My Horse Buying Mistake?
Jul 25, 2011
When I do a prepurchase examination the idea is that I will identify as many medical issues with the horse as possible (hopefully I will find all the horses medical issues). The buyer will decide what he can live with and make a rational buying decision. This of course almost never happens. Most horse buying decisions are based on emotion. About 70 % of the prepurchase examinations I do the owner has made up his mind long before I arrive.
Sometimes I identify major medical issues and the person will buy the horse regardless of my findings. My assistant and I talk in amazement at what findings some buyers are willing to deal with. This is where my story starts. You see my wife; Susan found the perfect horse for my 9 year old daughter Olivia.
Honey is a middle aged double registered Buckskin/Quarter Horse mare. She has won world championships in many disciplines in the Buckskin Association. She has won at large Quarter Horse shows. She is easy to get along with, and is good with kids. She was priced very reasonably.
You might ask "why is such an accomplished horse priced so reasonably?' That's exactly the question I asked. Susan quickly brushed past the question; "she has navicular, but Olivia gets along with her so well, and she knows patterns, and she is good with kids, and she can do western pleasure, and she can do English and..." "Wait" I interjected "let's go back to the navicular thing."
For those of you lucky enough to be unaware of navicular syndrome, it is a complex set of structures in the horses foot that when inflamed causes debilitating lameness. Navicular syndrome is usually not curable but in many horses it can be managed. Some horses, however, never get completely sound no matter how hard the veterinarian, owner, and farrier try.
While talking to the original owner I soon realized that Honey fell into the latter group. The owner described multiple medical efforts that she, her veterinarian, and her farrier had made to keep Honey sound. In the end she had been retired due to recurrent lameness. I told my wife and daughter that Honey was not a wise investment and that we should not buy her. So of course, I am at the barn the next day to do a prepurchase examination.
As expected on the prepurchase examination I found evidence of navicular syndrome. I told my wife and daughter that I did not think this is a wise buying decision. It is not the money; Honey is priced cheap enough that I can get my money back if I sell her as a brood mare. My issue is that my daughter will get attached to Honey just about the time she goes lame.
Susan being very knowledgeable about lameness issues kept asking questions like "what if we tried shockwave" or "do you think we could shoe her differently?" Sometimes out of the blue or during dinner she would shout out something like "How about treating her with Tildren!" I finally had to say that while all of these were good ideas to treat the mare, none of them are guaranteed to work and further more she was not going to stumble on to a treatment that the rest of the veterinary world had not considered. She was not going to be able to cure navicular syndrome at our kitchen table in time to make this a good buying decision. So of course, the next day I am writing a check to buy Honey.
Susan reasoned that the original owners did not have me as a veterinarian. Surely I could hold Honey together for a few years while she taught Olivia how to ride and compete!
So, like everybody else, we did not make a rational buying decision. We bought Honey based on emotion. Susan had made up her mind long before I did the prepurchase examination. So far I have been able to keep Honey sound. Olivia has competed in a lot of shows and is doing quite well. Honey is doing her job and helping Olivia become a better rider. I just hope I can continue to "hold Honey together". The dreams of my daughter and the admiration of my wife hang in the balance. I will keep you informed...