You've found your perfect horse. The final step before purchase is a 'vet check' or pre purchase exam. This information explains what a vet check is. What you need to know. And how to get the most out of a pre purchase exam.

  • vet check Adelaide Hills Equine ClinicWhat is a vet check for?

  • What is the difference between a stage 2 and stage 5 vet check?

  • Do I need a blood sample?

  • How should the horse be prepared for the vet check?

  • What are the limitations of the vet check and what doesn't it tell me?


What is a vet check for?

A vet check, or pre purchase examination, seeks to assess the suitability of your potential new horse for the purpose you require.

There are two different levels to the standard vet check. A limited (2 stage) and a full (5 stage)

What is the difference between a stage 2 and stage 5 vet check?

A 2 stage vet check starts with a clinical exam. We assess conformation, feet, heart, eyes, skin and back. Then a detailed exam of all limbs. Teeth are checked to help estimate age, and ID of the horse is recorded. The horse is then trotted up, flexion tests done where possible and the horse assessed on the lunge at trot on both reins.  Basic neurological tests are also done, such as turning the horse in a tight circle and asking the horse to walk backwards.

In addition the 5 stage vet check includes the horse examined during and post exercise. This is normally ridden work but can be fast work on the lunge if the horse cannot be ridden. Immediately after exercise the heart is re-checked.  The horse is then rested for a period of about 15 mins before the trot up, flexion tests and lunge work is repeated.

What is the difference between the two?

Both levels of examination allow us to detect serious heart, visual defects and obvious performance issues. The more detailed ridden examination allows us to detect breathing problems, more subtle heart abnormalities as well as seeing how any issues alter with exercise. This allows us to make a more educated risk assessment for you in terms of whether or not to purchase the horse, and is often more applicable to competition horses especially those intended for eventing and fast/high level work (incl dressage).

Obviously in very young horses or horses that have been out of work for a long time, the ridden evaluation is not appropriate. However in almost all other cases, doing the full 5 stage evaluation is often preferable. Please be aware of the limitations of a quicker 2 stage evaluation if this is what you choose to have done. If you have any questions regarding which check to have done please chat with your vet prior to the examination.

Do I need a blood sample?

You can have a blood sample taken during at the time of the vet check The idea behind this is so that you can choose to test the blood for presence of pain relieving substances (eg bute), sedatives and steroids.

All of these drugs, if present at the time of the vetting could mask lameness or alter the temperament of the horse.

The blood is taken at the end of the vet-check and can either be sent off immediately or stored for up to 6 months and sent for testing at any time during this period. This would incur an additional costs for both taking and then testing the blood. You may like to find out these costs before the day of the vet check.

How should the horse be prepared for the vet check?

Horses out of work at the time of examination are more likely to be pain free as their legs are not under any stress. The unfit horse may well not show any signs of an injury that will become apparent as soon as athletic use resumes.

Therefore if you are looking to purchase a horse for relatively high level work, it is ideal to have the horse fit and in work at the time of examination.

What are the limitations of the vet check and what doesn't it tell me?

Often small abnormalities are found on a vet check and we rarely find horses that are completely perfect.

This is not necessarily a negative! A good vet check should highlight potential issues and allow you to fully consider the implications. Veterinary expert guidance can help you minimise risk and make an informed purchase.

What a vet check isn't is a guarantee of continued good health and perfect temperament. It also gives no guidance about ability and talent.

It is a long time since vets either ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’ a horse for you. We have now moved away from this, because the same horse with the same findings may well be suitable for one person but not suitable for another, depending on their management & what risks they are happy to take on.

What we are aiming to do is detect issues that may affect immediate or future performance and management. We will then put this into perspective and discuss with you whether a certain finding is a significant or low level risk, and then you can decide if this horse is still appropriate for you given this information.  It is not a ‘black & white ’answer ever which is why we no longer put horses into a ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’ category.

The level of risk often varies according to what you intend to do with the horse,so this is why a ‘vet-check’ is always specific to you and your needs. We cannot make the final decision for you, that is always up to you, but we will interpret our findings on the day to help you make the right choice.

We hope you find your perfect horse and that a rewarding and long-lasting partnership forms.