Pre-Purchase Examinations

Ensuring your future horse is in top condition

There’s nothing more exciting than buying a new horse and it can be easy to ignore any slight niggles or doubts when you’ve already fallen in love with your prospective horse. However, it’s important to ensure that the horse (or pony!) you’re looking at is suitable for what you want it to do and that there are no major red flags apparent.

  • A pre-purchase veterinary examination, otherwise known as a ‘PPE’ or vetting, is a risk assessment of the horse on that particular day to do the job you want it to do. A PPE is an excellent way to ensure you are fully aware of any possible problems prior to buying your new horse and how these factors may impact your intended use for the horse.

  • Stage 1: Preliminary examination. This is a thorough, detailed clinical examination of the horse at rest, with relevant history noted, and passport/microchip details checked. It includes auscultation of the heart and lungs at rest, examination of the skin, limbs, and feet, and flexion of the joints to assess for any pain or reduced ranges of motion. An ophthalmic examination is performed of both eyes and the mouth is briefly examined, with or without a dental gag. A detailed dental examination is not a routine part of a vetting but can be requested upon booking.


    Stage 2: Trotting up. The horse is walked and trotted in hand on a firm, level ground to look for any evidence of lameness or gait abnormalities. The horse is turned sharply in both directions and backed for a few paces. Flexion tests are performed and, where suitable, a hard lunge may be performed.


    Stage 3: Strenuous exercise phase. This stage involves ridden assessment of the horse at a sufficient exercise level for its intended use. The aim is to increase the horses respiratory and heart rate to allow for any unusual breathing sounds or cardiac abnormalities to be detected. All 3 gaits will be assessed for abnormalities that may appear due to the animal tiring.


    Stage 4: Rest period. The horse is allowed to stand quietly for a period of time in the stable. The heart and lungs are checked during this time as they return to their resting levels.


    Stage 5: Second trot up. The horse is walked and trotted again as performed in stage 2 to reveal any abnormalities exacerbated by the strenuous exercise stage. Flexion tests may be performed again.

  • A 2-stage vetting only includes stages 1 and 2, so the horse is not examined during exercise. This may be more appropriate for very young or unbroken horses. Due to the limiting nature of a 2-stage examination, a consent form will be required prior to the vetting to confirm you understand the limitations.


    A 5-stage vetting includes all the stages listed above and is the best chance of receiving an accurate risk assessment of the horse in question.

  • No. We are trying to move away from the ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ culture associated with vettings as the outcome is wholly dependent on what you intend to do with the horse. A horse may be suitable for someone looking for a happy hacker or to do some low-level schooling, however, may not be suitable for a high-level competition home.

  • Please contact us at the practice to arrange a time and day. Our receptionists will require the information listed below:


    - Horse information: The name, age, breed, height, sex, colour, intended use, and any specific concerns you may have.

    - Vendor information: The full name, address, and contact number of the current owner of the horse.

    - Vetting location: Full address and directions of how to get there.


    Please note, we will be unable to perform a vetting if the vendor is currently a client of ours or if we have examined the horse previously as this would be deemed a conflict of interest.

  • The vetting location must include:


    - A dark stable to allow thorough examination of the horse’s eyes

    - A hard, level trot up area (a quiet road is fine)

    - Tack, rider, and an area suitable for strenuous exercise

    - A firm lung area if possible (lunge rein required)

  • The horse will need to be stabled overnight or at least 3 hours prior to the examination. A blood sample is routinely taken and stored for 6 months. The passport and any relevant vaccination cards should be readily available at the vetting for the attending vet.

  • Some insurance companies may require a 2 or 5 stage vetting depending on the value of the horse and policy undertaken. These are performed in the exact same manner to a normal vetting as described above. Some insurance companies may require vetting x-rays, please contact us at the practice to discuss this further.

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