Pre-purchase examination

Wessex Equine Vets provide a comprehensive pre-purchase examination service for our clients. The vets performing these examinations have accrued extensive experience in this field. We are asked to vet many horses every year ranging from children’s ponies to six figure competition/race horses. Our vets will travel across the UK, Ireland and Europe to perform vettings at the request of our clients.

The aim of a pre-purchase examination is to identify and assess factors of a veterinary nature that could prejudice a horse’s suitability for its intended use. We recognise that the ‘intended use’ of the horse is absolutely critical. We acknowledge that very few horses are physically perfect but equally the vetting must be a thorough test of whether the horse is likely to be fit for purpose.

Five stage examinations

The recognised format of a pre-purchase examination is made up of five stages:

  1. Full clinical examination at rest – including examination of heart, eyes, lungs, skin: Palpation of the limbs and back is also carried out, along with an assessment of conformation.
  2. Walk and trot in hand, flexion tests and examination of the horse at lunge (ideally on both soft and firm surfaces): This stage is critical in looking for any lameness issues, as well as a further assessment of dynamic conformation.
  3. Ridden exercise (in an unbroken horse this can be substituted for loose schooling or extended lunging.): this stage is critical for assessing how the horse moves and behaves under saddle. Potential problems that may be seen in stage 3 but not stage 2 would be headshaking, back pain and subtle lameness. In addition the horse is asked to work at a faster pace for a short time to assess any ‘wind’ problems.
  4. Rest period in a stable to assess recovery time: during this period the passport will be scrutinised and the identification confirmed. A blood test will also be taken (see below).
  5. A final trot up in hand: flexion tests may be repeated if results during stage 2 were equivocal.

The vet then considers the findings of the examination and decides if the horse is currently fit for purpose, in their opinion. The findings and the vet’s opinion are discussed in detail with the potential purchaser and documented in a certificate.

Additional diagnostic procedures

The examination can be tailored as you wish to include additional diagnostics, such as radiography, ultrasonography or endoscopy. Any prior concerns can be discussed in detail with the vet before the visit. Alternatively, the vet may recommend additional diagnostics after completing the standard pre-purchase examination, if the significance of a finding remains unclear.

Two stage examinations

As a potential purchaser, you can request a limited (two-stage) examination. Stages three, four and five above are omitted. However, please be aware that by limiting the examination, some clinical abnormalities may not be seen by the vet and so their opinion on the suitability of the horse will also be limited. A few examples of conditions that may not be detected during a 2 stage vetting only include:

  • Head shaking
  • Back pain
  • Subtle lameness that is only seen under saddle
  • Abnormal respiratory noise that may be indicative of an underlying wind problem
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Some cardiac conditions

The decision as to whether to have a 2 or 5 stage vetting can be discussed in further detail with one of our vets, so please do not hesitate to call us on 01793 739220 if you are unsure.

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