What does it mean to vet a horse?
Buying a horse

What does it mean to vet a horse and what is the difference between a 2 and 5 stage vetting?5 min read

You should always vet a horse before buying. Especially, when you’re inexperienced with horses or are buying from a seller that isn’t too familiar with the horse’s history.

However, a vetting is only a snapshot of how the horse is on the day and time of the vetting.

Vetting doesn’t take into consideration issues or problems that weren’t discovered at the time the vet saw the horse (e.g. seasonal problems such as pollen allergies can’t really be detected other than in spring or summer and will go unnoticed unless the seller mentions them).

Read up on your insurance terms and ask about this beforehand

You should always check with your insurance provider becuase they can have policies on when and how they will cover your horse and what kind of vetting they require for your policy.

Some companies have had requirements of a vetting certificate if the horse is valued at £3000-5000 or above (but not below) – so be sure to check with your own insurance company well in advance.

Is a 2 or 5 stage vetting better for me?

Some vets will only offer 5 stage vettings and some will offer more extensive 2 stage vettings than others.

Call around and compare what the services include and what they cost. Remember to factor in the call-out fee into the final price.

A 2 stage vetting will generally cost around £100-200 and a 5 stage around £150-350. Prices will vary regionally and from vet to vet, so make sure you ask around and find a vet that you are happy charges a fair price for a job well done.

What is a 2 stage vetting?

This is a basic assessment of the horse and a thorough exam will generally take around 1 hour to complete.

The vetting is performed in two stages beginning by examining the horse in the stable and then by examining the horse move in hand on a level surface.

A 2 stage vetting usually includes:

  • checking the identity of the horse and checking for a microchip
  • examination of the eyes, mouth, skin, heart, lungs
  • check for weight distribution on level surface
  • check for scrapes, scars, bruises etc.
  • assessment of the muskeloskeletal system
  • basic assessment for lameness (horse in hand, walk and trot in a straight line on a hard surface)
  • assessment of the conformation and temperament of the horse (keeping in mind what you want to use it for)
  • asking the vendor to declare previous issues such as vices, management issues and clinical problems
  • some vets include blood work in a stage 2 vetting
  • some vets include flexion tests in a stage 2 vetting

What is a 5 stage vetting?

A 5 stage vetting is the more extensive assessment of the two and a thorough examination will generally take around 2-3 hours to complete.

The examination includes all the steps from the 2 stage vetting listed above, as well as:

  • assessment during strenuous exercise (usually lunged if the horse is too young to be ridden, otherwise examined while ridden)
  • assessment during period of rest during which the vet can take blood
  • assessment during a second trot up
  • blood and x-rays can be included if necessary
  • additional exams may be included at the recommendation of the vet

Always be well prepared when you’re buying a horse

Especially if this is your first horse or pony, make sure to check with your vet what they will include in the vetting and how much they will charge for it.

Ask if the vet includes bloodwork, x-rays and any other possible examinations in the basic fee or if you will be charged separately for additional tests and how much they will be.

When possible, be present at the vetting yourself so that you can find out about the issues as they come up and discuss with the vet and owner face to face.

You will also learn how the vetting is done and get an idea of whether you’re satisfied with the horse’s performance or not.

This is also a good opportunity to ride the horse and have your vet check if the conformation and temperament of the horse are suitable for you and what you intend to use the horse for.

Remember that you can always haggle with the vendor on the price of the horse

For instance, if the horse is being sold for £1800 you can ask if the vendor would settle for £1600 if you want to have a 5 stage vetting and you’ve been quoted £200 for the vetting.

Always remember to factor in additional costs, such as vetting, deworming, vaccines, transportation etc. into the total budget you have reserved for buying a horse.

If you’re buying several at once, ask anyone who’s charging you money (vendor, vet, dealer, transportation company etc.) if they’ll knock off a bit from the total price since you’re paying for several things at once.

The vet will only certify the horse as sound for whatever stage vetting it was given at the time and date of the vetting

Some vets might also require you to sign a waiver if you’re getting a 2 stage vetting saying that you didn’t want a 5 stage vetting done, so make sure you know what this means before going ahead with the vetting.

The more inexperienced you are with horses, the more sense it makes to rely on experienced professionals.

Find people that you feel comfortable with and that willingly answers your questions about the process and the price.

You’ll also want to make sure that the vet you use to do your vetting is an independent operator who isn’t working on behalf of the vendor and may give you false information in order to get you to buy the horse.

Especially, when buying a horse from abroad and you don’t have a common language or your communication is confused, you’ll want to make sure that the vet you’re using is independent.

Ask both your vet and the vendor plenty of questions and never take ambiguity as an answer!

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