is suggested for a horse that has been treated for gastrointestinal ulcers. But, has never had the definitive operation done. For a horse with breathing sounds throughout the activity, many would even suggest an upper-airway endoscopy. An ultrasonography or nerve blocks are two more possible testings.

Choosing a Vet

A veterinarian is an important part of a pre-purchase inspection. Which one, though, should you choose? The prevailing consensus is that the exam is performed by a veterinarian who is not the horse’s regular care veterinarian. This protects the customer by avoiding any potential prejudice. If the horse is in the area and the buyer has a veterinarian they trust, the scenario becomes ideal.

If the horse isn’t local, you can seek references from your normal veterinarian. Alternatively, obtain a list of possibilities from the vendor and enlist the help of your veterinarian in studying those specialists.

Below listed are some of the important questions that you must ask before making your choice.

  • Does the vet have particular knowledge and experience? Do they know of the breed or type of horse that you take interest in and plan on purchasing? 
  • Does the veterinarian belong to a reputable large organization like the American Association of Equine Practitioners?
  • Is digital radiology offered at the vet, so you can acquire better-quality pictures more easily?
  • Will the vet talk about the results and go over them with your usual vet?
  • What will the exam include and how much will the vet charge for it?

Special Cases

Aside from the aforementioned scenarios, there are a few more instances when you might wish to explore extra tests or assessments throughout a pre-purchase exam:

Horse in its infancy (about 3 years old)

It is a general belief that a horse that has never been ridden or only been minimally exercised will be free from bone and joint problems. Still, many veterinarians prescribe radiography to evaluate for any developing orthopedic illness.

Equitation for the elderly (age 15 or older)

If you have an older horse with potential signs like a long hair coat in the summertime, weak muscular tone, or a generally untidy appearance, you might seek blood testing to screen for Cushing’s disease.

Raising a family

Extra blood tests are useful to uncover issues that haven’t surfaced physically yet or would be important if the horse were used for breeding. Certain breeds are more prone to specific genetic problems. Additional blood tests may help discover issues that have not emerged physically so far or that would be essential if the horse was used for mating.

Try screening for Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome if you’re looking at a warmblood you might wish to mate in the future. It’s a connective tissue-related hereditary disorder that can be lethal.

FAQs With Regards to the Pre Purchase Vet Exam of Horses

How much does a vet check cost, to buy a horse?

A standard pre-purchase horse exam cost lies anywhere from $250 to $500 depending on the veterinary office. It’s a good idea to inquire about the base fee with the veterinarian right away. 
Seems a lot for a basic exam, but it takes a total of two hours or even longer. This includes a lot of extra measures as well. Moreover, depending on the extra tests you may request, the price may easily go as high as $3000.

Should you get a vet check before buying a horse?

Regardless of the horse’s asking price, a pre-purchase examination is essential. That’s because you may become just as connected to a cheap horse as you can to a luxury one, and any subsequent vet care will be just as expensive. 
It’s a critical step that is highly recommended. Purchasing a horse is not only a stressful task, but it can also be rather pricey. A vet check or pre-purchase inspection might help you feel more at ease with your new horse before you decide to buy the one you believe is best for you. The pre-examination provides you with an objective and thorough clinical assessment of your new horse.

What does a pre-purchase exam consist of?

When a veterinarian visits a horse, he or she will usually ask the owner about the horse’s medical history. The horse will be examined at rest and all of its critical organs will be checked, followed by the horse being examined during work.
The flexion test will then be performed on all four limbs to check for the development of any lameness as a result of the tension placed on the joints. After that, the horse will go through several workouts to ensure that each gait is correct. The vet gathers all of the data and presents it to the buyer, along with some suggestions.

What is the cost of a lameness exam for horses? 

On average, a lameness exam will cost about $250-$500 on an average. However, various factors affect the cost. This can greatly vary depending mainly on your chosen veterinarian’s experience and skills. Moreover, it is preferable to consult your vet about the possible additional costs, before the exam. The exam can easily go up to a high of $3000. 

Can you buy a horse without a vet check? 

Buying a horse without a vet check is perhaps a difficult gamble. In case, the horse shows signs of lameness and any possible diseases, your initial investment will go down the drain. Not to mention, the amount of money you will have to spend on vet visits and the fact that your horse’s value will go down. It is important to ensure that a horse is fit for purchase before you spend so much of your money on a horse that’s not even healthy. 


In my conjecture, pre-purchase exams are immensely vital and unavoidable. It is essential to conduct the exam, on your terms and choose a proper and trustworthy vet.

You must also spend on recommended follow-ups with the horse including any other extra tests that your vet suggests. Otherwise, you may have to suffer a great loss and have your money end up going down the drain. Not to mention, you will also have to bear the cost of several vet visits in the future including money for the treatment.