What is an Equine Vet Check and why it’s a good idea to have this done before Buying a New Horse.
Buying a horse can be a daunting experience. After all, how do you know if you’ve fallen in love with the right one? Will the two of you get on – and is the horse suited (both physically and emotionally) for what you want it to do?
Here’s where having a Vet Check or Pre-purchase examination can really help you make the right decision.
A Pre-purchase examination gives you a comprehensive, unbiased and clinical opinion of your potential new horse.
What’s involved in a Veterinary Pre-Purchase Exam?
Put simply, a Vet Check is a detailed veterinary examination of your horse – from nose to poll to legs to tail.
It’s different to a regular veterinary examination during which the horse’s vital signs (temperature, heart rate, gut sounds, repiratory rate) are examined along with any areas of concern. This may be a suspicious lump, a forelimb lameness or a cough. At the end of the regular examination or consultation, you’ll most likely end up with a diagnosis and a treatment plan.
At the end of a pre-purchase exam, we aim to give you an unbiased veterinary opinion on the horse and whether or not it will be suitable for its intended purpose. Each horse’s intended purpose varies greatly, depending on the horse itself and the purchaser needs. For example; what’s expected from a pony club mount will be quite different from what’s expected from a 3 star eventer.
So in order to evaluate the horse on the levels required to make that decision, this examination will take a lot longer than a regular veterinary examination.
So what happens during a Pre-Purchase Examination?
Often the owner of the horse is present during a pre-purchase examination. This allows the vet to gather important medical history on the horse such as past injury or illness and current medication and preventative care.
The horse is examined at rest with every organ system taken into consideration. This means the eyes, skin, coat, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal and reproductive systems are all examined to some extent.
The horse is then examined “at work.”
Flexion tests are performed on all four limbs.
A flexion test is where particular joints are put under stress (or load) and the veterinarian monitors for resulting lameness. This is done by holding up a particular limb and flexing a specific joint then releasing the leg at the same time as asking the horse to trot off.
If any lameness, uneveness or altered striding is noted, this is considered a significant result. This test aims to highlight possible joint diseases that may not be visible on a lunge.
The horse is then commonly lunged on multiple surfaces with each gait individually visualised. This means lunging at a walk, a trot and a canter both ways. Additional to this, the horse is often visualsed under saddle where we look for signs of altered striding, abnormal hoof landings, visible hind or fore limb lameness, decreased flexion, abnormal gait or reluctance to work.
All the information is collected and noted on specific forms with each step discussed with the purchaser along with recommendations.
In some cases there are no further recommendations however often the veterinarian will suggest additional diagnostics such as radiographs (X-Rays), Ultrasound or blood tests, depending on the findings.
It is at the discretion of the purchaser as to whether these will be followed through or not.
Whose responsibility is it to have the Pre-Purchase Exam Done?
A Pre-Purchase examination is a legal document. This means there are specific protocols that need to be followed. As the veterinarian is working on behalf of the purchaser, there is NO legal obligation to share or discuss the findings with the owner of the horse. After all, it is the purchaser who is paying for this service.
Often the veterinarian will discuss all results with the purchaser at the time of examination and it is the purchaser’s choice as to whether or not they consent to share findings with the owner.
Why we recommend Vet Checks
We don’t recommend Vet Checks because we think sellers are being dishonest. Not at all. We recommend them because it’s the best way to ensure you enjoy a long and rewarding relationship with your new horse. A vet check also helps separate the emotional and visual from the practical and sometimes hidden issues so you don’t end up buying a horse for the wrong reasons. A horse bought based on appearance or emotions alone can leave you with regrets down the track which is an unfair outcome for both..
So – if you’re looking to buy a horse and want the best possible chance of making the right decision, please book a Vet Check first. It’s a small price to pay for a long term commitment.