Pre-Purchase Veterinary Examination

Once you’ve chosen a horse or pony that you would like to buy, before making the final decision, it is advisable to have a pre-purchase veterinary examination performed (vet’s certificate or a ‘vetting’ as it is often known).

Pre-purchase examinations are often not a significant portion of the final selling price of a horse and investing in a ‘vetting’ may save you money, time and effort in the long run. You must discuss with the veterinary surgeon that will be doing the examination what type of work you hope the horse will do. If the horse passes the examination then a certificate will be issued by the veterinary surgeon. This certificate can be used for insuring the horse or pony when the sale is completed.
The five stage vetting

This is carried out in accordance with guidelines laid down by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is the recommended form of exam. At the time of the vetting always ask for a blood test to be taken to check for the presence of pain killing drugs. If the horse subsequently becomes lame the blood can be tested to see if there was any drug present at the time of the vetting. This insurance policy protects buyers, sellers and veterinary surgeons. The 5 stage test may take a couple hours to complete and someone will need to be available to ride the horse.

Stage 1- observe the horse at rest in a darkened stable and check normal parameters, look at the eyes and listen to the heart. Your vet will check for any stable vices, however you should discuss this with the seller since, in the short time that it takes to do the test, the vet cannot warrant that the horse is free of them. The horse will then be taken outside, in good light, and be examined for lumps, bumps, blemishes and old injuries. The teeth may be checked to determine the age. Body condition and conformation will be noted.

Stage 2 – walking and trotting in hand on a hard surface. Looking for signs of lameness and your vet may choose to carry out flexion tests. Lunging on both reins in a tight circle will exaggerate any subtle lameness.

Stage 3 – ridden under saddle, checking for reaction to being mounted, ridden and requires more strenuous exercise. The vet will listen for abnormal ‘wind’ noises during work and heart abnormalities afterwards.

Stage 4 – cooling off period and check for signs of stiffness after exercise.

Stage 5 – looking with greater depth in areas that were of concern in previous stages. A blood sample will be collected and stored. The vet will ask for a final trot up.

On completion the vet must then give their opinion, as observed on that day, to the prospective buyer as to whether, on the balance of probabilities, the horse will be suitable for the type of work that the buyer requires the horse for.

Vettings are areas where lawsuits have arisen and therefore vets carry them out thoroughly, carefully and any findings are fully documented.
The vendor’s certificate

The second type of pre-purchase examination is called a vendor’s certificate. This is sometimes issued by the vendor (seller) or by the vendor’s veterinary surgeon prior to selling the horse. These are not to be confused with a 5 stage veterinary examination and if in doubt then contact your veterinary surgeon for further advice.