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Pre-purchase examination (vetting)

If you’re thinking about purchasing a horse it is advisable to have a pre-purchase examination (a PPE, commonly referred to as a vetting) carried out. This important step in the process of buying a horse consists of a standard five stage clinical examination performed for a prospective purchaser, designed to assess the horse’s suitability for the intended use.

Our team are happy to perform full 5-stage vettings or more basic 2-stage examinations (see below) both for our own clients and on behalf of non-registered clients either at the seller’s yard, or at our own clinic if suitable facilities are not available. Weekend slots are occasionally possible by arrangement.

What are the stages of a vetting?

The five stages consist of:

  • Stage 1: Clinical examination of the horse at rest. This is includes hands-on palpation of the limbs, assessment of the heart and lungs with a stethoscope and an examination of the horse’s eyes in a dark stable with an ophthalmoscope.
  • Stage 2: Observation of the horse walking and trotting in hand in a straight line on a hard, level surface, including flexion tests. The horse is normally also trotted on a small diameter circle on a firm surface to detect more subtle lameness issues.
  • Stage 3: Observation of the horse performing strenuous dynamic exercise, normally under saddle. This allows further evaluation of the way the horse moves and assessment of the heart and respiratory systems’ response to exertion.
  • Stage 4: A period of rest in the stable to give time for any stiffness induced by the exercise to become apparent. The horse’s markings are normally recorded at this time and the passport examined.
  • Stage 5: A second examination of the horse at trot in hand. This is primarily to check that the strenuous exercise has not exacerbated a subtle underlying lameness problem. Flexion tests or trotting on a small diameter circle are sometimes repeated. A blood sample will be taken which is stored for six months and can be used, if concerns arise after purchase, to test for substances that may have masked disputed conditions.

Depending on the horse’s intended use or occasionally as a requirement of the purchaser’s insurance company, we can also perform further diagnostic tests such as x-rays, ultrasound examination of legs or endoscopy of the respiratory tract. We advise on the requirement of these more detailed diagnostic tests on an individual basis.

Following this comprehensive examination the vet will form an opinion as to whether any of their findings may have a significant adverse effect on the suitability of the horse for the purchaser’s intended use. They will then discuss their findings with you, the purchaser, either over the phone or in person if you have attended the vetting. A written certificate follows.

Two stage vettings

Occasionally we are asked to perform a less comprehensive two stage examination. This consists of only the first two stages outlined above and so the vet will form an opinion based on a restricted set of findings. It is important to understand that such a limited examination may not reveal certain conditions which may have been discovered during the course of the full five stage examination.


Booking an examination

The purchaser of the horse should arrange for the vetting to be carried out. In order to ensure no conflicts of interests arise we usually do not carry out exams on horses registered to another client.

Our working area covers most of Cheshire, Staffordshire and the north of Shropshire. If you are already a registered client with us, and are looking to purchase a horse further afield please do contact us and we will advise whether we can carry out the PPE on your behalf.

All PPE’s must be paid for at the time the examination is carried out. As such, when booking we will request your payment details and full payment will be taken on the day of the visit.

When booking a pre-purchase examination please ensure you have the following details available:

  • Vendors name and address
  • Vendors contact telephone numbers
  • Full address and postcode of the location where the horse is stabled
  • Name, age, type, sex and colour of the horse
  • Payment details

Failing a vetting

It’s worth noting that a horse failing at a vetting may still be suitable to purchase. A pre-purchase exam is essentially a risk assessment, and results are rarely cut-and-dried. It is important to discuss with your own vet the findings from a vetting to understand any reasons why a horse may have failed.

Further reading

Links here.