Pre-Purchase Examination

Buying the right horse or pony for yourself or your family represents a considerable investment of time and money, and you need to be as sure as you can be that the horse you have bought will be the right choice. When you have found a suitable horse it is always a good idea to arrange a pre-purchase examination or “vetting”.

Our experienced equine vets will be happy to carry out a pre-purchase examination on your behalf so that you can be satisfied that the horse you are considering purchasing is going to be suitable for your needs.

A pre-purchase examination is a thorough, structured, formal examination of the horse carried out to RCVS and BEVA guidelines. It is not a guarantee of future health, ability or performance. The aim of the examination is advise you whether the horse you would like to buy is suitable for the job you wish it to do, for example, hunter, eventer or child’s pony. The examination is also designed to reveal any potential issues that the horse may have that you should take into account before deciding whether to purchase the animal.

A pre-purchase examination may be required before you will be able to insure your horse for “vet’s fees” so a phone call to your insurance company is sensible before arranging a pre-purchase examination.

Pre-purchase examinations are available as a five-stage examination or a two-stage examination.

Five-Stage Pre-Purchase Examination

This is the most thorough examination and is generally recommended for all horses and ponies except young unbroken animals. The examination consists of five separate stages:

  • Thorough examination of the horse at rest. This includes an examination of the eyes with an ophthalmoscope, assessment of conformation, auscultation of the heart and lungs with a stethoscope, palpation of the limbs, inspection of the skin and a visual inspection of the mouth and teeth including an assessment of age. This stage is intended to reveal scars or bony swellings, evidence of previous surgery, joint or tendon abnormalities, conformational defects, visual problems and skin conditions.
  • Examination of the horse at walk and trot, in hand. Flexion tests of the joints are carried out at this stage. This stage allows us to assess the horse’s soundness.
  • A period of strenuous exercise, in most cases ridden. This stage is designed to work the horse, not exhaust it. This stage allows us to view the horse’s gait and tracking under saddle and assess the horse’s breathing under work conditions. We will listen for abnormal respiratory sounds and auscultate the heart immediately after exercise to detect heart murmurs and arrhythmias (abnormal rhythm). This stage usually comprises of walk, trot, canter and gallop if possible.
  • A period of rest. This stage is intended to allow the horse to recover from its period of exercise. It is also a period when some post-exercise stiffness may develop. We will observe the horse during this period and often draw the horse for the post vetting report.
  • A further examination of the horse at walk and trot, in hand. This may include manoeuvres such as tight circling in hand, reversing the horse and flexion tests for the spine.

If all has gone well so far, a blood test will be taken and stored for analysis if necessary. We will issue a report to the prospective purchaser listing any abnormalities we have found (there will often be one or two) and giving our opinion whether the horse is suitable for the intended use.

A five stage pre-purchase examination takes one and a half to two hours to perform depending on the facilities available and the temperament of the horse. The requirements for a five stage vetting include:

  • A darkened box for the eye examination
  • A level, hard surface about 30 metres long for the trot up (a level lane will usually suffice) although a yard is better
  • A school if possible for the period of exercise. Fields tend to be in varying conditions, often slope and can be very wet in winter
  • Appropriate tack and a competent rider

If you are considering arranging a pre-purchase examination it is in your interests that the facilities are adequate. We reserve the right to decline to continue the vetting if we feel that the facilities available will not allow us to carry out a proper pre-purchase examination. If you or the vendors are struggling to arrange adequate facilities we can arrange these for you.

Two-Stage Pre-Purchase Examination

This is a more limited examination consisting of stages one and two as discussed above. It is appropriate for a young or unbroken horse. Prospective purchasers may consider a two-stage examination for a child’s pony or a horse that they have had on loan for a while and are familiar with.

A two-stage examination does not contain any of the stages designed to demonstrate the horse’s performance under work conditions so it is not suitable for horses intended for athletic work. There are certain abnormalities that may not be revealed by this limited examination so you will be asked to sign a disclaimer before a two-stage pre-purchase examination is carried out. A two-stage examination takes about an hour and a darkened box and level trot up surface will still be required. A blood test will also be taken and stored as part of the procedure.

A two-stage examination costs a little less than a five-stage examination but please consider carefully whether it is appropriate for your (or your insurance company’s) needs.

Mortality Insurance Examination

This is a limited examination, similar to a two-stage vetting, which allows a horse to be insured for mortality only. It is usually carried out at the request of the insurance company.

Arranging a Pre-Purchase Examination

Ring our usual number 01823 662286 to arrange a pre-purchase examination. We will need to know your details, the vendor’s details and a full description of the horse, its age and its intended use. We also need to know where the vetting is to be carried out. If you have any particular concerns please let us know.