To identify, assess and enumerate the
risks related with purchasing
a horse for its
intended purpose.

A pre-purchase examination is not an examination for soundness and the aim is not to pass or fail a horse.

The aim of conducting a pre-purchase examination should be to identify, assess and attempt to enumerate the possible risks related with purchasing the horse for its intended purpose. It is imperative that the horse is fit and currently in regular work as it is very difficult and unreasonable to assess the suitability of a horse for any purpose if it has been out of work for a number of months due to spelling or foaling etc.

In order to adequately assess the horse Belvoir Equine Hospital veterinarians will undertake an extensive clinical examination that often takes between one and two hours. 

In order to adequately conduct this examination, the following facilities are desirable;

  • A dark stable in which to examine the eyes.
  • A hard level driveway or concrete area, on which the horse can be walked and trotted out in hand.
  • An area in which the horse can be ridden or lunged.

If the vendor does not have these facilities, it may be advisable to consider transporting the horse to the clinic. At the clinic you will have access to a crush, round yard, parading area, on site radiography and ultrasound, and laboratory services, as well as the advantage of viewing the behaviour of your prospective horse in a foreign environment (which will give you a clue as to how he or she may behave in new environments like shows, endurance rides, etc).

The examination involves the following;

  1. Comprehensive clinical examination including eyes, heart, lungs, mouth, feet and conformation.
  2. Walking and trotting out in hand on a hard surface in a straight line. Application of hoof testers, turning, backing and flexion tests.
  3. Observation under saddle or on the lunge. The horse will be ridden or lunged at the trot and canter for at least fifteen to twenty minutes.
  4. The horse is then allowed to cool down.
  5. Final trot up. Walking, and trotting out in hand on a hard surface in a straight line. Lunging on a hard surface. Repeat flexion tests.

Finally, the veterinarian undertaking the examination will discuss all findings with the purchaser and provide a written report within twenty four hours. The veterinary report is not a guarantee and no warranty is given or implied, the veterinary report is a professional assessment of the risk associated with purchase of the horse on the basis of the findings on the day of the examination.

Supplementary work-up

On the basis of the findings of the assessment it may be advisable, for additional charges, to complete diagnostic testing such as radiographs of a suspect joint or an ultrasound examination of a thickened tendon. The types of diagnostic testing routinely undertaken include, but are not limited to;

  1. Radiographs. Routine radiographic studies are often taken of knees, fetlocks, hocks, stifles and front feet.
  2. Ultrasound examination of tendons.
  3. Endoscopic examination of the upper respiratory tract.
  4. Blood testing to look for sub-clinical disease and assess organ function.

All of the above tests can be carried out on site at Belvoir Equine Hospital at the time of the examination.

Final decision

The final decision to buy the horse rests with you, the purchaser. You are welcome to ask your veterinarian as many questions as you need to before making your decision. We will offer as much information and solutions possible on how best to manage and prevent any ailments that the prospective horse may be predisposed to. Please remember your vet will not give the horse a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ for the exam, but only report on their findings.


All information obtained during the pre-purchase examination is owned by the purchaser who has requested the pre-purchase examination. We will not discuss the details of our findings with the vendor without the permission of the purchaser. Nor will we discuss the details of our findings with any other prospective purchasers unless they retain us as the veterinarian to undertake an examination on their behalf.

We will always declare if the horse being vetted is a current patient of our clinic, and as such it will be at the discretion of the purchaser to use our services based on this information.

Tips for Buyers

Before undertaking a pre-purchase examination we suggest that all prospective purchasers give consideration to the following;

  • Have a professional trainer ride the horse and give advice as to the suitability of the horse for its intended purpose.
  • In respect to show horses, sight an original and current measuring certificate.
  • Sight original registration papers and determine that the vendor is listed on the registration papers as the last owner.
  • Obtain a written and signed medical history from the vendor.