Alastair MacVicar B.V.M. & S MRCVS   

Tuckmans Farm ~ Bar Lane ~ Copsale ~ Horsham ~ RH13 9AY          Tel:  01403 731213

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Pre-Purchase Examinations – 5 Stage Vettings

The majority of people contemplating the purchase of a horse face the prospect with a certain amount of trepidation. How to find the right animal, and how best to avoid as many of the potential pitfalls as possible? A golden rule to use as a starting point is not to be tempted to overestimate your own ability. Many people make the mistake of over horsing themselves. If you have the feeling that a horse might be too much for you then you will almost certainly find it so. Make sure that you do as much as possible to make sure you have chosen wisely. Try the horse more than once and do as much as possible with it. Handle it in the stable, pick up its feet, run a brush over it and tack it up yourself. Get it to leave the yard on its own to check for nappiness, hack it on a road and on a grassy track to see if it is traffic proof and remains well mannered. Temperament and suitability for the rider is not part of a vetting but our vets are happy to give a view based on what they see of the horse on the day. We feel this is particularly important if the horse is for a novice rider or especially for a child. A private home may provide the new horse with more food and less work which may lead to it being more lively/excitable – take this into account when buying.

Once you feel as sure as you can that you have found the horse to suit you, you now need to do all you can to make sure it is sound and healthy before you go ahead with the purchase. In our opinion a 5 Stage Pre-Purchase Examination or Vetting should be carried out on ANY horse which is going to be ridden, whether competing to a high level or simply hacking quietly along the lanes. No matter what you enjoy doing with your horse you will not be able to do anything at all if it is lame!

Make sure before you book the vetting that the horse is well and recently shod and that the facilities at the yard are suitable for a vetting. The horse should be stabled for at least 6 hours in its usual stable so that evidence of vices and type of bedding can be observed. It should not be exercised before the vetting. A hard, level trot up surface, a school or flat schooling area for the ridden phase and a darkened stable for the eye examination are essential. Many clients buying a horse locally choose to bring the horse to the clinic and use the facilities here.

Make sure you choose an experienced equine vet to carry out the vetting for you – the more experienced the eye the more likely a problem is to be picked up. Alastair MacVicar carried out over 200 Pre-Purchase Examinations in 2013 alone and with over 20 years experience, there are not many problems he will not have seen before.

The vetting continues with a detailed examination of heart, eyes and lungs. If a problem was found at this stage and the purchaser was not present, then the vet will phone them to discuss the significance of the problem and whether or not it is worth proceeding further with the vetting. A mild heart murmur for example may or may not be an issue depending on the expected level of work of the horse. An important part of the vetting process is when the office staff book in the call and discuss use of the horse with the client in order to ascertain the level of work the horse is expected to do, since the vet will be judging if the horse is suitable for the uses the purchaser expects of it.

The trot up and ridden phase are used for the examination of soundness in both wind and limb. Ridden work can be replaced with lunging if the purchaser and vet are happy to do so but obviously the vet would not then see the horse’s behaviour under saddle. This practice would greatly prefer to see a child’s pony ridden and similarly, a horse intended for use by any rider with any sort of disability. These phases of the vetting may also include flexion tests, trot up on a hard surface and lunging on a hard surface.

The rest phase is a chance for the vet to look carefully over the horse while its respiratory rates fall and to complete the paperwork. After a suitable period the horse is examined again to make sure the heart and respiration rates have returned to acceptable resting levels within a reasonable period of time and trotted up again to make sure the exercise has not brought on any lameness. We always recommend that a VDS Vetting Blood Test is taken. This blood is sent to Newmarket where it is stored for 6 months. If at any time, within that 6 month period, the horse shows any behavioural change which leads the purchaser to suspect it may have been given sedatives to make it behave well on the day of the vetting, or goes suddenly lame, which leads to a suspicion that it may have been given painkillers to make it sound on the day of the vetting, then the bloods can be tested. The period of storage can also be lengthened if needed.

If you are able to attend the vetting do so. Many clients, however, cannot do so because of other commitments. This is not a problem as the vet will discuss everything in detail over the phone as soon as the vetting has been completed – and earlier if an issue becomes apparent.

The vetting certificate and all other paperwork will reach you within three to four working days.