How to Choose the Right Performance Horse


A pre-purchase examination is the first step to selecting the right equine partner for your competitive riding career. In this article, we share some helpful advice to make that choice a little easier.

 The equine athlete will face many challenges during their riding career.

Regular travel, stressful environments and a strenuous exercise regime may affect their health and limit their performance. However, careful consideration before you buy will set you – and your horse – up for a long and successful competitive riding career.

The Pre-Purchase Examination

A thorough pre-purchase examination (PPE) is, by far, the best thing you can do when purchasing a performance horse. A PPE not only helps you avoid performance-limiting health problems, but gives you vital information to make an informed decision.

A qualified veterinarian, with no personal or professional ties to the horse for sale, can assist you with a PPE. Usually, a PPE will involve:

  • Reviewing the horse’s medical history
  • Carrying out a complete physical examination, including:
    • Monitoring pulse, respiration and temperature
    • Listening to the heart and lungs
    • Checking the nostrils, ears and eyes
    • Evaluating conformation
    • Palpating the body and limbs
    • Examining the teeth and mouth
    • Checking the hooves, including with hoof testers
  • Routine blood work
  • Watching the horse move in hand and under saddle at all gaits
  • Performing flexion tests on joints
  • Observing the horse’s behaviour

If the veterinarian identifies a potential problem, you may choose to undertake further tests, such as x-rays, nerve blocks, urine and blood analysis, and endoscopic or ultrasound examinations.

The results of these tests will give you a more detailed view. Some health problems can be overcome with simple management or veterinary intervention, while others may cause long-term detriment to the horse’s performance.

At no point, will the veterinarian tell you whether or not to buy the horse, as it’s ultimately your decision. However, by gathering as much information as possible, a PPE will help you make the most informed decision for long-term success and enjoyment.


  • Dr Louise Cosgrove

    The founder of Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, Louise is driven to support horses in their recovery from injury or illness. A graduate of the University of Queensland, with international equin...

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