The AAEP has approved the following guidelines for reporting equine purchase examinations. The spirit of these guidelines is to provide a framework which will aid the veterinarian in reporting a purchase exam, and to define that it is the buyer’s responsibility to determine if the horse is suitable. These guidelines are neither designed for nor intended to cover any examinations other than purchase examinations. (e.g. limited examinations at auction sales and other special purchase examinations, such as lameness, endoscopic, ophthalmic, radiographic, reproductive examinations, etc.). While compliance with all of the following guidelines helps to ensure a properly reported purchase examination, it remains the sole responsibility of the veterinarian to determine the extent and depth of each examination. The AAEP recognizes that for practical reasons, not all examinations permit or require veterinarians to adhere to each of the following guidelines.

1. All reports should be included in the medical record.
2. The report should contain:
a. A description of the horse with sufficient specificity to fully identify it.
b. The time, date and place of the examination.
3. The veterinarian should list all abnormal or undesirable findings discovered during the examination and give his or her qualified opinions as to the functional effect of these findings.
4. The veterinarian should make no determination and express no opinions as to the suitability of the animal for the purpose intended. This issue is a business judgment that is solely the responsibility of the buyer that he or she should make on the basis of a variety of factors, only one of which is the report provided by the veterinarian.
5. The veterinarian should record and retain in the medical record a description of all the procedures performed in connection with the purchase examination, but the examination procedures need not be listed in detail in the report.
6. The veterinarian should qualify any finding and opinions expressed to the buyer with specific references to tests that were recommended but not performed on the horse (x-rays, endoscopy, blood, drug, EKG, rectal, nerve blocks, laboratory studies, etc.) at the request of the person for whom the examination was performed.
7. The veterinarian should record and retain the name and address of parties involved with the examination (buyer, seller, agent, witness, etc.).
8. A copy of the report and copies of all documents relevant to the examination should be retained by the veterinarian for a period of years not less than the statute of limitations applicable for the state in which the service was rendered. Local legal counsel can provide advice as to the appropriate period of retention. 

Recommendations for Purchase Exams at Public Auction

  • Radiographic interpretation for potential buyers should be performed by a veterinarian retained to represent that buyer’s personal interest with their particular needs and level of risk tolerance in mind.
  • Use of radiographic reports composed by the sellers’ veterinarian for proposed buyers has the potential to jeopardize all parties involved. The buyer may not be represented adequately, the seller incurs greater risk by potentially misrepresenting the horse and the veterinarian does not have the opportunity to explain his/her findings and their relevance to resale or training, in their opinion.
  • Veterinarians are encouraged to report all radiographic findings when interpreting radiographs for either the seller or buyer at public auction, with particular emphasis on those areas where pathology would commonly occur.
  • Modifying or altering radiographic reports, including deleting findings by either the veterinarian or anyone with access to the report, so that they might be used as a positive marketing tool in the auction venue is considered unethical and fraudulent.
  • Veterinarians with ownership in horses being presented for public auction should avoid being involved in the representation of those horses to potential buyers including, but not limited to, performing a radiographic or endoscopic assessment.
  • Veterinarians involved in performing radiographic examinations on horses for sale at public auction should strive to provide optimum radiographic quality with respect to proper positioning and appropriate exposure of all required views to ensure accurate and reliable determinations of findings.

Radiographs – Custody and Distribution

The AAEP recommends the retention of all radiographs on file for a period of three years. The AAEP and AVMA consider this essential for protection against litigation. The assertion of legal precedent is that radiographs are the property of the veterinarians who produced them, and only the information interpreted from the radiograph is the property of the client. In extenuating circumstances a copy of the radiograph can be made for distribution, including for referrals and consultations. Distribution of the original radiographs risks loss or misplacement such practice should be restricted to use in referrals and consultations, and then released only upon proper request.

Reviewed by AAEP board of directors in 2010.

Resource Type

  • Position Statements


  • Imaging
  • Purchasing a Horse

Publish Date

January 1, 2010