WWYD: Close to a unicorn but....bone chip

Opinions please.
I’m scheduled to look at a horse soon that is close to matching all the unicorn boxes…but, because there’s always a but, he has a bone chip. The last people interested in him had a PPE done where he was found to be sound but the xrays showed a bone chip on (drum roll) the coffin bone. All the trainer knows is that there’s a bone chip and the vet said he might require surgery. The trainer didn’t see the xrays and has no access to them. The horse has been in training and showing BN eventing with no issues.

What would you do–enjoy the nice day dream but move on, make the drive anyway and hope you hate him, but if you love him get more xrays or maybe have a vet xray that hoof before looking? And yes, they’ve reduced his price as a result of the xrays.

No, I’m not looking for a high level eventer. I don’t feel the need to show but I do like jumping, dressage and trails. Any horse needs to be capable of at least performing at a low level for each–even if they aren’t trained for it yet. I will say I’m also on a non-horsey husband style budget and there are very few horses that ever spark my interest.

I vote have your vet x ray the hoof in question prior to trying him


How old is the horse? What is his competition record? What is its price? A sound older horse who has been doing the job without issues is a different thing to a youngster who has not done much. Value might also affect your decision.


Resale is another consideration down the road.


He’s, unraced but his history is limited to the last 2 yrs. Has been in training for the last two yrs and was doing BN in November but I haven’t asked how well he did or if he’s shown more as that’s not usually something I care much about. He has several videos from November where he looks great. I see maybe a hint that he favors one lead over another but my current lease horse favors a lead far more than this if you let him. Price is upper 4s already reduced greatly. My friends aren’t helpful–opinions are down the middle.

If he is close by and it’s not a major time committment to go try him, go try him.

He may have another as yet undisclosed hole, or you might just not click with him, and your decision will be made. There’s no point in xraying him first, then trying him and discovering you just don’t like him.

If there aren’t any other major holes AND you like him, get YOUR vet to xray the feet.

There are a couple of points in this horse’s favor - he’s sound doing the job right now. Current level of soundness is a better predicter of future soundness than xrays. Nice horses below 10K are hard to find, a nice one that’s sound and doing BN is harder.

It’s possible that the previous buyer didn’t want the horse for another reason, and are using the PPE findings as an excuse. It’s significant that they won’t release their films. If you get to the point where you WANT to take your own films, have your vet contact the PPE vet - the previous buyer’s vet may be more comfortable speaking openly to another vet.

You haven’t mentioned the resale aspect; but I would look at a bone chip on xrays a WHOLE LOT harder on a resale knowing it will always surface in a PPE than I would a horse that I was buying for long term use or that I would be keeping until they needed to step down to trail riding and hacking.


Bone chip in the coffin bone? I would pass. There is too much going on in that area for me to be comfortable with even surgery. How much time off would the horse need after? Is the chip even reachable there?


I would certainly get the old films and request a new set. Foot radiographs can be notoriously hard to take well. Artifacts happen a lot

Coffin bone fractures and chips can be self healing with simple time.

get good comparing films and get the best lameness vet you know to evaluate the films, or your own vet if they are solid sport horse base. They may wish to do an in person exam as well. Other option is to send the films ( or the digital file) to the vet school radiology department and ask for a case review.

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To me, it depends where the bone chip is. But I agree with Jaloushe that there is a lot of stuff going on around the coffin bone. Generally speaking, horse feet are asked to do a crap-ton of mechanical work for these over-sized and heavy animals. I am fussy about foot conformation and farriery/trimming.

I’d waste my own time going to see him before I’d pay to have a vet re-x-ray. But I would ask the seller to forward the existing x-ray to your vet first. if your vet gives you a “Do not pass ‘Go,’ do not collect $200” opinion, don’t bother going to see him. That said, the seller might be insulted by your request because you are asking her to “prove her sound horse innocent” before you even come ride him and see if he can win you over for other reasons.

Also, my long-term plans for the horse and my access to great farriery would play parts in my decision.

I hope my answer and the reasoning behind it helps you make a decision about what to do.


I fully agree with @McGurk on this.
Go try the horse. Then if it still checks all the boxes have your vet move forward from there.


Based on the original post, it doesn’t sound like the seller is the one who owns that x-ray and may not even have seen it. The prior potential buyer took the x-ray, they are the ones that would have to release it. So, seeing the x-ray before trying may not be an option. But, even if you offered to pay the person a small amount to buy them out of their x-rays, it would be cheaper than new ones, so it is worth exploring if getting that image sent is an option, because whether a chip is ok or not depends entirely on what it looks like/exactly where it is located (coffin area would be concerning to me, but you can’t really know for sure without specifics).

@AllSport if the horse is close by, AND you are disciplined enough not to fall completely in love when you know there is a potential vetting contingency, I might go try the horse before spending new vet money to get x-rays done. But, you also have to ask yourself the questions mentioned above about resale (some buyers will consider it a non-starter) and what you would do if the chip became an issue. But ultimately your vet will be able to tell you the range of scenarios you need to consider.

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Thank you for the responses! The horse is not close by in my opinion–6hr round trip drive. With that daunting, very boring drive, I have asked if they could try to get a hold of those xrays in question if I paid a fee for them–haven’t heard back yet. I don’t want to waste their time every bit as much as my own. I’m trying to hold the attitude of if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be and not get caught up with the drop dead goregous part of the equation.

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I understand everyone has their own idea of what a long drive is, but for me, if a horse wasn’t exciting enough to entice me to drive 3 hours to go see it (if I understand correctly that it is 3 hours there and 3 hours back?) then personally it would also not be exciting enough for me to consider buying it with a bone chip in the fetlock.


I have to agree with @Rel6. But then, I drive 45 minutes to work every day so maybe my opinion on a long drive is a little skewed.

Three hour drive seems pretty darn perfect. Drive there, try horse, grab a meal, drive home.


With the new info (horse is three hours away) I would definitely pursue getting the images before going to see. Do be prepared to offer some compensation ($50? 75?) and do be prepared to have the images shipped to another vet rather than to you directly.

As for the rest of the equation; how many horses are there in your area that meet all your criteria? How many have you already looked at? Those are key questions: if you’ve been looking for 6 months and this is the first one that ticks all your boxes and is in your price range, then it’s worth going to see if your vet doesn’t see anything scary.

If you’ve just started looking and you have a reasonable list of other prospects; bookmark this one and come back to him later.

Oops! I guessed that if the seller had lowered the horse’s price, they had seen the x-ray and might be able to forward it to next buyers. After all, everyone subsequent to the first one was going to ask.

Yeah. Things that are “meant to be” in my life usually include a whole lot more work than 3 hour drive to see a horse. If I were the seller, I’d want a potential buyer to be willing to take the one day to come see the horse before I worked harder.


I guess the bottom line is that I don’t trust myself. If I go see this horse and fall for him I don’t trust myself to make a common sense informed decision now that I’ve thought it all out. The farrier gave a very hard no which has given me a pretty good dose of cold feet.

I wasn’t even shopping for a horse so this has really sprung up on me–but I’m insanely picky at the same time. If I didn’t have access to both a stall and pasture I wouldn’t even consider buying a horse because time is not always on my side. And I am definitely no stranger to very long drives, so much so that I’m truly sick and tired of driving period.

Anyway, thanks again for letting me work through this. I’ve decided I will only go if I can get a hold of that xray to see what the other buyers/vet saw. I want to be informed before my heart takes over my common sense.

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actually, the vet owns the radiographs. You pay for a service and interpretation but the actual image belongs to the vet. Technically it is part of the vets records and notes.

NOT Correct at all.

The person who PAID for the vet to take the images owns them.

HIPPA and Veterinary Medical Record guidelines are VERY clear on this.

ONLY the owner can release the images or direct the vet hospital to release their images for them.

Even if you buy a horse that had 1 or 100 xrays taken of it prior to you owning it, you have NO rights to those images by virtue of buying the animal. You cannot access those records without the release from the person/organization that paid for those records.

As far as a vet owning the records, it’s not correct to say that they own the image. The client owns the image they paid for. The vet is a service provider storing it for the owner. Same as how my bank doesn’t “own” my money since it’s within their walls.