Buying a horse is both an exciting and nerve wracking time and we recommend a pre-purchase vetting to help reduce some of the risk associated with the potential purchase!
Pre-purchase vettings are intended to provide the buyer with enough information to decide whether the horse will meet their needs as contrary to popular belief, they are not a simple pass/fail. A pre-purchase vetting is not a lifetime guarantee of soundness but a risk assessment of that horse on the day which will hopefully show up any potential future issues.
There is a saying that any horse can be sold, you just need to find the right buyer and the right price...the pre-purchase vetting will detect abnormalities in most horses but the question is whether they will be significant for the intended use of the horse. This is where an good conversation with your vet is important so that he/she understands what you intend to do with the horse and can then best advise you on the significance of any findings. It is important that you mention anything that concerned you when trying the horse as the horse may not reproduce it when the vet is watching!
The examination consists of five stages which incorporate an examination at rest, moving in hand and usually ridden exercise. Young or unbroken horses may only have a restricted or two stage examination which does not involve a ridden assessment.
Should you have X-rays, endoscopy etc. at the vetting?
X-rays are commonly taken for insurance requirements for horses valued over £10,000. Your vet may recommend x-rays if there are concerns regarding a particular joint during the examination. If you are buying the horse to produce and sell on then x-rays may be taken to ensure that there are no problems such as bone chips which may be detected at a subsequent vetting.
It should be remembered that x-rays only show bone changes so for example, just because a horse has clean foot x-rays does not mean that it cannot go lame in the feet due to a soft tissue injury. Endoscopy of the upper airways may be performed if the horse makes an abnormal breathing noise at exercise (whistle) or if the horse is intended for strenuous pursuits such as racing or eventing.