November 5, 2013

Preparing for the pre-purchase exam or vetting, Part 1

In the past I have easily sold my horses simply by taking them to horse shows. I never had to worry much about the vetting process, because they were low price-point horses. They had known issues (arthritis in the hocks, etc.) that we knew would come up and that was disclosed ahead of time and a reflection of the sale price. At the low price-point X-rays never came into the picture, and/or the horse wouldn't be vetted at all. Yes, I am of the opinion that even a free horse should be vetted, but at the same time I understand why people see it as a waste of money. It happens, that's a reality, and as a seller I'm all for a buyer skipping that step. It certainly makes it easier on me, though I still think it is a bad idea from a buyer's standpoint.

Rose being worth quite a bit more than my previous horses, required vetting and X-ray's by all serious buyers. This is where I got a big education and it was also the part of the selling process that made me the most nervous. I was nervous because quite simply she'd never been vetted since I bought her and she hadn't ever had X-rays taken.

What is a vetting or pre-purchase exam? Quite simply it is a finding of the vet's opinion on the soundness and health of the horse on that day and it's suitability for the buyer's intended use. For example, a horse that is in its mid-teens and is intended for trail riding might have some arthritic issues but would still be completely appropriate at its soundness level for that purpose. If later on the new owner wanted to start jumping that horse they might have issues. So a good vet will inquire as to the intended use and workload of the horse and keep that in mind when discussing any soundness issues that come up on the exam with the buyer.

Sadly some buyers don't understand this because they are not experienced horsemen and think that all horses should vet "perfect" or be put down. These people drive me nuts, and I'm quite happy they get scared off so easily, because any time I have to explain to someone that a negative flexion is a good thing I've already made up my mind to not sell my horse to them. Yes this happened. That was potential buyer No. 2. Also if the horse is normally sound, but tweaked it's pastern that morning, it will be unsound for the vetting. This can lead the buyer and vet to wonder if the horse did just tweak something like the seller claims or if it is chronically lame and the seller is lying. Who's to say? And yes this happened too. With potential buyer No. 1.

However, that is all over now. So the following list is comprised of the pre-vetting topics and the subsequent posts which will discuss the specific issues that I had to deal with and caused me to learn my lesson the hard way. Luckily, after learning my lesson the third vetting was a charm and Rose was sold that day.

Part 2: Things to avoid before a vetting (3 days - 1 week), and why

Part 3: How to prepare for the vetting

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

Stay tuned...

Happy trails and swooshing tails!


  1. Very excited for this mini series!

  2. I am looking forward to this series! I have always been on the "buying" side, so I'm interested to hear the sellers perspective.

  3. Excellent topic! My next purchase will be a weanling. I see some good things coming out of this mini series!

  4. Excited for this! Yes, vetting is not a pass/fail it's a risk assessment using *usually* an incomplete set of information at best. I sort of vetted Pongo as a yearling...blood work normal, confirmation, feet, teeth, etc, normal normal normal...Then at 4 find out he's got hock arthritis probably from growing too fast, argh! It's all just the risk you're willing to take on and making sure you ask really smart questions and (IMO) dont skimp on the diagnostics because it's not about the initial price of the horse, it's about the long term cost of care, suitability for it to do what you want and ability (if any) to re-sell/re-home if needed.

  5. Very fun! I like this idea for a series.

  6. I love this! I can't wait to learn more. :D Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  7. I look forward to reading these!



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