Vetting a horse before purchase is an extremely important step that is highly recommended. Buying a horse is not only a daunting experience; it can also be extremely costly. Before you decide to purchase the one that you think is right for you, having a vet check or pre-purchase examination can cement that decision and allow you to feel more comfortable with your new horse. The pre-examination gives you an unbiased and comprehensive clinical opinion of your new horse.
The vet check will consist of a full body examination from nose to tail and everything in between. It varies from a regular check-up where you would most likely get a diagnosis; the pre-purchase exam aims to give you an unbiased opinion of whether or not this horse is suited for you and its intended purpose.
Each horse owner will have a different intended purpose for their horse, and each horse varies greatly. A 3-star eventing horse will differ a large amount compared to a pony club mount, therefore the examination can take a lot longer than a normal check-up.
What happens during the examination?
The vet will come to the horse and often get a medical history from the owner which includes past injuries and illnesses, current medication, and any preventative care. The first stage will consist of examining the horse at rest and checking all their vital organs and then followed up by accessing the horse at work.
All four limbs will then be put through a flexion test which means that the joints will be put under stress to look for any resulting lameness. It is mainly done to highlight any possible joint diseases that may not be visible.
The horse will then be put through a series of exercises at a walk, trot and a canter to check each individual gait. They will also perform similar exercises under a saddle to check for abnormal striding/hoof landings, visible lameness, decreased flexion, or reluctance to work.
All the information is collected by the veterinarian and discussed with the purchaser as well as some recommendations. The vet may also suggest some further tests that can include x-rays, ultrasounds and blood tests, however, it is up to the purchaser as to whether they follow up with these or not.
What can you do?
If you are purchasing a horse and getting an examination done, here sure some tips that you can do:
- Use your own vet or someone who is recommended (do not let the seller organise the vet)
- Be present during the examination
- Get a rough estimate of the horse’s age from the vet to see if it matches up with the sellers
- Explain to the vet your riding level/ability and what your intended purposes for the horse are
The examination is paid for by the purchaser, however, without it, you may be buying a horse that is not what you want or won’t suit your riding needs. They are the best way to ensure that you are buying what you need, not what looks good on the outside. Often people are blinded by a horses looks that they choose a horse that is not suitable for them, therefore a pre-purchase examination is imperative and will give you peace of mind.