Originally Posted by CJ82Sky
i think it really varies by horse. Sometimes a basic chem panel can give you some ideas of what you are looking at - stuff like pre-cushings, low grade lymes, anything that is possible to be in blood but not (yet) be manifesting as physical symptoms.
Imo x-rays are out bc an older horse should and will show some arthritic changes as that is normal for age. Unless there's a specific old injury you want a closer workup done on, i'd pass on xrays. Even a basic PPE may be a waste if you are just looking for a pleasure horse as i'd assume there would be some stiffness until the horse warms up and so on.
You can check out my equi-eval site for some ideas on evaluating saddle fit and back soreness because an older horse may have old underlying back issues and you may be able to use that as a negotiating point to get a chiro visit (or a few) thrown in before the purchase or the cost of a few chiro visits taken out of the asking price.
One other thing a vet would be good for imo in a situation such as this is to evaluate teeth for actual age (though it's not an exact science) and determine what kind of dental work the horse may need in the future. Older horses can wear their teeth down and if not tended to regularly this can make them prone to mouth sores, bitting issues, reluctance under saddle, and so on and if they have not had their teeth tended to regularly can lead to issues such as colic (impaction) or choke from the inability to properly chew roughage before swallowing. In the earlier stages the horse may be able to chew enough to still swallow before they start dropping food out of their mouth when they eat. So a basic dental exam pre-purchase from a vet may be a good idea. If the horse needs their teeth done, again that's something that perhaps you can request be done prior to sale, or to use as a bargaining point on the asking price.
I'd like to add that I think it is WONDERFUL that you are considering an older horse - there are so many in need that it's nice to see them not forgotten. I've found older horses to be seasoned companions, happy to have a person to love them and willing to share their years of knowledge with their rider. Truly a gem to have in the barn as long as you do your do diligence and know the care your older horse needs prior to making that commitment so you can plan for your seasoned horse's care.
Best of luck to you!
I kind of figured that xrays would be a silly idea, and would likely be out of the budget. Now that you say all of this a PPE might be a complete waste of money. There is nothing that I couldn't check for myself other than the teeth thing. Teeth health is something that could probably be gauged just by asking when they had their last float. I find that a lot of people forget about the horse's teeth when it comes to care.
I am looking for a horse that will be sound enough to do BN eventing with, but these older horses have a lot of good training on them, which is making me re-evaluate what I really want to do, which has always been more dressage than jumping. I like jumping just for fun, but I'm not sure how much I would really want to heavily show in eventing.
However, whenever I look at MIE's Nelson I rethink ALL of my preconceived notions of what an older horse can do.
Older horses have a lot to offer. I find that a lot of horse people I talk to start to brush off or discount horses after they reach 15.