One of the most important pieces of advice I can give a client who is horse shopping is to be as proactive as possible. Paper your contracts, hash-out the nuts and bolts prior to transferring the horse.
Things in the industry are changing, do not be caught one-step behind because you took something on faith that could’ve been avoided if you had expended the resources up front to negotiate and execute a contract.
As the prices of horses continue to rise and the market becomes increasingly international, many buyers are hesitant to invest in a potential horse without the proper veterinarian exams, farrier consultants and contract negotiations. Due diligence work is extremely important to the horse trading business. If you are making a six-figure investment into an asset, it is prudent to spend a few thousand making sure you have an enforceable sales agreement, the horse is free from dangerous behavioral vices and has clean x-rays and radiographs.
Clients often ask, what are some things I, as a buyer, should consider before purchasing a horse? First, I advise clients to consider their costs: the amount expended on pre-purchase protections should mirror your total investment. The same way you would spend more on insuring a home than a car, the more expensive your equine investment, the more protected you should be.
A case review of your prospective horse’s hooves is one the most oft overlooked, valuable and affordable pre-purchase evaluations.
For this article, I have teamed up Pete Healey, resident farrier at the Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos, and author of Your Horses Feet, to give a rundown of hoof considerations for a sale prospect horse. Because lameness can lead to massive unanticipated expenses and potentially end a horse’s career, pre-purchase evaluations of the hoof are worthwhile to reveal problem areas and potential for injury for a horse that may have otherwise passed the vet.
Pete has spent his entire professional career fixing feet. He has countless stories of pre-purchase assessments where the horses he shoes are either lame and won’t pass a pre-purchase exam or goes lame shortly after purchase. Depending on your area, a case review of radiographs from a podiatry vet costs can cost as little as $250.
“A tremendous amount of information can be gleaned from a physical examination of the foot,” Pete says, imploring his clients to get radiographs of their horses’ feet to examine soft tissue, bone angles and the bone itself in order to reveal both history of injury or potential injury.
A major contributor to the soundness of the foot is the conformational “bone angle” of the coffin bone. The coffin bone is the foundation of the foot, its angle plus what makes up the angle of the heels, frog and digital cushion (palmar angle) make up the angle of the foot. A good foot angle should be between 53° and 55°. This represents a 50° bone angle and a 3° to 5° palmar angle. This angle usually coincides with a conformationally correct hoof-pastern axis. But what if the bone angle on a foot is only 42°? This foot would need to maintain a considerable amount of palmar angle to maintain the requirements of the hoof-pastern axis for proper foot function. Bone angles can be properly managed by your farrier. Often, bone angles are different in left and right feet, which is a contributing factor to mis-matched feet. Knowing the bone angles is important in trimming and shoeing management.
This information can mean the difference between a decade long career in the junior-amateur hunters or a one-season run before a life out to pasture.
A case review of hoof radiographs protect and inform buyers of any potential areas of concern and benefits the horse. Doing so will allow trainers and farriers to design an appropriate and humane program for each horse. Such disclosures can be added to a sales or lease agreement from which to leverage price and provide legal protection for both parties in the event of a future contract dispute.