The purchase of any horse involves you taking a risk; no horse is risk free and at best we can aim to identify, asses and attempt to quantify the risk for you so that you can come to an informed decision as to whether or not to proceed with your intended purchase.

By the time you have a pre-purchase examination (PPE) carried out on your behalf you will have already chosen that particular horse. In other words, you have considered the height, age, colour, type, temperament and experience and you should have already concluded that the horse will be suitable for you, providing it is also suitable from a veterinary medical viewpoint. If you have doubts as to the horses suitability or of your own equestrian needs, then consult your trainer or riding advisor.

Chose a veterinary surgeon either known or recommended to you. If that is not possible, ask your own veterinary surgeon for a recommendation of a vet in the area in which the horse is, or ask if the horse can be brought to your vet, Ensure that you talk with the examining vet to discuss your requirements before the examination, or be present at the time. The choice of vet is a personal one, but as a general rule it is better to employ the services of an experienced equine vet.


There is only one type of PPE that gives you the complete picture and that is a five stage examination. A two stage examination does not include a period of strenuous exercise and may therefore not give you a full and complete picture of your chosen horse and may not be able to give you an accurate assessment on which to base your decision. Beware, you choose the cheaper, shorter option at your potential peril and if you do, it must be a conscious decision of yours to take the additional risk. However, not all horses will be capable of undertaking a five stage examination especially if young and unbroken.

The five stage vetting has evolved over the decades and it is intended to provide you with a cost effective professional evaluation and assessment of a particular horse's ability to perform a certain tas., It is an examination carried out on a given day and the opinion related to that day; no long term warranty or guarantee of future health can be expected, although the vet will obviously advise you of the long term implications of any abnormality detected. We no longer classify a horse as sound or unsound, nor should we say that they have either passed or failed a vetting. The opinion given nowadays is that “the defects noted above are/are not likely to prejudice this animal’s use for……..”. Consumer legislation and changing requirements have forced this new wording on the profession but the opinion still remains a worthwhile and effective guide to your chosen horse's suitability.


These are certain basic requirements and facilities for the environment in which the examination is to take place, unless you are to compromise the opinion, incuding:- A dark stable in which to examine eyes.

An area of hard, level ground on which the horse may be walked and trotted in hand. This should preferably be concrete or tarmac.

An area in which the horse may be safely ridden, including the ability to do a hard canter or gallop as required.

In addition, the ability to lunge or trot in a circle on the hard surface may be of considerable benefit.

The horse is reasonably shod.

If the vendor does not have such facilities, consider moving the examination to a different location. The actual examination takes place in a set routine according to personal choice and includes the following stages.

Initial examination in the stable. General inspection and assessment including eyes, heart, lungs, mouth, ageing, etc and then a detailed examination of the limbs, body and hooves. At this practice we ask the vendor several questions about the horse including if the horse has received any medication, has been lame, has had any other medical conditions or has any vices or allergies. He or she is required to sign a declaration to state that the answers are correct.

Outside, standing square on concrete, to observe the whole horse. Then walk and trot in hand in a straight line. Turning and backing. Probably flexion tests and possible lunging or trotting on a hard or soft circle.

Examination under saddle. This is to include mounting, walking, trotting, cantering and probably galloping, depending on the type and fitness of the horse. This exercise should be both in circles and in more extended straight lines.

Final trot up, which may include further turning, lunging and repeat flexion tests. The taking of blood sample for further medication analysis, after request to the vendor for permission.

Discussion with the purchaser of the findings and production of a written report.


The PPE is a clinical examination and does not routinely involve laboratory or diagnostic tests. It does not include a test for pregnancy, unless requested. The ageing of horses is notoriously inaccurate and comprehensive research over the last few years has indicated that the previously accepted methods of ageing a horse by it teeth may be quite inaccurate, even in experienced hands. Therefore, whenever possible request the documentary proof of a horse’s age. X-rays are not necessarily the black and white answer that everybody hopes for and they may indeed complicate, rather than clarify the situation. Unless specifically requested by the insurers or clients the decision whether to x-ray or not is best left to the examining vet based on his clinical findings.

A blood sample is routinely taken for storage and possible later testing for the presence of any medication that might have affected the examination.


These are a matter between the vendor and purchaser, and the purchaser should obtain a warranty from the vendor as to vices, suitability, behaviour when shod or boxed, etc. The only satisfactory confirmation of a pony’s exact height is a current JMB (Joint Measurement Board) certificate and, in case of doubt this should be obtained before purchase.


Communication between vet and clients is the key so that both sides know the intentions and limitations of the examination and can therefore come to the most satisfactory conclusion, with the purchaser receiving cost effective advise to enable them to make an informed decision as to whether or not to proceed with the purchase of their chosen horse. Note that a vetting is not the same as an insurance examination. It is quite possible to “pass” a vetting, yet later to find that insurance proved difficult because of the findings. The vetting assesses a horse’s suitability for the purchasers intended use whilst the insurance companies are more interested in making exclusions on anything that is not strictly normal. It is always wise to obtain insurance cover before purchasing, rather than afterwards, in case any exclusion might change you opinion as to whether or not to buy.


The material contained in this website is presented for information purposes only . The material is in no way intended to replace professional veterinary care or attention from a professional veterinary surgeon. 

The advice given in any of our web pages cannot be used as the basis for a diagnosis or choice of treatment.

- Clyde Vet Group advises that you should always consult a veterinary surgeon about any queries with animals under your care.

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