At Cinder Hill we take this examination very seriously, and particularly welcome enquiries from prospective purchasers. We will endeavour to undertake these examinations at short notice, whenever necessary.
We carry out a great many of these examinations and therefore consider ourselves particularly adept in this field, which tends to extend far beyond our own normal client base ie. veterinary surgeons from further afield will refer their clients to us to examine horses for purchase on their behalf in the Kent, Surrey and Sussex area.
Why Have a Vetting?
It is a fairly specialised branch of veterinary work and requires considerable experience to make a considered judgement as to whether a client should or should not buy a certain horse.
We appreciate that it is a very important decision for the client because it involves not only a considerable financial outlay but is also the start of what may or may not be a successful partnership. When things go wrong this can be very draining, both emotionally and financially.
At the same time the vet's part in the purchase procedure is technically confined purely to an opinion as to whether the 'machine works' ie. a type of engineer's or surveyor's report. The behavioural or performance characteristics of the horse are not technically part of the examination.
We consider a client's initial contact extremely important; usually by telephone, the vet concerned will have an in depth conversation with the prospective purchaser prior to the examination.
At this time they can make the vet aware of any particular concerns they may have had when they tried the horse or pony, what it is required for etc. ie. what type of rider; child or adult, novice or experienced, and what disciplines it will be required for, whether it is being bought to keep as a friend for life, or whether as a horse or pony to bring on and then sell.
Although the price may be discussed, it should be pointed out that all vettings are examined with the same thoroughness, however if a horse is very expensive then it may require radiographs or additional examinations if it is to be insured.
We believe personal contact with the prospective purchaser in advance is of paramount importance.
The full '5 stage examination' is divided into five parts following a standard format as laid down by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association.
There is also a shorter, less detailed version - '2 stage examination' which covers only parts 1 and 2.
1. Preliminary Examination
This is carried out in the stable and consists of basically of examination of the heart at rest, the eyes with opthalmoscope and mouth, both for ageing and any dental abnormalities. At this time the owner, or their agent, is questioned regarding any vices and allergies the horse may have and what it is like to clip, box, ride in traffic, being shod and whether it is suitable for a novice or nervous or inexperienced rider if this is the case.
Although these factors are technically not the responsibility of the veterinary surgeon we feel very strongly that we should ask. It is however the resonsibility of the prospective purchaser to acquire their own warranty in writing, about these matters for legal reasons. At this time one would also expect to inspect the Breeding papers, passport if available and vaccination certificate.
2. Trotting Up and External Examination etc.
At this stage the horse will be brought out of the stable and walked and trotted extensively while being viewed from different angles. Some examiners carry out the flexion tests on all four limbs at this point, while others leave it until later. If a problem is encountered with the horse's action then that is concentrated upon.
For this reason it is always important to have a contact number for the prospective purchaser so that any abnormal finding during the examination can be discussed at the time with them as they may well wish to abandon the examination immediately if certain defects are found.
The detailed markings can be taken and then a thorough examination of all external features is commenced starting at the muzzle and continuing to the tip of the tail ie. head, neck, legs, back, hind-quarters and various surface muscle groups etc.
3. Strenuous Exercise
If the horse is in work and broken, it is ridden, but if it is a young horse it is either lunged or loose-schooled in the menage. The intention is to see how an animal responds to exertion, with special reference to gait abnormalities, action, heart and respiratory function.
Initial work is observed at the trot in both large and small circles, collected and 'going long', figures of eight etc. The horse is then cantered on both reins, more expressly for the examination of 'the wind'.
Competition horses will be worked harder according to their intended discipline ie. eventers and racehorses will require to be galloped, while advanced dressage horses will be examined doing lateral work, time changes etc.
4. Period of Rest
After the exercise blood samples are taken and the horse is allowed to cool down, but more importantly to stiffen up if that is the case.
5. Second Trot Up From Cold
This is to ensure that the horse's action is still fluid and correct and no sign of stiffness which may be coming from either arthritic or muscular pathology. At this time some examiners carry out a second test of flexion tests on the limbs. The horse may also be lunged at this stage on both hard and soft surfaces.
This would usually conclude the examination and the information would be immediately relayed to the prospective purchaser by telephone, although we very much welcome the purchaser to be present during the examination whenever possible.
We believe it is important to discuss the findings as soon as possible. Subsequently, an official certificate of veterinary examination is forwarded to the prospective purchaser, confirming the findings of the examiner.