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Our experienced vets are all highly competent at examining horses for purchase. We regularly travel all across the UK and fly to Europe to examine horses for our clients.

The purchase of any horse is a risk but one way of minimising (but not eliminating) that risk is to subject any potential purchase to a prepurchase examination (“a vetting”). Before considering getting a horse examined it is best to gain as much information about the horse as possible. We recommend that if practicable you see and ride the horse at least twice, and if possible, performing the type of work you expect from your new horse. Taking a knowledgeable friend or trainer along is also a good idea. Once you are satisfied that the horse you are considering is suitable the next stage would be to consider a prepurchase examination.

What does a prepurchase examination involve?

A full examination is made up of five stages. The first stage is a detailed clinical examination of the resting horse. Here the entire horse is observed and palpated and an assessment made of the conformation, heart, lungs and eyes. The second stage is an assessment of soundness at the walk and the trot in a straight line. Limb flexion tests are commonly performed at this stage. The third stage is the observation of the horse when ridden. Two key elements are assessed at this stage: soundness under saddle and an assessment of the competence of the upper airway (“wind”). The heart is also re-assessed here to evaluate its function when working hard. The fourth stage is simply resting the horse for some minutes. At this stage the horse is identified and any papers belonging to the horse examined. The fifth stage involves the horse being trotted in a straight line for a second time, being backed-up a few steps and turned in a tight circle. At the end of this stage the horse is lunged on a level, preferably hard, surface.

If the horse is of a certain value or if concerns have been expressed during any of the five stages further investigations can be made. Radiographs of the joints are commonly performed and sometimes an endoscopic examination of the upper respiratory tract may be appropriate.

Under some circumstances a limited prepurchase examinaion is appropriate. The most common of these limited examinations is a two stage examination. Here the first two stages of a five stage examination are performed. Horses that are not broken to the saddle, or are of limited value may benefit from a two stage examination. It must be noted that some lameness, heart conditions and respiratory conditions would not be found during a two stage examination. For this reason we ask that a disclaimer be signed acknowledging the limitations of a two stage examination.

Most examinations are made at the yard where the horse is currently kept; however, some yards do not have the appropriate facilities for a five stage examination and we can provide, at the surgery, the facilities and surfaces required for a full assessment of your potential purchase. A further advantage to having the examination performed at the surgery is that if radiographs or endoscopy are required we can provide these at the time of the examination.

We live in litigatous times and as a sensible precaution we recommend that a blood sample be taken from any potential purchase. This blood sample is stored for 6 months and if a problem occurs with your new purchase such as a change in behaviour or lameness this sample can be analysed.

In September 2011 the pre-purchase examination certificate given at the conclusion of the examination was updated and the key changes to the certificate are:

The new certificate records whether the seller or their agents are clients of the examining veterinary surgeon or their practice.

The new certificate records whether the examining veterinary surgeon or their practice has attended the horse and if they have, an opinion is given regarding the significance of any veterinary history.

Flexion tests and trotting on a circle on a tight surface are still not mandatory parts of the examination because, although they can be useful, there may be occasions when they are inappropriate, unsuitable, unsafe or impossible to perform. However, many purchasers expect them to be performed and so the new certificate records whether or not they were done. If they were not performed, the certificate also records the reasons for omitting them.

If a blood sample was not taken then the reason for omitting it is recorded on the certificate.

The new certificate has advice regarding a seller’s warranty and obtaining insurance.