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Pre-purchase examinations

A pre-purchase examination or a vetting is a thorough examination of a horse by a veterinary surgeon on behalf of the prospective purchaser of that animal. During the detailed examination the vet will seek to find as much information as possible about the animal to determine if it is suitable for the purpose for which it is intended. A pre-purchase examination can be divided into stages. You will be offered either a 2 stage examination or a 5 stage examination. We always recommend a 5 stage pre-purchase examination is performed. Don’t be tempted to save money by having a 2 stage vetting as it is a limited examination and may not detect something which otherwise would be highlighted in the full 5 stages. In those situations where a 2 Stage vetting is requested, you will be asked to sign a disclaimer detailing words to this effect. A full 5 Stage vetting usually takes about an hour and a half to carry out.

Stage 1

This is the stable examination where the vet uses his ‘hands as tools’ checking the legs for any lumps or swellings and the skin for any lumps such as sarcoids. He will listen to the heart to check for murmurs or irregularities in the rhythm and he will check the eyes and check the teeth for the age of the horse.

Stage 2

The vet will check the conformation of the horse stood on a flat surface. He will ask the handler to walk and trot the horse in a straight line on a hard flat surface. He will then perform flexion tests on each leg for 60 seconds after which the horse must trot away.

Stage 3

The horse should be lunged on a soft and/or hard surface to check for soundness. Strenuous ridden exercise, preferably in a ménage should be carried out to assess the back, soundness and the wind. The heart is checked immediately after exercise.

Stage 4

The rest phase is back in the stable when the horse will be able to drink and eat. The heart will be checked that it has returned to normal and the length of time that it has taken. This is usually the period during which the vet will draw the markings of the horse and check the passport if he has not done so already at the start of the vetting.

Stage 5

This stage is the final trot up on a hard flat surface to check for any stiffness post exercise. At the end of the vetting a blood sample is taken which is stored at an independent facility for 6 months.

After the vetting the vet will speak to you to discuss any findings and their possible impact on the intended use of the horse. In certain circumstances some findings may require more detailed investigations such as x-rays, endoscopy or ultrasound examinations. You will also receive a written report detailing the findings of the pre-purchase examination. Clients are strongly advised to arrange insurance before purchase so are aware of any exclusions that may be applied before you buy the horse.