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Why a vet check benefits both buyer and seller

by Michelle Holtmeyer
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Arranging a full veterinary examination of a horse is an important, even essential, part of the buying and selling procedure. It also forms a significant part of the workload of many equine veterinary practices.

The pre-purchase veterinary examination, also known as ‘vetting’ or the ‘vet check’, is often described as being the equivalent of automobile servicing and certification. When purchasing a horse, sometimes the contract will include some statement to the effect that the last vet check was fine and there are no issues with the horse. It may not tell the buyer when the last examination was done, who commissioned it, or which vet carried it out. It may not give the details of what was found, nor what exactly the vet was looking for during the course of the examination. It may not mention whether an X-ray examination was done. Most importantly, there may have been no laboratory test to see whether the horse was receiving any treatment that might conceal issues such as lameness or back pain. From this, it’s clear that any prospective horse buyer would be well-advised to arrange their own complete veterinary examination, including X-rays if necessary, whatever the seller says. Don’t take their word for it, even if they say the horse has been X-rayed. If the buyer organises the X-rays themselves, they know exactly what has been examined and whether the procedures meet the latest guidelines and standards.

A full pre-purchase examination involving all the important stages will reveal how fit and healthy the horse was at the time of the check, but this can only be of value if the horse did not receive any pain-killing or anti-inflammatory treatment beforehand. Only a blood or urine test in the laboratory will confirm that.

What does a veterinary check include?

A pre-purchase or pre-sales veterinary examination is a set of procedures that follow certain rules. It can be organised prior to an imminent sale, or with a view to selling a horse without a specific purchaser in mind. The vet check will provide an expert opinion on the general health of the horse as well as providing details of specific health issues that have been noted. It can be limited at the client or purchaser’s wishes; for instance, the purchaser may wish to focus on the soundness of the horse but not to opt for the test in which the cardio-vascular system is tested at full gallop. In this case, the client and the veterinarian need to discuss the implications of limiting the investigation or adding other tests to it.

At the end of the examination, the vet will provide the client with a written report on their findings and is usually available to discuss it in a meeting or over the phone as well.

Pre-purchase and pre-sale vet check: what’s the difference?

Pre-purchase vetting

A pre-purchase veterinary check is the usual term for the tests carried out before a client purchases a horse. It will occur at an advanced stage of the buying and selling procedure, but prior to completing the contract. The client will have viewed and probably tried out the horse and believe it to be a likely prospect for their needs. They will then choose a veterinarian to carry out the examination before going ahead with the purchase. Therefore the results of the vet check will influence the client’s decision to go ahead, not to continue, or possibly renegotiate a price with the vendor.

The purchaser is always responsible for arranging and paying for the pre-purchase vetting, even if the horse proves unsuitable for health reasons and the sale is not concluded. In exceptional circumstances, buyer and seller may come to some arrangement about who pays in the case of the horse proving unsuitable due to the results of the veterinary check. This needs to be contractually agreed beforehand.

There are clear benefits in having a pre-purchase examination by a vet. Buyers will have the reassurance of knowing their own choice of experienced and reputable professional has examined the horse thoroughly, which may be an advantage when it comes to resale. The purchaser can also choose which stages will be involved during the examination, such as:

– A full clinical examination, including flexion, hoof and cardio tests
– The type and number of X-rays if required
– Further investigations, if needed
– Blood and urine sampling to check for analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs

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