We recommended that all horses purchased should undergo a veterinary examination to assess their soundness and suitability for you specific requirements.
Ideally we would advise the purchaser of the horse or pony to be present at the time of the examination. This prevents any miscommunication of purchaser’s prospective use for the horse or concerns and most importantly of the findings of the examination and their implications on the purchase. If you cannot be present for any reason it is advisable that you speak directly to the veterinary surgeon performing your vetting PRIOR to the examination.
The vetting examination is carried out under the guidelines set out by the RCVS and BEVA and is performed in 5 stages as explained below. Two types of pre-purchase examination or “vetting” are available – a five stage vetting (taking on average one and a half hours) or a two stage vetting (limited pre-purchase examination).
If you are intending to insure your horse check with the company which examination they require if any. For a vetting report to be valid for most insurance companies, the examination must have been performed within the last 6 months. The examination for insurance is exactly as described for pre-purchase.
Two Stage Vettings
The limited pre-purchase examination will take 35-45 minutes and although this will be less expensive, it is important to understand it’s limitations in fully assessing a horse prior to purchase.
Stage One is observation and thorough clinical examination of the horse. The horse should ideally be rested in a stable for 3 hours prior to the examination.
- Identification of the horse is confirmed by comparison to its passport & scanning for the presence of a microchip. The vaccination status is checked & advice given where necessary.
- The horse’s demeanor and temperament is assessed before & throughout the examination, paying particular attention to vices or behavioural abnormalities.
- The head & mouth are examined including assessment of the horse’s age, condition of the incisors & a brief assessment on the front cheek teeth, including the presence of wolf teeth.
- The horse is palpated all over in order to identify any abnormalities, such as signs of old injuries, scars, lumps or bumps. This will also include an assessment of spinal reflexes and mobility.
- The lungs and heart will be assessed with a stethoscope.
- With the horse in a dark area, the eyes are examined with an ophthalmoscope.
- The horse is then taken outside and stood square. This allows assessment of conformation and observation of any visible problems.
Stage Two involves a lameness and foot examination. It should be carried out on a hard, level surface and involves walking and trotting up the horse in a straight line, looking for signs of lameness or gait abnormality.
- The feet are assessed for conformation faults, balance and horn quality. The style and type of shoeing is noted.
- The horse will be turned in a tight circle (‘turned short’) and reined back.
- Flexion tests will be carried out on all 4 legs.
In addition the horse may be lunge or trotted on a hard circle. This can help identify subtle problems.
Five Stage Vettings
The full pre-purchase examination entails the stages below on top of those included in the limited pre-purchase examination.
Stage Three requires strenuous exercise, preferably ridden (but can be lunged). Unbroken horses may be loose-schooled.
- The horse will be assessed for a dipped or cold back during saddling and mounting. The horse is observed while tacking up for behavioural abnormalities.
- The horse is assessed for soundness and co-ordination once mounted and during ridden exercise at walk, trot and canter. Depending on the prospective use of the horse gallop may be required.
- The wind is assessed with the horse in canter.The heart and respiration is assessed immediately after this strenuous exercise.
Stage Four is a period of rest until the heart and respiratory rate return to normal. This may elicit any stiffness when the horse is re-examined at stage five.
- During this time the heart rate and rhythm is assessed during recovery from exercise.
Stage Five involves a final trot up and assessment.
- Walk, trot, circles on both reins and reining back are required.
- Flexion tests or lunging on a hard surface may be used if any lameness if suspected.
A blood sample will also be taken and stored for 6 months; alternatively this can be tested immediately if desired. This is to identify any drugs such as sedatives, steroids or anti-inflammatory painkillers (e.g. ’bute).
Requirements for a vetting
- Full details of the vendor
- All documentation including passports available for inspection.
- The horse should be clean, well groomed and stabled for a minimum of 3 hours before the vetting.
- The horse should be recently shod or trimmed (ideally not within 1 week), but do NOT use hoof oil PLEASE!
- Dark stable for eye examination.
- Hard, level trot up. This must be safe for both horse and handler. Neither a busy road nor a bumpy field is sufficient!
- A school or area to watch the horse exercising.
If you elect to have a full detailed dental examination or any other ancillary tests that require sedation or clipping the vendor’s consent must be obtained prior to the vetting
Please note that if the environment, facilities or condition of the horse presented are not adequate then the Veterinary Surgeon may not be able to carry out all aspects of the examination