Pre-Purchase Examinations

When considering the purchase of a new horse or pony, it is advisable to have a pre-purchase examination (vetting) carried out. There is always an element of risk involved with the purchase of any horse; however as vets we can use our experience and expertise to advise you of the additional risk that may be involved if you buy the horse you have selected.

The intended use of the horse is an important consideration when the examination is performed. The purpose of a pre-purchase examination is to look for any existing medical or lameness problems or any reasons that the horse may not be suitable for the work you require it to do.

Five-Stage Pre-Purchase Examination                         

We strongly recommend a five stage pre-purchase examination for any horse you are considering buying. This normally takes up to two hours and you will receive a detailed report. To request a 5-stage pre-purchase examination, please download the form:  and then email or fax it to us.

The five steps of the PPE are outlined below.

Stage 1: Preliminary Examination

A thorough examination of the horse to assess appearance and condition. This includes teeth (age and dental abnormalities), skin, limbs and feet, auscultation of the resting heart and lungs, and examination of the horse’s eyes using an ophthalmoscope. Flexion of all the limb joints is performed to check for any pain or a reduced range of motion. At this time the owner, or their agent, is questioned regarding any vices and allergies the horse may have and if any special feeds, supplements or medication is needed.

Stage 2: Trot up

The horse is walked and trotted on hard, level ground to detect abnormalities in gait and action. Flexion tests are performed and the horse is also lunged on hard surface to show any low grade lameness. If there are any abnormal findings during the examination up to this part, we would contact the purchaser and discussed these with them, as they may well wish to abandon the examination immediately if certain defects are found.

Stage 3: Strenuous Exercise

The horse is given sufficient exercise, either ridden (if the horse is in work and broken), or lunged or loose-schooled in the menage (unbroken horses). The intention is to see how the horse responds to exertion, with special reference to gait abnormalities, action, heart and respiratory function. Initial work is observed at the trot in both large and small circles, collected and ‘going long’, figures of eight etc. The horse is then cantered on both reins, more expressly for the examination of ‘the wind’. Competition horses will be worked harder according to their intended discipline, i.e. advanced dressage horses will be examined doing lateral work, time changes, etc.

Stage 4: Rest Period

The horse is allowed to stand quietly and the heart and respiratory rate are checked as they return to resting levels.

Stage 5: Second Trot-Up and Foot Examination

The horse is walked and trotted once more, turned sharply and backed, in order to reveal abnormalities exacerbated by strenuous exercise and the following rest. We will particularly check that the horse’s action is still fluid and correct and there are no signs of stiffness which may be coming from either arthritic or muscular pathology. A blood sample is collected at the end of the vetting and this will be sent off to a central laboratory where it will be stored for six months. Examination findings will be immediately relayed to the prospective purchaser by telephone, although we very much welcome the purchaser to be present during the examination whenever possible. Subsequently, an official certificate of veterinary examination is forwarded to the prospective purchaser, confirming the findings of the examiner.

Two Stage (limited) Pre-Purchase Examination

This is as thorough as the five stage examination, with the omission of stages 3-5 (ridden exercise, rest, trot-up after rest). Two stage examination is recommended only for heavily pregnant mares and horses younger than 2 years. In some circumstances we will, if requested by the purchaser, perform a two stage examination for other horses also. However, potential purchaser must be aware that the examination will be limited in its scope and may not detect important clinical factors that could influence their decision to purchase the horse. For this reason a disclaimer must be signed before two stage vetting for purchase is undertaken.

To request a 2-stage pre-purchase examination, please download this form:  and then email or fax it to us. 

Insurance Vetting

Insurance examinations can also be carried out for an existing owner of a horse, and will usually follow the same format as the two or five-stage PPE, but will not include an opinion and should not be interpreted as a pre-purchase examination. This is usually required by the insurance company if you want to increase the sum for which the horse is insured or to insure a horse you have bred yourself when they are over 30 days old.

Vetting Radiographs (x-rays)

We offer a several radiographic packages (at a preferential rate) as a part of the vetting. The number and areas radiographed will depend on the individual horse and the discipline; radiographs are also a compulsory requirement for most insurance companies for horses over a certain purchase price (they will advise you on exact radiographs to be taken). You can also request radiographs at the time of booking the PPE if you have specific concerns. Similarly the vet performing the PPE may recommend radiographs if there has been an area of concern identified during the clinical examination. Our mobile digital radiography system enables x-rays to be viewed at the yard within seconds of taking the exposure. Please call the practice to discuss your needs. Other diagnostic examinations, such as blood profiles, are available; however multiple diagnostic examinations of a horse prior to purchase may reveal insignificant abnormalities that may affect insurability. We would advise discussing any concerns you have or further examinations required with our veterinary surgeons prior to proceeding. If you require any further information about pre-purchase examinations or would like to book us, please contact us on 01304 364648.