Should you get a vet check (pre purchase exam) before buying a new horse?

Reproduced with kind permission Rangiora Vet Centre

.blogpost-section .section-body ol, .blogpost-section .section-body p, .blogpost-section .section-body ul { font-size: 15px; line-height: 25px; }

Many people in the horse world will have heard the words ‘vetting or vet check’ when looking at buying or selling a horse.

At Rangiora Vet Centre we strongly recommend that all prospective purchasers obtain a full veterinary examination before buying.

Having a pre-purchase examination is never a guarantee that the horse won’t develop any issues in the future, but what it does give you is the knowledge that there are no discernible issues to start with.

What does a pre-purchase exam entail?

A pre-purchase is a multi-staged examination and can be a useful tool for both owner and buyer. We are not there to pick holes in the horse or criticise every little point, we are just noting findings. A pre-purchase is not a guarantee, an insurance policy, or a certificate of ability. It is a physical examination for evaluating health and serviceability on a particular day.

What are the different stages?

There are two choices for the type of examination:

Partial exam (Stages 1-2) Includes:

1 examination at rest

2 examination while being trotted in hand.

A Full exam (Stages 1-5) includes the above, as well as:

3 observation while being exercised

4 period of rest

5 follow up observation trotting in hand after exercise

What extra tests are available?

At Rangiora Vet Centre we are happy to provide extra ancillary/diagnostic tests on top of a standard pre-purchase examination, including:

  • Radiographs
  • Ultrasound
  • Dental exam
  • Airway endoscopy
  • Reproductive examination
  • Blood tests.

Please contact us for more information if any of these further test are of interest to you.

Should you include x-rays in your pre-purchase exam?

Radiographs are often requested as part of pre-purchase examinations. Care needs to be taken when interpreting radiograph findings as we commonly find changes that are not necessarily associated with a clinical problem, but the vet undertaking the examination will discuss these and the associated risk allocated to any findings.

In some cases we may recommend an  x-ray is taken of a  suspected clinical finding that was found during the examination to help determine its significance, it is upto the buyer if they wish to progress with this or not.

We can offer full radiographs including:

  • Navicular bone
  • Feet
  • Fetlocks
  • Knees
  • Hocks
  • Stifles

What happens if the vet finds something abnormal?

Probably the most common myth associated with pre purchase examinations is that the vet ‘failed’ my horse.

The purpose of the examination is not to pass or fail a horse, but to alert the buyer to any pre-existing conditions determined during the examination.

Information gained from a pre-purchase exam ensures that an informed decision can be made by the purchaser.

Ultimately a vet can’t make the decision to buy the horse; but we can give you some indication as to the risk of the findings and help interpret them for you to assist your decision making process.

What is required from the buyer for the exam?

We require is a quiet area, so that we can fully auscultate the chest, abdomen and examine the eyes and head with as little stress to the horse as possible. A stable is ideal, the middle of a paddock not so much.

We also require a flat straight surface for trotting the horse up, and an appropriate sized area for exercising the horse for stage 3 of the examination.

Most importantly we require a competent horse handler who is able to hold, walk, trot, and ride the horse for us during the examination.


  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment