The (Pre) Pre-Purchase Checklist

Before going to see a horse that you are interested in purchasing:


  • Request specific photos and videos


It is possible sellers will send older photos and dated videos of a horse for sale. I’m sure many of you have been catfished a time or two with a prospect that didn’t look anything like the photos or videos. Request photos be taken of the front & hind feet from the front, sides and back. If you have a genuine seller that’s willing to snap some quick photos for you and send them off, it is less likely that there are any concerns about what you may or may not pick out. Same with proper, current conformation photos.


  • In any videos of a horse you are interested in, pay close attention to the tack or equipment that is being used (or the circumstances, jump chute set up, situational details)


This will give you more of an indication as to how the horse normally behaves. Ex. Draw reins, big spurs, hard bit, soft bit, noises in the background etc. all can lend you clues about the horse’s exposure and also their expected behaviour from the current owners.


  • Look up show records and inquire as to whether veterinary records will be available for serious buyers


If the horse has mileage it is easy to look up a show record and pick out any suspicious breaks in activity, as well as getting an idea of their past performance. Asking the seller if the horse’s veterinary records will be available for serious buyers will give you a huge amount of clarity. “Yes of course, no, it doesn’t have any…” is telling. You absolutely should be able to have access to previous veterinary records.



Viewing a potential horse in person:


  • Request to see the horse in a stall/field and have the agent show the horse being tacked up in front of you


This is not the most time efficient way for anyone to show a horse, yet it is so important. If you’re in a rush, come back another time and make sure to watch how the horse behaves in a setting other than the ring. Does it have ground manners? Is it upset or uncomfortable about something? Does is CRIB? I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been surprised having a horse come home and finding out later that it has a bad habit.


  • Ask for another rider to ride the horse first


Watch someone else ride the horse and pay attention to any discrepancies in movement specifically one direction versus another. Does it fall in? Does it struggle with a certain lead or lead change? Does it spook?


  • Look for symmetry in the conformation and movement


No horse is perfect – but that doesn’t mean that one hip should drop substantially lower than the other or one fetlock should be aggressively larger. Is the horse toed in? How even are the heels? If you compare the horse to itself, a lot of the times any big red flags should be able to jump out at you. Is it shorter at the canter to the left versus the right? Will it only land on one specific leg? There should be a general fluidity to the horse on both sides and in movement both directions.


  • Have a list of easily answerable questions


  • When was the horse last reset / trimmed?

  • When were it’s teeth done last?

  • When was it’s last time off property?

  • How long has the owner owned it?

  • When were it’s last vaccinations / deworm?

  • Does it have any old x-rays?

  • Is the horse insured?

  • ASK if there is any history of lameness or illness, don’t assume.


  • Have a list of easy physical examinations you can use without a vet present


  • Grab a pair of hoof testers (I know you don’t want to be that person but trust me it’s SO worth it) and use them on every foot.

  • Follow the spine with your fingers and apply pressure from wither to bum. Back problems are heavy duty. You can do the same thing with the muscles along the spine into the lumbar areas as well.

  • Palpate tendons. This is something easy you can do to check sensitivity AND any swelling or heat.


  • Ask to see the horse on a lunge line


This can seem redundant, but it has saved us and also scarred us for not doing on many potential purchases! Watch the horse on a lunge line, and then ask to see it on hard ground. Video it, if you can’t see something, your vet just might. It can save you the pre-purchase exam in the first place. Whilst you’re at it get the agent to jog the horse towards and away from you. Make note of any issues and notice if the horse travels straight, sideways, crooked etc.



If you like the horse, come back another day and REPEAT! Check back for more tips & tricks and as always you can send me a message if you need help with something @springeneq.