Pre-Purchase Examinations – FAQS
Why should I have a horse vetted?
Buying a horse can be a stressful business. You may end up searching for ages and looking at many unsuitable animals before you find ‘the one’. There is not just the financial commitment – it is impossible not to get emotionally involved once the horse is yours. It can be heart breaking to find subsequently that your horse has some underlying condition which means you cannot do what you thought you could do with him. The purpose of a vetting is simple; we will give you an opinion as to whether or not we think the horse is suitable for your intended use.
What are the 5 stages and what is the difference between a 2 stage and a 5 stage vetting?
Stage 1: consists of a full physical examination. We check each part of the horse carefully. During the check the eyes will be checked with an opthalmoscope, the heart and lungs are checked with a stethoscope. The head, neck, body and legs are palpated and checked for lumps, bumps, swellings or asymmetry. The horse’s age is assessed by checking the incisor teeth.
Stage 2: the horse is walked and trotted up to assess gait, footfall and detect any lameness. The horse is circled and backed up. Flexion tests are carried out and the horse is lunged on a hard surface.
Stage 3: the horse is exercised fully. This is normally done ridden in an arena. The aim here is to assess the horses ‘wind’ and further check for any lameness.
Stage 4: Not a very exciting stage. The horse is allowed to cool down. The vet may draw the horse for the certificate – this is done to make sure there is no doubt which horse was vetted should there be a dispute at a later date.
Stage 5: Stage 2 is repeated. This is a final check to see if the heavy exercise and subsequent cool down has left the horse stiff or lame.
There are only 2 options for a vetting; a full 5 stage or the 2 stage where stages 3-5 are omitted. If you require only a 2 stage, we will need you to sign a disclaimer to acknowledge the fact that this is not as thorough a vetting as a 5 stage.
Should I have bloods taken?
Blood can be taken at the vetting. Normally the blood is not tested immediately but is stored in a forensically approved manor. If, in the 6 months post purchase, there is a problem with the horse then the bloods can then be tested for the presence of pain killers, sedatives or other ‘doping’ drugs. Please note that testing the blood incurs a further cost and is not included in the vetting fee.
We recommend having blood taken from the horse and also informing the vendor in advance that you intend to have blood taken. It does provide you with some insurance against unscrupulous vendors.
What is not checked during a vetting?
We do not routinely put a dental gag in the horses mouth during a vetting. This means that a thorough evaluation of the molar teeth at the back of the mouth is not performed.
Pregnancy checks or breeding assessments are not routinely done during a vetting.
We do not comment on the price of the horse.
How accurate is ageing a horse by it’s teeth?
Not as accurate as some people claim. Generally, the eruption dates for the incisor teeth are reasonably predictable so estimates up to 6 years old should be fairly reliable. Once the adult incisor teeth have all erupted, the indicators on the teeth become a bit more variable. Estimates up to 10 years old should be accurate to within a year or so. After 10 years, the ageing should be taken as an estimate only.
What are ‘Flexion Tests’ and why do you do them?
In a flexion test, one leg of the horse is picked up and held for about a minute in a fully flexed position. The horse is then immediately trotted up to see if the flexion has induced a lameness. Most horses will ‘dip’ slightly for a few strides but this should ease off quickly. The results have to be interpreted carefully; a 15 yr horse is likely to have a different response to a 3 yr old. There are many opinions as to the validity of flexion tests. They are certainly quite subjective and each vet will have their own technique. However, once you have done a few hundred in a standard way, they are actually very useful for uncovering subtle lameness. Warning signs that there is a problem could be:
- Horses that fidget a lot when the leg is flexed
- Assymetrical responses; a horse that goes slightly lame on one side but not the other
- Horses that stay dipping for some time after the flexion test
What Should I Check When I See The Horse?
As much as possible! Ideally you should do as much as possible with the horse before we come out. A brief checklist might include:
- ride the horse, preferably including trot and canter
- try arena work and hacks
- take the horse out and check it’s reaction to traffic
- run your hands over the whole of the horse to feel for any lumps or bumps
- look at the feet carefully – are they symmetrical and free from cracks etc
- look at the bedding – is it the only horse on shavings? If so why?
- check the mane and tail for signs of sweet itch
- check the stable door etc for signs of crib-biting
- check the passport – has there been a different owner every year; if so, why?
- Is the vendor the registered owner?
- Does the picture match the horse?
We are not trying to get you to do our job but it may save you the expense of a wasted vetting if you find something obvious. It is helpful if you have a list of any specific concerns you have.
Do I need to be there at the vetting?
No. However, we would far prefer you to be there so that we can discuss any issues there and then. It is much easier pointing out a defect directly than trying to explain it over the phone.
I am selling a horse. What facilities do I need for a vetting?
Is there anything I should do before the vetting?
- a dark stable to check the eyes
- a flat, level area of hardstand to stand the horse square
- a hard flat surface with space to trot the horse in a straight line and a small circle.
- an open area large enough to canter the horse in a circle
- someone to ride the horse
- please make sure the horse is clean and brushed down
- if the farrier is due, get them out in advance. Having the horse shod that morning is not ideal!
What about insurance companies?
If you intend to insure the horse, it is essential that you notify the insurance company that the horse has been vetted before you make the final purchase decision. They may wish to see a copy of the vetting report and may decide put exclusions on the policy based on the vet’s findings. It would be disappointing to buy the horse and then find that the insurance company is going to exclude all 4 legs!