Pre-Purchase Examinations (Vettings)

Pre purchase exams, or vettings, are an important consideration when buying a horse. We often speak to clients who are unsure as to the difference between 2 stage and 5 stage vettings….so here is a quick run-down of the important information!


What is the aim of a vetting?

A vetting is carried out at the request of a prospective purchaser and aims to determine whether the horse is suitable for it’s intended purpose.  The horse will undergo a thorough examination and any significant findings require professional interpretation.

It is important that the purchaser understands that the attending vet can only examine the horse as it is on that particular day and we cannot guarantee suitability for purpose!

So what does a vetting involve?

There are 5 stages to a vetting. It is possible to only perform the first 2 stages (hence the name 2 stage!) but a 5 stage vetting is much more comprehensive.

1) Thorough physical exam – this will include the vet checking the horse’s documentation, temperament, conformation and estimation of age as well as examining the horse carefully.

2) Examination in hand – this is done at both walk and trot, after flexion tests, on the lunge on a hard surface and whilst turning in tight circles.

3)  Ridden assessment – the horse is assessed whilst it is tacked up, mounted and ridden at walk, trot and canter. Your vet may also advise a period of gallop to strenuously exercise the horse. The horse is then examined after this period of strenuous exercise. If the horse is unbroken then this stage can be performed on the lunge or free-schooling.

4) A period of rest until the heart rate and respiratory rate return back to normal.

5) A final trot up in hand is performed to check that no lameness is seen.

We also recommend that a blood sample is taken to be sent away to be stored for 6 months.  Should problems arise, the purchaser can opt to have the blood tested for evidence of sedatives or painkillers, at additional cost.

Some owners, or insurers, may also ask for further  examinations (eg X-rays) – particularly if the value of the horse is high.

Occasionally, there are abnormalities found at the vetting which require further investigation. These might include unusual eye abnormalities, respiratory abnormalities or abnormal heart rhythms/murmurs. Your vet will likely suggest that these abnormalities are assessed by a specialist who can then pass judgement on whether they affect the horse’s suitability for it’s purpose.

Do I need to be there for a vetting?

In an ideal world, the prospective purchaser would always be present for the vetting so they could assess the horse for themselves, and to avoid any misunderstanding at a later point. We do understand, however, that this is not always possible. Usually the vet will phone you prior to the vetting if they want to know any further information about your requirements.

The vet will phone you as soon as possible following the vetting to discuss their findings. They will also then complete a vetting certificate.

What if the seller is a client of the practice?

We will perform vettings where the seller is a client but ask that the purchaser is made aware of this fact and that the clinical history for the horse is released to the prospective purchaser.

In this situation the seller must be aware that the vet is acting wholly in the interest of the purchaser.

So… Is a 2 stage or a 5 stage vetting right for me?

We would encourage prospective purchasers to have a 5 stage vetting due to the limited scope of the 2 stage examination, which may prevent important findings being picked up on.  It is also important to check the requirements of insurance companies prior to purchase, as some will require (at minimum) a 5 stage vetting.  There are, of course, situations where a 2 stage vetting would be appropriate – eg a horse that will not be ridden/used for athletic purpose or a brood mare.

We are always happy to discuss vettings, whether you are a current client or looking to purchase a horse from within our area! Good luck!

01296 621 840

For more information, please see the BEVA/RCVS Guidance Notes on the Examination of a Horse on Behalf of a Prospective Purchaser


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