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Veterinary Surgeon

Nick Graham

XLVets Equine practice

Severn Edge Equine

Avoiding Pitfalls in Purchase

Finding the right horse can certainly be challenging. While some stories

of nefarious sellers are exaggerations it certainly is a case of buyer beware.

Nick Graham MA VetMB CertAVP(EM) MrCVS,

Severn Edge Equine

Before involving a vet

Watch the horse being ridden. Ride the

horse yourself including in conditions you

are going to experience; it seems obvious

but if you are intending to use the horse for

jumping, make sure you see it jump and

jump it yourself. Similarly, if you intend to do

a lot of hacking, ride out and see how they

cope with traffic. It can be hard to ensure

you 'get on' from one viewing so multiple

visits are strongly recommended.

Take a knowledgeable friend e.g. yard

manager/instructor when viewing the horse

Discuss a loan period with the seller but

bear in mind that you or your child may get

attached to the horse and if vetting goes on

to show significant issues, returns can be


Dealer or private seller


Internet searches

may unmask some dishonest dealers who

claim to be private sellers. Buying from a

reputable dealer does give more protection

and can include a ‘cooling-off’ period

Involving the vet - the Pre-Purchase

Examination (PPE) or “vetting”

Is this necessary even for a child's first pony


Checking for heart issues and clear vision is

still essential. It is highly recommended to

have a PPE performed in horses intended for

an athletic career; cheap horses are not

cheap to treat if things go wrong.

Vendor’s vet vs. independent vet


If the PPE is

performed by the vendor's vet, they are

required to disclose any medical history of

the horse which is known to them. Rest

assured, during this type of examination, the

vet is working entirely on behalf of the

purchaser. That said, some vets may choose

not to vet horses belonging to their clients on

the grounds of a potential conflict of interests.

Part or full vetting


A five stage PPE

comprises the following:

Stage one - a complete clinical

examination of the horse at rest,

including the eyes and heart;

Stage two - the horse is led in hand at

walk and trot in a straight line on a hard

surface to look for lameness and in most

cases flexion tests are performed. The

horse is also either lunged or trotted in

hand in a circle on both hard and soft


Stage three - this is the strenuous exercise

phase. This phase will be variable

depending on the fitness of the horse

being examined. This can be performed

under saddle or on the lunge with

sufficient exercise being undertaken to

elevate the heart rate and potentially

reveal any abnormal upper respiratory

noises or wind problems;

Stage four - rest and observation;

Stage five - this stage is the essentially the

same as stage two.

A two stage (or limited) PPE comprises the first

two stages only; certain conditions may not

be detected and you will generally be asked

to sign a disclaimer confirming that you

understand the difference between the two.

A five stage PPE is highly recommended and

often required to insure a higher-value horse.

Although not part of the vetting, suitable

signed warranties

(figure 1)

are highly


Bear in mind when insuring your new horse

that most policies have a 14 day waiting

period where coverage is for accidents only.

Insurance companies generally ask whether

the horse has had a PPE undertaken and will

then request a copy of the report of the

examination. Issues noted on this report may

produce extensive exclusions, meaning that it

is always worthwhile obtaining appropriate

cover before purchase. For cheaper horses,

buying without a vetting avoids exclusions

but risks missing significant problems.

Figure 1.