Monday, June 3, 2013


April 28 2012. Not my best hair day.
Just over a year ago, I signed my name on the dotted line to take responsibility for a 7-year old OTTB whom I met just a few minutes prior, standing in a box stall.

I did not test ride him. We did not even trot him out.

So it may not shock you to learn that I did not get a PPE (pre-purchase exam).

I was told that he had vetted with clean x-rays, but wasn't provided copies. Later I found out that with racehorses they only tend to x-ray the ankles (fetlocks). I got pricing on PPEs from a vet I like, but decided to wait and see since there was the possibility of him not working out.

Clearly, at some point, I'd waited-and-seen long enough. He's a keeper.

For the last several months I've been ruminating on what exactly I would want to get done. Basic body exam? Flexions? Radiographs? Neurological exam? Airway scope? Blood test? Urine test?

Of course, what you get done depends on (a) purpose for the horse and (b) purpose of the exam. The purpose of the horse is simple - tote me around several times a week and be able to do low-level dressage and jumping. I do not have Rolex aspirations here.

As to purpose of the exam, it's not a pre-purchase since he's already been adopted. So we're calling it a baseline exam. Basically I'd like to know if he is at risk for any conditions that I could help prevent or address proactively. And its good to have baseline medical info in case an issue does arise - then there's something to compare against. Finally, its simply a good practice (for your safety and for the horse's) to have a vet approve a horse that you are riding, especially when asking them carry you over jumps (and the kind that don't fall down!).

So, finally, I had our vet come out on Saturday to give Hemie a thorough once-over. Dr. Liskey used to work at the so cal racetracks, then over the last few decades he has been doing primarily eventing and endurance horses. So, I trust his experience in evaluating ex-racehorses, especially for suitability in eventing.

Let me cut to the chase: Hemie's exam went fabulous - much better than I had expected.

We did a solid round of x-rays - all 4 fetlocks, front hooves, front naviculars, and hocks. We did flexion testing of all 4 legs (fetlocks) as well as head/neck. He did an eye exam and respiratory evaluation. He inspected his gaits. We did preliminary neuro testing, and hoof testing. We also did back and hip/rump palpation. And most importantly, I discussed all of the various quirks and concerns I have with my vet to see if they added up to something I couldn't identify.

(Brief aside: I find it quite funny that we have all these scientific names for what is basically poking and prodding the horse to see if he goes "ouch!"  Oh, modern science. Mostly a bunch of fancy names.)

The results? Much less wear and tear than I'd have expected. No arthritis. Zero! Very even and symmetrical cartilage. One bone spur in right hock, but not a concern. No "ankle jewelry" in the x-rays - very clean bones everywhere. Normal neuro parameters. Good eyes, good respiratory, great hooves, etc.

The only concerning issue was some soreness in his back, on the left as it leads to the rump. Based on the entire exam, Dr. Liskey surmised that his back muscles are still figuring out their new job and until they are more solidly developed there will be some soreness there, but that I can help increase blood flow by using liniment after rides. Considering Hemie's long-and-low rides lately with his super duper back lifting, I'd say he sure is developing those back muscles!

And, to boot, Hemie was a perfect patient, especially for having not been ridden for 2 days.

The feeling of relief that I've carried since Saturday afternoon says that I was more nervous about this exam than I had realized. I'm just so happy that Hemie's body is completely capable of doing what I want him to do.

You know how some people (intentionally or unintentionally) downplay their purpose for the horse at their PPE exam, with the idea that lower expectations will increase the chance of vet approving suitability? Well, I specifically tried to take the opposite approach. I told Dr. Liskey that I wanted to be able to go Training or Prelim on Hemie when, truth be told, I don't know if I'll ever care to go beyond Novice. Well, from a physical standpoint, Hemie has no upper limitation. This could be a Rolex horse. The Dr.'s exact words were "this horse will do whatever you want." Of course, he agreed that the key ingredient is heart, but apparently during the 1.5 hour exam he picked up on our special emotional connection because he commented a few times that "this horse really cares about you."  <3


  1. Glad all went well. I'm sure it's a weight off your shoulders :-)

  2. Awwww!! Sounds like it went great! :)

  3. You know I don't think there is anything wrong with not getting a PPE if you know its a horse you want and love, I never got a PPE on Carlos, he was free and I had ridden him for 2 years and while a PPE would have told me earlier about his Navicular problems it would never have kept me from getting him. I'm glad your PPE went well overall :)

    1. Thanks! Glad to know I'm not the only one who didn't PPE before taking the plunge.

  4. Yay that it all went well and Hemmie was a good boy!!