At SWVets our equine vets carry out pre-purchase examinations (PPEs, often referred to as ‘vettings’) on behalf of our own clients and on behalf of non-registered clients, either at the seller's property or at South Wairarapa Vets Equine Hospital.
PPE's are structured examinations that are carried out in 5 stages. Sometimes a 1-2 stage examination may be requested, depending on the buyer's requirements for the horse. In this case the vet will provide findings based on a restricted examination.
The stages of prepurchase examination are described below:
Stage 1: Preliminary Examination
The horse is examined at rest, at this stage the vet is observing for vices and carries out a full physical examination. The eyes are examined in a darkened stable with a light and the horse's heart is listened to on both sides of the chest. The horse's teeth will be examined as thoroughly as the horse permits unsedated. It may be possible to determine whether the horse has wolf teeth present and whether there are any gross abnormalities in terms of conformation of the teeth. The horse is checked over for any abnormalities, such as lumps and scars, and these will be recorded.
Stage 2: Walk and trot, in hand
This stage includes examination of the horse at rest, and also walking and trotting in a straight line on a flat hard surface, being backed up for several steps and performing tight circles on each rein.
Flexion tests will commonly be performed during our PPEs, (the leg is held up for 45-60 seconds, then the horse is trotted off in a straight line). The test is considered positive if the horse takes more than a few steps to return to a normal gait. A positive flexion test may indicate a joint problem and/or an issue with the soft tissue structures around this area.
Lungeing on a firm hard surface is also a common test performed during our PPEs. This test will often show up lameness that may not be evident elsewhere, so forms an important part of our examination. It is important to have a good level hard surface to perform this test on to prevent slipping.
Stage 3: Exercise Stage
This stage is usually performed under saddle and the aim is to continue exercise until we can assess the horse when it has an increased breathing effort and heart rate. The horse’s gait will be assessed at walk, trot, and canter. Any abnormal behaviour seen during this phase will also be noted and discussed with the buyer.
Whilst the horse is being exercised the vet will listening to the horse’s breathing. Abnormal breathing sounds may indicate an airway problem that could cause poor performance and impair athletic ability. The horses heart will be checked post exercise and any abnormlities noted down.
This stage will be tailored to suit the horse, their fitness level and intended purpose.
Stage 4: Period of Rest and Re-examination
The horse is rested during this time and any tack is removed. The heart and lungs are listened to regularly as the horse recovers from exercise. The horse’s behaviour at this time is also examined as some vices are displayed after exercise so may be observed during this time.
Stage 5: Second Trot Up
The final stage involves trotting the horse up again. Flexion tests and lungeing may be repeated at this stage.
If requested a blood sample will be taken and tested for non steroidal anti-inflammatories.
In some cases it may be necessary to perform additional examinations - for example, x-rays, ultrasound examination, breeding examination or endoscopic examination of the upper airways.
If you are going to insure your horse it is wise to run the purchase past the insurance company first as some companies may require a full 1-5 stage vetting to satisfy their needs.