Pre-Purchase Examinations

Pre-Purchase Examinations

We carry out equine pre-purchase examinations (PPEs) on all types of horses and ponies ranging from the family pony to elite competition horses.


PPEs are carried out at the request of a specific purchaser, to determine, so far as is possible by clinical examination, whether the animal is suitable for the intended use.


The vet acts wholly in the interest of the purchaser and the opinion provided is tailored to the individual purchaser’s needs and intended use for the horse.


The PPE provides an assessment of the horse, at the time of the examination, to help the potential purchaser make an informed decision on the purchase. It is not a guarantee of the horse’s suitability for its intended purpose nor a safeguard against future ailments or injuries.

Our vets are happy to carry out PPEs on behalf of registered and non-registered clients.


If the animal that is to be examined belongs to one of our clients we will require permission from the seller to disclose the full clinical history known to us to the prospective purchaser. If permission for disclosure of the horse’s history is not granted we will unfortunately be unable to perform the examination due to a potential conflict of interests.


The PPE is a standardised five stage procedure following outlines set by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and British Equine Veterinary Association.



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 passport is also examined to check that it matches the horse being presented for the PPE.



Stage 2: Walk and trot, in-hand


This is to detect abnormalities of gait and action. Flexion tests of all four limbs and trotting in a circle on a firm surface are usually performed.



Stage 3: Exercise phase


This allows further evaluation of the way the horse moves and assessment of the heart and respiratory systems’ response to exertion. 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


A period of rest in the stable to give time for any stiffness induced by the exercise to become apparent. During this time the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are monitored as they return to their resting levels.



Stage 5: Second trot up


A second examination of the horse at trot in hand. This is primarily to check that the strenuous exercise has not exacerbated a subtle underlying lameness problem. Flexion tests or trotting on a small diameter circle are sometimes repeated at this time.


Following this comprehensive examination the vet will form an opinion as to whether any of their findings may negatively affect the suitability of the horse for the intended use.


The findings and opinion will be reported and discussed with the purchaser, either over the phone or in person if they are in attendance at the vetting. A written certificate will follow.


A blood sample is usually taken for storage for six months, for analysis to detect substances that might have masked any conditions at the time of the PPE should problems arise in the future. Immediate screening can be arranged if desired.


Depending on a purchaser's wishes, further examinations such as radiography, endoscopy and ultrasound scanning can be included before a final decision is reached. We advise that appropriate insurance is taken out before purchase is finalised.


We advise that a full five stage examination is carried out prior to purchase. However we also will undertake a limited examination comprising only the first two stages if specifically requested to do so.

In advance of the vetting a Limited Prior to Purchase Examination Form will need to be completed by the prospective purchaser which confirms that they understand and accept that a limited examination may not reveal certain conditions which may have been discovered during the course of a full five stage examination.


Insurance examinations can also be carried out for an existing owner of a horse and will usually follow the same format as the five-stage pre-purchase examination but will not include an opinion and should not be interpreted as a pre-purchase examination.



Facilities and additional requirements


Most PPEs are performed at the stables where the horse is currently kept.


However, if the appropriate facilities are not available at the yard then the PPE can be performed at another premises. The facilities required for a PPE are:

  • a dark stable to examine the eyes.

  • a firm, level surface for trotting and lunging.

  • a suitable arena to exercise the horse (five stage PPE only).

  • horse to be stabled overnight or for at least three hours prior to PPE.

  • passport MUST be available for inspection.

  • no hoof oil to be applied to feet.