Hold your horses! Before purchasing a horse, the OVMA recommends planning, commitment.

COLUMBUS, OHIO — AUG. 2, 2010 — You and your family have just returned from the Ohio State Fair, and the kids are begging for a horse, just like the ones they saw in the junior horse competitions. Suddenly, they have an intense desire to learn how to ride. Sound familiar?

Every child dreams about being given a horse, but the decision to bring one home is much more complicated than simply indulging these wishes. Owning a horse involves extensive research beforehand, lots of planning, providing veterinary care and a commitment from the entire family.

The Pre-Purchase Exam

If your family is serious about purchasing a horse, the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association recommends a thorough investigation of the horse’s health and condition by contacting an equine veterinarian to perform a pre-purchase examination.

As the purchaser, it is up to you to select a veterinarian, but both you and the seller should be present at the exam. When selecting your equine veterinarian, choose one you feel comfortable with and who is familiar with the breed. Communicate your expectations for the horse and ask your veterinarian to suggest procedures that would give you the best information about the animal. The veterinarian will start with a physical exam, followed by an observation of the animal’s movements. Your veterinarian may incorporate various flexion tests, as well as radiographs of feet, joints and limbs.

When the procedure is complete, your veterinarian will discuss the findings with you in private. This is a great time to ask questions or request further information or procedures. The veterinarian will neither pass nor fail an animal, but will explain any existing medical problems or findings so that you may make an informed decision about the purchase.

Caring for your new horse

Now that you are officially a horse owner, you will need to work with your veterinarian to keep your horse healthy for its full 25 to 30 years of life. Your veterinarian can set up a preventive medical program – including management, physical examinations, blood tests, vaccinations, nutrition, ventilation and deworming – to fit your horse’s needs.

Few things will help protect your horse from infectious illnesses as effectively as vaccinations. By immunizing your horse you will create a protective barrier between the horse and diseases such as tetanus, West Nile virus, rabies, equine influenza and others. Your horse should have blood drawn yearly to check for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), a potentially fatal disease of all equidae. The vaccination appointment is also an excellent opportunity for a yearly physical examination to evaluate your horse’s health and condition, including examining the horse’s teeth and scoring body condition to allow evaluation of nutrition and animal husbandry.

Another potential danger you need be aware of is internal parasites. These silent killers can cause extensive internal damage: lowering resistance to diseases; robbing the horse of valuable nutrients; causing stomach, intestinal irritation and; poor hair coat; and unthriftiness (failure to grow or gain weight). Using deworming agents on a regular basis in combination with good management procedures are critical to minimizing parasites.

Perhaps the most basic requirement your horse needs is shelter where it can take cover from the elements-rain, sleet, snow, wind or sun. Ensure your horse’s stable has good ventilation, is dry and clean, and is well bedded. Provide your horse with ample fresh, clean water and good nutrition consisting of grain and hay, which should be fed in an elevated feeder. A brown, trace-mineralized salt block should be available at all times. Daily regimes should include picking the horse’s feet out, brushing its body and making sure it gets proper exercise.

Remember, it is important that you and your family commit to caring for your horse, under the guidance of your veterinarian. In return, your new horse will grow loyal to you as well, and enrich your lives for years to come.


The Ohio Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) is a non-profit organization providing services to its members in the areas of continuing education, advocacy on public policy matters, and access to variety of professional resources. The OVMA represents more than 2,400 veterinarians practicing in various fields and specialties. The OVMA’s principal purpose and mission is to foster life-long learning, stewardship, compassion and community in veterinary medicine.


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Ohio Veterinary Medical Association
3168 Riverside Drive
Columbus, Ohio 43221
Phone: 614.486.7253 / 800.662.OVMA
Fax: 614.486.1325
E-Mail: ohiovma@ohiovma.org
Web: www.ohiovma.org

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