Vetting Service

Pre-Purchase Examination

RCVS Accredited Equine Hostpital

Providing 2 or 5 stage Pre-Purchase Examinations (PPEs)

Chine House Equine Hospital offers a PPE vetting service covering Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, and Lincolnshire.

Before purchasing a horse

Before buying a horse, many things should be taken into consideration, including:


  • Have you fully investigated the cost of buying a horse?
  • Are you aware of the cost and work involved in the day to day care of a horse or pony?
  • Do you have the experience and time available to properly look after the horse or pony?
  • Have you got or arranged a suitable place, e.g. a livery yard, for the horse or pony to be kept?

If the answer to all the above questions is yes then you can begin to consider the type of horse you should look for.


This is a very important consideration and will be determined by your budget, your experience and the type of activities you intend to do. For example, there is no point in a novice rider wanting a horse to hack out and then buying a lively 4 year old thoroughbred.


When going to see horses or ponies with a view to purchase, it is very important that you take everything into consideration and ask plenty of questions. You must be sure that the animal is capable of the job you will require it to do and can be kept in the accommodation you have. You must carefully look for any vices and check certain things that may be important to you, e.g. is the horse good in traffic, does it kick, is it good with the farrier, vet, equine dental technician, is it good to clip?


If you are not very experienced, it is advisable to have someone more experienced with you to help in making the decision. It is advisable to see the horse or pony as many times as possible before making a final decision.


Once you have found the horse that you believe to be perfect for you, the next stage is to have the horse vetted.

Buying a horse is a big and often expensive decision so it is important to make the right decision and to buy the right horse.

You may have found a horse that is good to ride, has a pleasant manner and fits with all your requirements, as listed above, however, you also need to know that the horse is likely to remain healthy and is suitable for the type and amount of riding that is anticipated. To make a mistake and buy the wrong horse could be costly and heartbreaking.


A pre-purchase vetting will not only identify any existing health problems but may also identify potential problems that may occur in the future.


Before performing a pre-purchase examination, the veterinary surgeon should endeavour to ascertain who is selling the horse and the horse’s identity. If, as a result of such information, the veterinary surgeon feels any conflict of interest, which means he/she cannot act wholly in the interests of the purchaser, the veterinary surgeon should decline to perform the examination.

If the veterinary surgeon feels able to act without conflict, the fact that the seller is an existing client of the practice should be declared to the purchaser in advance of the examination. Additionally, if the veterinary surgeon or his/her practice have any prior knowledge of the horse from any source, permission should be obtained from the seller for full disclosure to the purchaser of all such information that might be relevant. If this is not possible, for any reason, the veterinary surgeon should decline to perform the examination.


The vetting is carried out on behalf of the purchaser and it is important to discuss fully with the vet beforehand the intended type of and regularity of use that the horse is intended for. This ensures that the vet can give an accurate assessment as to whether the horse will be fit for the purpose intended based on its health.


A vetting not only gives you a professional opinion about the health and suitability of a horse but may also be required for insurance. Many insurance companies require a vetting before they will insure the animal. They will tell you whether this needs to be a full 5-stage vetting or only a 2-stage vetting.


The standard vetting procedure has been outlined in BEVA/RCVS Guidance Notes on the examination on behalf of a prospective purchaser (amended 2011 http://www.beva.org.uk/_uploads/documents/1ppe-guidance-notes.pdf ) and is outlined in the sections below.

The Examination

The standard examination is conducted in five stages, although the exact sequence of the examination may vary.


The stages are:


Stage 1: Preliminary examination


This is a thorough, external examination of the animal at rest using visual observation, palpation and manipulation to detect clinically apparent signs of injury, disease or physical abnormality. It includes an examination of the incisor teeth, a thorough examination of the horse’s eyes in a darkened area and auscultation of the horse’s heart and lungs at rest.


Examination of the eyes does not include dilating the pupil but should include examination of internal and external structures. The examination does not include examination of the inside of the prepuce (sheath), a detailed mouth examination with a speculum, a height measurement or any examination for pregnancy.


Stage 2: Walk and trot, in hand


The animal is walked and then trotted in hand to detect abnormalities of gait and action. Ideally this is carried out on firm, level ground. The horse is turned sharply each way and is backed for a few paces. Flexion tests of all four limbs and trotting in a circle on a firm surface may be carried out if the examining veterinary surgeon considers it safe and appropriate to do so.


Stage 3: Exercise phase


The horse is usually ridden and given sufficient exercise to:


    1.  Allow assessment of the horse when it has an increased breathing effort and an increased heart rate.
    2.  Allow assessment of the horse’s gait at walk, trot, canter and, if appropriate, gallop.
    3.  Allow assessment of the horse for the purpose of stage five.


If ridden exercise is not possible for any reason, this stage may be conducted by exercising the horse on a lunge. This fact should be made clear to the purchaser and be written on the certificate.


Stage 4: Period of rest and re-examination


The horse is allowed to stand quietly for a period. During this time the respiratory and cardiovascular systems may be monitored as they return to their resting levels.


Stage 5: Second trot up


The animal is trotted in hand again to look for any signs of strains or injuries made evident by the exercise and rest stages.


Please contact the surgery with any queries or to discuss your requirements, call the ‘Equine’ service on 01509 812 445 or click to make an enquiry.

Flexion Tests & Trotting

Flexion tests and trotting in a circle on a firm surface are not mandatory parts of the standard procedure, but they can sometimes provide useful additional information about a horse.


There may be circumstances when the examining veterinary surgeon concludes that it is unsafe or inappropriate to perform such tests.


Please contact the surgery with any queries or to discuss your requirements, call the ‘Equine’ service on 01509 812 445 or click to make an enquiry.

Blood Sampling

A blood sample may be taken for storage (usually for 6 months) for possible future analysis to detect substances present in the horse’s system at the time of the examination that might have masked any factors affecting the horse’s suitability for the purchaser’s intended use.


If a blood sample is not taken then the reason should be noted on the certificate.


Please contact the surgery with any queries or to discuss your requirements, call the ‘Equine’ service on 01509 812 445 or click to make an enquiry.


The horse should be identified by recording the horse’s markings in the form of a diagram and written description as well as searching for a microchip and inspecting any available documentation.


The diagram may be omitted if the presence of a microchip can be confirmed by scanner and the diagram of an accompanying passport matches the horse. In this instance, both microchip and passport numbers should be recorded on the certificate.


Please contact the surgery with any queries or to discuss your requirements, call the ‘Equine’ service on 01509 812 445 or click to make an enquiry.

Variations from the standard PPE

Whilst there is a recognised format for the examination, the examining veterinary surgeon may vary it where there are good practical or clinical reasons.


In circumstances where it is not possible or appropriate to complete all the stages, or where the standard five-stage examination is limited to stages one and two at the specific request of the purchaser, the variations from the standard procedure should be made clear to the purchaser and on the certificate.


The results of any additional procedures (e.g. radiography or endoscopy) carried out at the request of the purchaser should also be reported and recorded on the certificate or in an addendum to it. The original records of these procedures (such as radiographs, ultrasonographs, photographs) should be retained by the examining veterinary surgeon.


Please contact the surgery with any queries or to discuss your requirements, call the ‘Equine’ service on 01509 812 445 or click to make an enquiry.

Certificate and Opinion

The certificate should report the findings of the examination including all significant signs of disease, injury or physical abnormality. The certificate should also include the examining veterinary surgeon’s opinion as to whether or not, on the balance of probabilities, those findings prejudice the horse’s suitability for purchase for its intended use.


This opinion of the examining veterinary surgeon is given in the following example format:


“In my opinion, on the balance of probabilities, the conditions reported above do / do not prejudice this horse’s suitability for purchase to be used for …”


This wording reflects the fact that there may be other reasonable interpretations of the findings, but it in no way reduces the responsibility of examining veterinary surgeons to examine and observe the horse carefully and to apply to the full their professional knowledge and experience.


If the examining veterinary surgeon considers that the clinical history represents a greater than normal risk of the horse developing future problems (i.e. recurrence or delayed consequences of a prior condition), or that it may do so, this should be indicated on the certificate along with an explanatory note.


Despite such observations, the horse may nevertheless be suitable for purchase based on a risk/benefit analysis.


Please contact the surgery with any queries or to discuss your requirements, call the ‘Equine’ service on 01509 812 445 or click to make an enquiry.


Incomplete examinations


If any parts of the five stages are omitted for any reason, the opinion given is based purely upon those parts of the examination that were completed. The incomplete examination will not have identified any clinical signs of disease, injury or abnormality that could only have been revealed by a part of the standard procedure that was omitted.


If the purchaser requests a limited (two-stage) examination, the examination will be limited in its scope and may not detect important clinical factors that could otherwise influence their decision to purchase the horse.


Previous treatments


The horse may have received previous or concurrent veterinary treatment unknown to the examining veterinary surgeon. This may be so even where the examining veterinary surgeon is the seller’s regular veterinary surgeon and has access to clinical records for the horse.


At the time of the examination, the horse may have been subject to some previously administered drug or medicament having the effect of masking or concealing some disease, injury or physical abnormality that might otherwise have been clinically discoverable. A blood sample taken at the time of the examination may be used later to seek to determine this.




The certificate serves to identify the horse that was examined, but it is not the responsibility of the examining veterinary surgeon to ascertain that the declared seller has legal title in the horse. It is the responsibility of the purchaser to satisfy themselves as to the ownership of the horse before purchase and to verify the records of any microchip with the relevant database.



Without appropriate paper records from foalhood, it is not possible to confirm the age of a horse with accuracy. Estimates of age based on a dental examination are imprecise and unreliable and exact ageing using dentition alone should be avoided. In the absence of documentary evidence, the term aged may be used to refer to a horse considered after examination to be over 15 years of age.




Vices are objectionable habits, but are not necessarily detectable during the examination. However, if vices, or evidence of vices, are observed during the examination, they should be reported to the purchaser and recorded on the certificate and taken into account in the concluding opinion.


Seller’s warranty


The opinion provides no assurances in respect of matters that can only be established by a seller’s representations to the purchaser. A seller’s warranty is a matter between the seller and the purchaser and is not the responsibility of the examining veterinary surgeon.


The purchaser should consider obtaining a written warranty from the seller covering, for example, matters such as medical or surgical history, height, freedom from vices, temperament, non-administration of drugs prior to the examination and the horse’s previous or existing uses and performance levels.




For the purposes of this examination, the height of a horse or pony is not the concern of the examining veterinary surgeon.




Where possible and if required, the prospective purchaser is advised to confirm that they are able to obtain suitable insurance cover before purchasing the horse.


NB. Pre-purchase examination certificates are suitable for submission to insurance companies with a proposal for insurance of the horse. Insurance examinations carried out for an existing owner of a horse may follow the same format as the five-stage pre-purchase examination, but they will not include an opinion and should not be interpreted as a pre-purchase examination. Insurance examinations should be recorded using the “Certificate of Examination of a Horse for Insurance Purposes”.


Limited pre-purchase examination or 2-stage examination


Some people choose not to have a full 5-stage vetting, but instead opt for a limited pre-purchase examination or 2-stage examination. This is obviously not a complete examination, as it does not include stages 3-5 of the standard vetting. Some conditions may not be picked up during it. For this reason, a disclaimer must be signed before a 2-stage vetting for purchase is undertaken.


A copy of the disclaimer can be downloaded from this website. Please open the following PDF file. Print off two copies. Complete the form in ink and return by post/fax or hand the completed form to the examining Veterinary Surgeon at the time of examination, retaining the other copy for your own records.

Click here to download our Limited Pre-purchase Examination Disclaimer


Please contact the surgery with any queries or to discuss your requirements, call the ‘Equine’ service on 01509 812 445 or click to make an enquiry.

For more about Chine House Vets or to make an appointment…