Pre-purchase examinations


Pre-purchase examinations are a large part of our work, we perform vettings across the whole south of England.

On an initial phone consultation, we offer our clients advice on what type of exam may be most useful and suitable to for their circumstances.

This entails discussing a 5 vs 2-stage pre-purchase examination, as well as the need for diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays, ultrasound scans or upper airways endoscopy.

Please complete this form if you would like to request a pre-purchase examination

So happy with the treatment provided by Corrado and his team, just great to know they provide the care they do

Mr A Mann, Leatherhead
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5 and 2-stage vetting

These are UK recognised standards for pre-purchase examination which have been established by the RCVS and BEVA bodies.

Such protocols allow pre-purchase examinations to follow a format that allows to inspect most conditions that may be relevant to a buyer.

Stage 1

This is a physical examination at rest which generally starts by inspecting the animal’s passport ID document, scan its microchip and check its vaccination state. The vet would then inspect the horse’s conformation, particularly limbs and feet, its shoeing state and importantly muscular asymmetry, which may in some cases warrant for risk of long-term lameness or gait abnormality.

The vet will then assess the horse’s eyes with an ophthalmoscope, preferably in the stable and in conditions of darkness to allow pupil dilation, then performs cardiac auscultation by listening to the heart with a stethoscope for possible arrhythmias or murmurs, inspect the skin for defects such as scars or masses which may warrant for treatment (for instance sarcoids), inspect the incisor teeth for any defect as well as for evaluating the age of the animal against its ID document, and palpate limbs as well as the rest of the body to discover possible swellings, heat or painful reactions which may possibly represent risk for underlying conditions.

Stage 2

This is an examination of the horse in motion, at walk and trot in hand, on straight lines and circles, on hard and soft ground. This stage evaluates the horse’s gait and is mainly aimed at discovering possible lameness and grading this on a scale 1-10, and terminates with flexion tests of each limb.

It is important to understand that flexion tests are non-specific tests and as such cannot allow to pinpoint a cause of lameness but are rather used to exacerbate low-grade lameness, to make this more obvious to the examiner’s eye, as well as subclinical lameness, which may increase the risk for a compromised athletic career.

Importantly, whilst a positive flexion test may not necessarily represent grounds to fail a vetting, our vets will be able to discuss and advise our clients on the implications associated to an increased risk for insurance and resale.

During stage 2, the vet will also observe if any neurological condition may be present, for instance a degree of ataxia.

Stage 3

This is an assessment of the horse during and immediately after an exercise phase most commonly ridden. Riding may not be always possible, for instance in those cases where a young horse has not been backed. In the latter case horses can be assessed while lunged or loose in the arena. It is important to understand that this exercise phase will be tailored to the age, type, and athletic state of a horse, as well as to the intended use stated by a buyer.

For instance, the exercise test for a show jumper will be different from the one of a happy hacker or of a racehorse. During this phase the vet will again assess the horse’s gait at walk, trot and canter (or gallop) for possible lameness, which may in some cases arise or aggravate when a horse is ridden, and also conditions such as head-shacking, or “wind” noises (i.e. abnormal breathing sounds) commonly related to the throat, such as laryngeal hemiplegia, epiglottis entrapment, and dorsal displacement of the soft palate.

These will however be only possibly diagnosed with the aid of upper airway endoscopy, which may be advised on a case-by-case basis.

Stage 4

During this phase the horse is rested, following the exercise phase.

The horse is returned to a stable where the heart and respiratory conditions are newly evaluated, together with any possible vice that may have arisen following exercise.

Stage 5

This is the last phase of a 5 -stage pre-purchase examination and, similarly to stage 2, it entails a new assessment or the soundness (or lameness) of a horse to evaluate conditions that may have arisen following the exercise test.

Trotting on straight lines and circles may be repeated, as well flexion tests.

Pre-Purchase Examination Request

    I am considering purchasing the horse described above from:

    VDS Blood sampling

    At the end of a successful pre-purchase exam, be this a 5 or a 2-stage, the vet will take a blood sample from the horse, which will be stored in a “blood bank” in Newmarket for a period of 6 months.

    Upon specific request from a buyer, or if a dispute may arise within the 6-month period following the vetting, this blood sample can be possibly analysed for doping agents which may have altered the outcome of a vetting.

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    Additional diagnostic procedures

    Additional diagnostic imaging (X-ray, Ultrasound scan, Endoscopy) may be needed to complement a horse’s vetting and assist an equine buyer in a more informed decision, providing further understanding of what risk for use, insurance and resale may be associated to a horse purchase.

    It is also important to know that in case of pre-purchase examinations, insurance companies may require a buyer to complement a 5-stage vetting with further diagnostic imaging to be able to obtain a comprehensive cover for veterinary fees and/or loss of use.

    Explore all diagnostic imaging solutions for equine pre-purchase exams here.

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    Vetting certificate

    Once the pre-purchase exam is completed, the vet will have a conversation with the buyer to discuss the findings and what risk may be associated to intended use, veterinary insurance and resale. A vetting certificate supported by the RCVS and BEVA will hence be produced by the vet reporting a summary of the examination protocol and findings.

    To finalise the vetting certificate, the vet will finally state “In my opinion, on the balance of probabilities, the conditions reported above DO / DO NOT prejudice this horse’s suitability to be used for:…”. It is important to understand that this statement, commonly interpreted as ‘pass or fail’, is as specified, the vet’s opinion, and it does not represent a purchase guarantee of suitability for intended purpose.

    Indeed, the vetting certificate may also report a ‘seller’s declaration’ about any relevant disclosed veterinary history, however it is important to know that the responsibility to request and obtain a ‘seller’s warranty’ with respect to vices, height, previous conditions or surgery, sits with the buyer alone and such warranty is not part of a vetting certificate.

    Insurance implications

    Any clinical observation reported on a vetting certificate may be deemed by an insurance company as a pre-existing medical condition. This may therefore influence the way insurers assess the risk associated with any such condition and consequently, they may not be willing to grant veterinary cover for any reported specific condition.

    It is therefore advisable that any buyer discusses the findings of a pre-purchase exam with the intended insurance company before purchasing the horse, so that a more informed decision regarding the purchase may be made, allowing to plan and budget for ongoing care.

    I was so very worried that my beautiful boy needed surgery but after several visits, Corrado was able to bring him back to full health
    Ms Ladee, Oxshott

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