November 12, 2013

Preparing for the pre-purchase exam or vetting, Part 3

How to prepare for the vetting:
  1. Vet the vet
    If the buyer wants to use a vet that you have never met/heard of, do your homework. Ask around if anyone has used them. If they have a bad reputation, do not agree for the buyer to use them. You have this right. A bad vet won't just miss something on the buyer's behalf, but could also imagine they see something is not there, drop some scary words, and send the buyer running for the hills, away from a perfectly sound animal. I also like to make sure that any equine vet that does a pre-purchase exam on a sport horse is an equestrian themselves. I guess I like my horse vets to have some street smarts, not just book smarts. Just a little personal preference.
  2. Plan your week prior
    Once the appointment is all set, look at your calendar and prepare how you will get your horse ready.
  3. Trot/flex the horse yourself
    For your own piece of mind it is good to have an idea if your horse is sound prior to the vetting. Most seasoned horseman and/or farriers can easily pick up on a lameness when being trotted out on concrete/asphalt. So, get a trusty observer and trot out your horse. If you have a few free moments you might even want to do a 60-second flex on each leg and trot out the horse to see if anything arthritic will show up. Always do a baseline trot before a flex. That way you know if a lameness is the cause of stress from the flex (ie. arthritis) or if it was there before (ie. sore hoof). If the horse bob's it's head up as it is trotting, the foot that hits the ground at the moment the head bobs up is the unsound leg. Remember "down on the sound" (ie. head goes up on the unsound foot).
  4. If horse is in work, keep it in work, but don't do anything strenuous or new
    By all means still enjoy riding your horse, but it is a good idea to consciously keep the rides relaxed and easy. Don't do anything new or very strenuous that would cause muscle soreness, which could present as a false lameness.
  5. Give the horse a couple days off before the exam
    Just to be certain that the horse does not have any sore muscles, from work or ill fitting tack, let them have a couple days off before the exam. If you have a high energy horse that needs to be worked in order to be safely handled during the exam, longeing them would probably be okay, so long as it's not a long strenuous longe. Most vets however prefer the horse not be longed the day of the exam.
  6. Day of the exam:
    Show up early enough to pull your horse, groom them, and calm your own nerves. If you are relaxed your horse is more likely to be and the exam will go more smoothly. After that, stand back, let the vet and their helper do their thing and hope for the best. If things do come up that are unexpected have the vet show you, explain it, and video tape it...especially if the buyer is not present for the vetting. A picture is worth a thousand words and seeing a minor lameness or positive flexion in person or on video is very different than how it might be conjured in one's imagination from a vet's technical description.
Rose being trotted on asphalt during her third vetting in August.
Where I mainly went wrong on the first go around is that I didn't research the vet that did the exam, and as I mentioned in my previous post I was trying to be nice and stupidly offered to haul her to the vet. That vet, as I later found out, has a horrendous reputation in town. Apparently he told one of my fellow boarders (after a full vet inspection) that her lame gelding was a hopeless case and on the bright side she could use him as a broodmare. Her GELDING! She promptly took her horse to another vet who gave her a recovery plan and that horse was sound within a month and has never been lame since. He still has yet to start his broodmare career.

My personal beef with this vet (because I know you want to juicy details)? He dropped a bunch of unfounded and scary words on the buyer like neurological, spinal, etc. There was absolutely nothing neurologically wrong with my horse. He even said that to me. So why the hell say those words to a buyer? Why plant a scary word like that in someone's head? Rose had a sore butt muscle, at most. In addition to that, I over heard him telling one of his vet tech's how much I was asking for her (I didn't tell them this info) and that it was a ridiculous price tag. This from a man that breeds cows and has never ridden a horse that I know of as he's a known non-equestrian. I doubt he knows the value difference between dude ranch trail horse and Totilas. End rant. Phew, I've been bottling that up for a LONG time.

So, yes, research the vet. Had I known anything about him previously, I never would have agreed to haul her out there in the first place. But now, I'll never haul a horse for a vet check again, period.

On the second go round, I had no idea Rose was lame on front. I knew she had been lame in March from the bad trim job, but she seemingly recovered form it. She was sound longeing and riding in the arena. However, once she was trotted on the asphalt the head bob showed up.

This is where flexing her and trotting her out myself ahead of time would have been a good thing to do. I would have known something was up. I probably would have put shoes on her right away and put the vetting off another week. However, as it turns out I decided to not sell her to buyer No. 2 regardless (they wanted me to follow up once she came sound again) due to the buyer's very apparent greenness. Rose was a good horse, but had too much personality and youthful sass for a beginner rider. I just wouldn't have been able to sleep at night had I sold her to that person. This is the same person that I had to explain negative flexions to.

Stay tuned for...

Part 4: Ethics-things in my opinion you should never do

Happy trails and swooshing tails!


  1. I totally agree about vetting the vet -- having one you trust and understand is so key, not only for routine things, but in the high-pressure setting of buying and selling it's even that much more important!

  2. Wow... I'm shocked about that vet. Why does he ever offer equine services?? Thank you for sharing all of your information with us. It is very interesting!

  3. Wow, talk about a vet horror story. Now you know, I guess.

  4. Yikes that is scary that there are vets out there like that :(



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