The renowned veterinarians of Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) have enjoyed sharing their expertise on equine pre-purchase exams in a series featured exclusively through ProEquest this year. Located in the heart of Wellington, FL, PBEC serves a large base of multi-discipline clientele competing not only in South Florida, but also throughout North America and Europe. The series has outlined the basic stages of equine pre-purchase exams as well as advances in technology that have changed examinations over the years. This edition focuses on important issues surrounding the purchase of equine imports, as U.S. equestrians continue to more frequently acquire horses bred overseas.
Bryan Dubynsky. Photo by Shelli Breidenbach
PBEC’s Dr. Bryan Dubynsky shared his expertise this month, contributing advice on the initial pre-purchase exam abroad, as well as issues that are frequently seen in newly-imported horses. Dr. Dubynsky and his colleagues at Palm Beach Equine Clinic are considered some of the best veterinarians in their field and are all happy to assist buyers and sellers in pre-purchase examinations around the world. His top advice is to always get the opinion of a veterinarian you trust.
“When a buyer is ready to have a pre-purchase exam performed in Europe before importing a horse, it can be very worthwhile to have their own veterinarian fly over for the clinical exam,” Dr. Dubynsky advised. “People forget that the veterinarian that they hire in Europe is more likely to have a conflict of interest for the people that are selling the horse. If the buyer is not going to send their own veterinarian to examine the horse, they need to really trust their relationship with the seller.”
Back palpation. Photo by Shelli Breidenbach
Regardless of the type of horse or discipline, pre-purchase exams follow the same basic steps. First, a thorough health evaluation is completed including review of health history, general body condition, and conformation. Second, a lameness assessment is done, including flexion tests, soft tissue palpation, movement evaluation, and more. Finally, auxiliary diagnostics such as radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), or Nuclear Scintigraphy (bone scans) may be performed for additional information.
Tendon palpation. Photo by Shelli Breidenbach
“The typical set of radiographs for a pre-purchase exam in Europe is much less extensive than what we do in the U.S.,” Dr. Dubynsky warned. “In the U.S., a typical set for a pre-purchase exam might be about 42 radiographs, and overseas, a pre-purchase set is about 16 radiographs.”
Dr. Dubynsky also suggests getting a written second opinion on all imaging and lameness evaluations. PBEC, for example, has Board-certified Radiologist Dr. Sarah Puchalski on staff, who is able to help analyze radiographs or other images from anywhere in the world.
“If the buyer does not have their own veterinarian with them overseas, they can request that the vet performing the pre-purchase examination send the radiographs back home,” said Dr. Dubynsky. “I would also recommend a video of the lameness portion of the exam to be taken so that it can be reviewed as well.”
Dr. Dubynsky emphasized that the buyer’s best option is always to send their personal veterinarian to examine the horse for purchase. If that is not a possibility, the buyer should have their veterinarian review the material from home and give a second opinion.
“The more expensive the horse, the more worthwhile it would be,” Dr. Dubynsky remarked. “If the buyer is vetting more than one horse for purchase, it is definitely worth sending their own vet over. Unless they have a really good relationship with the European veterinarian or the seller, they just cannot be sure. I advise that the buyer’s personal veterinarian review everything, especially the lameness exam and radiographic images. Then the buyer knows that the vet is working for them, the vet is not working for the seller, and there is no conflict of interest.”
In any good pre-purchase exam, the veterinarian is performing an evaluation of the horse to assess its state of health and soundness at the time of the examination, as well as gathering information that may help to predict a level of risk for the future.
“I think there is always inherent risk in buying a horse, even more so than buying a used car,” Dr. Dubynsky declared. “Buying horses is inherently risky. As veterinarians, we do the best we can to mitigate that risk as much as possible.”
Once a buyer has decided to purchase a horse for import, there are many other important things to consider. One big concern includes climate change and allergies.
“Climate change is always a big issue, especially when horses move from Europe to Florida or similar climates,” Dr. Dubynsky cautioned. “We start seeing all kinds of problems, such as Rainrot, Thrush, Scratches, and allergies. In my experience, skin allergies seem to be a big issue when horses arrive in the U.S.
“Horses, and all mammals in general, have a naïve immune system,” he continued. “They have not been exposed to those allergens or antigens (bacteria or other foreign substances that induce a reaction in the body). Their immune systems are naïve because they have not seen certain kinds of foreign invaders yet, so they are more susceptible to them. Usually they are minor things, but those issues can be common until the horse’s immune system develops maturity in a new environment.”
Behavioral issues can be very common when importing a horse as well. The stress of traveling, acclimating to a different environment, and other factors can often lead to change in behavior. Dr. Dubynsky has experienced many instances where a client tried a horse in Europe, but when they rode the horse for the first time after import, it seemed totally different.
“There is always a settling-in period,” he noted. “It might not necessarily be bad behavior, the behavior just might be different until the horse gets used to a program again. Many new buyers are scared when the horse is different from what they tried over in Europe. They think something must have happened that altered the horse, but that is very rarely the case. It just takes time for any horse to adjust to their new environment.”
All horses imported from another country undergo rigorous export testing and quarantine period before being released to their new homes. The process is longer for mares and stallions than it is for geldings due to required testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Horses are screened for other infectious diseases before travel as well.
Dr. Dubynsky noted that veterinary care is pretty similar when a horse makes the move abroad, but told that farriery in other countries can be slightly different.
“The same principles should always apply in farriery, but there is one big misconception that I have to dispel weekly,” he said. “In Europe, farriers often use toe clips and in the U.S., they like to use quarter clips or side clips, but there is no functional difference between the two. A lot of people think there is a big difference, but there is not.”
Bryan Dubynsky. Photo by Shelli Breidenbach
It is important to have a veterinarian who is experienced and knowledgeable in all of these factors when importing a horse. Dr. Dubynsky and the veterinarians of Palm Beach Equine Clinic are always available for advice and more information. To schedule a pre-purchase exam with one of PBEC’s top veterinarians either in the U.S. or abroad, or for further consultation, please call 561-793-1599 or visit www.equineclinic.com to find out more.
About Palm Beach Equine Clinic
The veterinarians and staff of PBEC are respected throughout the industry for their advanced level of care and steadfast commitment to horses and owners. With 28 skilled veterinarians on staff, including three board-certified surgeons, internal medicine specialists, and one of very few board-certified equine radiologists in the country, PBEC leads the way in new, innovative diagnostic imaging and treatments. Palm Beach Equine Clinic provides experience, knowledge, availability, and the very best care for its clients. To find out more, please visit www.equineclinic.com or call 561-793-1599. “Like” them on Facebook to follow along on what happens in Wellington and more, and get news from their Twitter!
About Dr. Bryan Dubynsky
Dr. Dubynsky attended Indiana University for his undergraduate studies and attained a B.S. degree in biology. He continued his education at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and finished his clinical training at Purdue University. While in school, he achieved top honors and earned the Excellence in Equine Medicine and Surgery award. After graduation from veterinary school, Dr. Dubynsky practiced medicine in the Saratoga, NY area where he began his veterinary career.
Dr. Dubynsky spent most of his life breeding, raising, training, and showing horses. Prior to veterinary school, he had the opportunity to work with some of the premier trainers and horsemen in central Kentucky. Dr. Dubynsky has worked in the Hamptons doing sport horse medicine for several years and is the show vet for the Hampton Classic. His interests include sports medicine and lameness.
Photo Credit : www.shellibreidenbach.com