Pre-purchase Examinations

Pre-purchase Examinations

Pre-purchase Examinations


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We strongly recommend that anyone purchasing a new horse has a pre-purchase examination, or ‘vetting’. The aim of a pre-purchase examination is to detect any abnormalities and to judge whether those abnormalities will affect the desired use of that horse. Our experienced vets perform the full range of pre-purchase examinations following the BEVA/RCVS guidelines. This offers important information on the suitability (or otherwise) of potential purchases. Insurance companies will often insist on a vetting before agreeing cover for veterinary fees. We can perform pre-purchase examinations either at the vendors/purchasers premises or at Ashbrook Equine Hospital. The facilities required are a quiet, dark stable, a straight, level, hard trotting area, and an arena or field in which the horse can undergo lunged and ridden exercise.


A five stage pre-purchase examination is the most thorough examination available and the one we generally recommend except for young, unbroken animals. It consists of 5 separate stages;


1)  Thorough examination of the horse at rest

This includes auscultation of the heart and lungs, appraisal of conformation, inspection, palpation and manipulation of the limbs/joints and inspection of the skin, eyes and teeth including an estimate of the horse’s age.


2)  Examination of the horse at walk and trot in hand

This will help to assess for any lameness problems.  It is usual for flexion tests to be included at this stage. This stage often includes lunging on a small circle on a firm surface


3)  Strenuous exercise

In most cases, the exercise phase will be under saddle. This allows further evaluation of the horse’s movement whilst ridden, as well as detection of abnormal respiratory sounds and auscultation of the heart immediately following exercise to detect abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias) and sounds (murmurs).


4) Rest Period

This allows the heart rate to return to normal and any stiffness post-exercise to develop.  Although it is not part of the vetting, if any vices are seen at this stage, they will also be recorded.


5)  Further examination of the horse at walk and trot in hand

If the horse is considered suitable for purchase, a blood sample will be taken and stored to allow subsequent analysis if a lameness or temperament problem develops.  This will be taken in both 2 and 5 stage vettings.


Two Stage Pre-purchase Examinations

This is a more limited examination which only consists of stages 1 and 2 described above.  This may be because the horse is young and unbroken or for financial reasons. Obviously certain abnormalities will not be detected during this limited examination and so we request that you to sign a disclaimer to this effect.


Mortality Insurance Vetting

This examination is similar to a 2 stage vetting and is used if the horse to be insured for mortality only.


Further Tests

If any abnormalities are detected or suspected following the Pre-Purchase Examination, then further diagnostic tests can be performed at Ashbrook to investigate the significance:


  • Ultrasonography can be used to investigate soft tissue swellings

  • Endoscopy is used to investigate respiratory noise e.g.'roarers'

  • Radiography is sometimes required by insurance companies for high value horses. 

Please be aware that some insurance companies will require radiographs if the horse is to be insured for a large sum of money regardless of the results of the Pre-Purchase Examination.