Pre-Purchase Examination

The purpose of a prepurchase examination or ‘vetting’ is to carry out a thorough and complete veterinary examination of a chosen horse and to identify and attempt to assess those factors of a veterinary nature that may affect the horse’s suitability for its intended use, so that a prospective purchase may make an informed decision as whether or not to proceed with their chosen purchase.

There is only one type of prepurchase examination (PPE) that gives you a complete picture and that is a full five stage examination. Other, shorter inspections leave out certain parts of the full list of examinations and may therefore not give a full and complete picture of your chosen horse.

The 5 stage PPE is an examination carried out on the day and the opinion relates to that day, although obviously the vet will advise you about the long term implications of any abnormalities found. It consists of 5 parts:-

  1. Initial examination in the stable including eyes, heart, lungs, mouth, ageing etc
  2. Outside, standing square on concrete to observe the whole horse. Then walk and trot in hand in a straight line. Turning and backing. Flexion tests of each limb where the limb is held up for a period of time (usually around one minute) and then the horse is trotted in a straight line. Lungeing or trotting on a hard circle may also be carried out at this point.
  3. Examination under saddle. This will include mounting, walking, trotting, cantering and probably galloping depending on the type ad fitness of the horse.
  4. While the horse cools down from exercise a more detailed examination of its hooves, limbs and body will be undertaken and a formal identification based on markings will be recorded.
  5. A final trot up which may include further lunging, turning or flexion tests.

Once the examination has been completed the vet will complete the pre purchase examination by taking a blood sample from the horse for further medication analysis (sedatives, painkillers) after permission is obtained from the vendor.

All vets undertaking a PPE will carry out the above stages although the order can vary slightly based on personal preference/routine.

In order to carry out a PPE facilities required include a hard level trot up area, an area for ridden work and a dark stable for examination of the eyes.

It is important to remember that the veterinary surgeon, in undertaking a PPE, is working for the prospective purchaser and therefore the discussion of suitability for the prospective use, and any issues noted during the examination are discussed with the purchaser and do not have to be discussed with the vendor . However, most vendors are, understandably interested as to the outcome and findings of the PPE and I personally usually discuss my findings with them, if the purchaser has no objections and after finishing my discussions with them first in private.

After the PPE the purchaser should receive a certificate of PPE. This will list the findings of the PPE and the conclusion of whether or whether not the horse is suitable for its intended use, as well as an ID to relate that certificate to the particular horse.


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