The pre-purchase exam is designed to give the potential buyer valuable information before they invest in the purchase of a new horse. Buying and owning a horse is a major financial investment and deciding on which horse to buy can be a frustrating and difficult decision. A pre-purchase exam is recommended before buying any horse, whether it be a pleasure riding horse, your first horse, or a top level show horse. Knowing the overall health and soundness of the horse you are thinking of buying is extremely important, and the pre-purchase exam is able to give you the buyer that information.
Pre-purchase exams can vary from a simple basic health and soundness exam to a very comprehensive exam involving detailed soundness/performance exams, multiple diagnostic tests such as digital radiography, digital ultrasound exams, endoscopy, MRI, bone scans, blood work, drug testing, and even breeding soundness exams. Usually the extend of the exam depends on the purchase price of the horse or the intended use of the horse. However, the buyer must make that decision on the risk they are willing to take in the purchase of a new horse. The more extensive the exam generally the less risk you will be taking in that investment, and to avoid as much as possible any surprise health or soundness issues after the purchase. Although no veterinarian can predict the future, hopefully the exam can give you very valuable information into the health and soundness of the horse so that you can make the most informed decision as possible in the purchase of your new horse. So, your veterinarian's job is to give their professional assessment of the exam findings to you, and how these findings may potentially affect the future health and soundness of the horse. From these findings you will know the potential risk you may be taking on if you purchase the horse. It is not your veterinarian's job to "pass or fail" a horse. Their job is to give you their professional opinion of the suitability of the horse to meet your future needs to the best of their ability. But ultimately, the final decision to purchase the horse is the sole business decision of the potential buyer. That decision should be made on multiple factors. One of which is the veterinarian's exam findings.
Before the examination the buyer should have a detailed conversation with the veterinarian performing the examination, so that your veterinarian knows what you are looking for in the horse, it's intended use, and the extent of the exam you are requesting. Also, your veterinarian should help guide you in what they would recommend the examination should consist of, and tests that should be performed. It is also important to choose a veterinarian that you trust and is knowledgeable in the breed and discipline for which the horse is intended for use.
During the exam your veterinarian should contact you with any additional tests or images that they may recommend due to their exam findings. Once the exam is completed and all diagnostic tests and images performed, then your veterinarian will discuss any concerns they may have with you. They will explain how these findings may affect the horse's future health, soundness, and performance. Hopefully, in the end you will come away with very valuable information that will help you make the decision to buy the right horse for you and will meet your needs for years to come.