Our experienced veterinary surgeons are happy to undertake pre purchase examinations on behalf of our own clients and unregistered clients. Pre purchase examination is a standardised examination which assess a horses suitability for a particular purpose. There are five stages altogether although in some cases a two stage examination (‘limited examination’) may be requested - for example for a young, unbacked horse or for a broodmare.
A five-stage examination comprises of
Stage 1: Preliminary Examination
This is a thorough clinical examination of the horse at rest to detect any apparent signs of injury, disease, or physical abnormality. It includes a thorough palpation of all the limbs, listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope and an examination of the horse’s eyes in a dark stable with an ophthalmoscope. The horse’s microchip will be scanned and passport examined
Stage 2: Walk and trot, in hand
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 an soft and on a firm surface to detect subtle lameness issues.
Stage 3: Exercise Phase
This phase is usually ridden, and the aim is to give sufficient exercise to assess the horse when it has an increased respiratory rate and effort and heart rate. The horse’s gait should be assessed at walk, trot, canter, and if appropriate, gallop. If ridden exercise is not possible (e.g., if the horse is unbroken), this stage may be conducted by exercising the horse on the lunge.
Stage 4: Period of Rest and Re-examination
The horse is returned to the stable and the tack removed. The heart and lungs are listened to as the horse recovers from the exercise phase. The horse’s normal behaviour in the stable can be observed again. Some vices are displayed after exercise, so may be observed during this time. The rest period also allows any stiffness induced by the exercise phase to become apparent.
Stage 5: Second Trot Up
The final stage involves trotting the horse up in hand again. This is to assess any changes or lameness that may have arisen from the exercise or recovery phases. Some vets repeat the flexion tests and lunging performed in stage 2. Horses may also be asked to turn in tight circles or back up during this phase to assess for underlying neurological conditions.
It is recommended that a blood sample is taken at all PPEs, even limited or two-stage examinations. The sample is stored for six months then disposed of if no request for testing has been received. The sample can be tested for certain medications, for example sedation or painkillers (e.g. bute) and steroids.
In some cases it may be necessary to perform additional examinations either as recommended based on the findings of the examination or at the request of the purchaser or insurers. These typically include limb x-rays, performing an ultrasound examination of certain tendons or ligaments, or carrying out endoscopic examination of the upper airways. These procedures may only be undertaken with the consent of the current owner and will incur additional costs to the buyer.
The Pre-Purchase Examination Certificate
Following this comprehensive examination, the examining vet will discuss all the findings and form an opinion as to whether any of these may negatively affect the suitability of the horse for the intended use. The findings and opinion will be reported and discussed with the