Pre-Purchase Examination

Pre Purchase Examinations – Why have them?

We strongly recommend that all prospective horse purchasers obtain a full Veterinary Examination or ‘Five-Stage’ vetting before buying. This is performed according to a procedure recommended by the New Zealand Equine Veterinary Association. Many insurance companies request such an examination before giving full cover. Having a full examination cannot guarantee that the horse will never develop a problem but it should mean that you at least start off with as few problems as possible.

The use for which the horse is being purchased is very important and the veterinary surgeon will need to know this before undertaking the examination. A horse that is not suitable for one purpose may be perfect for another and the examination is undertaken with this in mind.A pre-purchase exam is a fact-finding session involving a physical examination for evaluating health and serviceability on a particular day. It is not a guarantee, an insurance policy, or a value appraisal and it is not a certificate of ability, temperament, or merit.

The purpose of the examination is not to pass or fail a horse, but to alert the buyer to any pre-existing conditions determined during the examination. This information ensures that an informed decision can be made by the purchaser.

Ancillary examinations, such as endoscopy, radiography, ECG or a reproductive examination may be required. The buyer should be aware that a pre-purchase examination is rarely completely ‘clean’ as a diligent vet can nearly always find something of note. This is particularly true for older performance horses, who may show evidence of hard work, such as arthritic changes in their joints. There are two options for a pre-purchase examination, a full examination (stages 1-5) or a partial examination (stages 1-2).


  1. Preliminary examination at rest (includes checking eyes, skin, heart, lungs at rest)
  2. Examination during walking, trotting, turning and backing (includes flexion tests and short trot on a circle)
  3. Examination during and immediately after strenuous exercise (includes getting the heart and respiratory rates up to check for abnormal noise or heart rhythm issues, checking for lameness/ abnormalities under saddle)
  4. Examination during the period after exercise (Checking on recovery of vital signs)
  5. The final examination during walking, trotting, turning and backing (checking for any lameness brought on by exercise e.g. arthritis, laminitis)

The standard examination does not include sedating to examine teeth with a gag nor does it include an examination for breeding soundness. Please discuss with the veterinary surgeon beforehand if either of these are required.

Prior to conducting a pre-purchase examination we require statements to be completed by the owner and purchaser. It is usual practice for a vet not to carry out a pre-purchase examination on a horse owned by a client. In the event that this cannot be avoided (e.g. both the buyer and seller are clients of the practice) the seller needs to complete an extra waiver of information document which allows the practice to provide the buyer with any clinical history they have on the horse. The forms need to be completely filled out and returned to Athletic Equine prior to the vetting – a good quality scan is fine. If you are not sure of an answer, please write ‘unknown’, or your best explanation, as blank spaces require us to get you to redo them. See the documents section below for the statements.

These statements along with the veterinary report combine together to provide the buyer with a lawful, thorough document that can be used as part of the decision making process in purchasing the horse.

The results of the examination are the property of the purchaser but the owner may have access to the information with the purchasers consent.

What level of vetting do you need?

The 5-stage vetting would always be recommended except in the case of unbroken young-stock or breeding stock which are not to be ridden. Breeding stock will require a specialised vetting for breeding soundness.

The period of strenuous exercise followed by a rest period often exacerbates more subtle lamenesses and potentiates the detection of respiratory tract abnormalities. This may result in further or specialised investigations being recommended e.g. endoscopy.

If a 5 stage vetting is booked and there is a problem found within the first 2 stages, then the purchaser will be contacted on the phone number supplied to discuss. If agreed, the vetting can stop after 2 stages and the difference to the 5 stage price can be refunded. If not able to reach the purchaser then it will be up to the vet’s discretion as to whether to continue. This is why it is recommended that the prospective purchaser attend or at least be easily contactable.

It is possible to have blood taken at the time of examination to be checked for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs only. The blood must be tested within 24-72 hours and other pain and mood altering drugs are not tested for.

Pre-purchase examination checklist

To enable our pricing to be as competitive as possible and to prevent unnecessary visit and examination charges to the client, we have compiled a checklist which hopefully will minimise the numbers of wasted visits to horses or scenarios.

  1. Relevant paperwork should be filled out, signed and returned before the visit.
  2. Check the contact phone number of the purchaser will be appropriate for the time and day of visit; even better is that the purchaser is able to be present.
  3. A competent horse person must be available to hold, trot, lunge and ride the horse (riding not need for 2 Stage Examinations). Preferably also a horse that has been taught to do these things.
  4. A dark quiet area, preferably a stable, to fully auscultate chest and examine eyes.
  5. A flat, straight and hard area for trotting the horse up. A quiet road is fine; arena surface is too soft.
  6. An appropriate area for exercising the horse for Stage 3 of the Examination – ideally an arena or flat paddock as the horse will need to be walked, trotted and cantered to exertion on both reins.
  7. Except in the case of young-stock the horse for examination should be in a reasonable level of work for the job it is intended. Even a short period of rest (1-2 weeks) may result in a significant improvement in soundness and therefore prevent the detection of chronic or subtle conditions that may prove problematic once the horse returns to work.
  8. It is preferable that the horse has been shod or trimmed regularly but not immediately prior to the examination. If it is found that the horse loses, or is about to lose a shoe/s then the examination will need to be rescheduled for after this is done.
  9. A clean horse – it is necessary to thoroughly examine skin and this is much easier with a clean horse.
  10. It is preferable to not have any hoof dressings on.


The basic costs for a pre-purchase exam depend on the type:

Two-Stage: $350 inc GST
Five-Stage: $475 inc GST

Other ancillary diagnostic procedures and travel are additional to this.  Please contact us for a quote or further information.

PPE Documents

Buyers Statement – Non-Client version

Buyers Statement – Athletic Equine Client

Vendors Statement