Pre-Purchase Examinations


We strongly recommend that all prospective horse purchasers obtain a full Veterinary Examination before buying. A full Veterinary examination is often called the ‘Five-Stage’ vetting and is performed according to a procedure recommended by the New Zealand Equine Veterinary Association. Many insurance companies request such an examination before giving 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 as problem free as possible. The purpose 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 suitable for dressage may be totally unsuitable as a hunter so it is important to remember that a horse may not be suitable for one purchaser but appropriate for another.

A pre-purchase exam is a fact-finding session and can be a useful tool for both the buyer and the seller. It is not a guarantee, an insurance policy, or a value appraisal and it is not a certificate of ability, temperament, or merit. It is a physical examination for evaluating health and serviceability on a particular day.

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 also 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 eg arthritis, laminitis)

The standard examination does not include sedating to examine teeth with a gag.

Prior to conducting a pre-purchase examination we require the following statements (which can be downloaded below) to be completed. It is usual practice for a vet not to carry out a prepurchase examination on a horse owned by a client. In the event that this can not be avoided (eg both the buyer and seller are clients of the practice) the seller needs to complete a waiver of information document which allows the practice to provide the buyer with any clinical history they have on the horse.  

If the seller is NOT a client of Vet Services Wairarapa, then please download and print the following 2 statements. These need to be completely filled out and returned to us prior to the vetting – a good quality scan is fine. If you are not sure of an answer, please write ‘unknown’, or your best explaination, as blank spaces require us to get you to redo them.

If the seller IS a client of Vet Services Wairarapa, then please download and print the following 3 statements. These need to be completely filled out and returned to us prior to the vetting – a good quality scan is fine. If you are not sure of an answer, please write ‘unknown’, or your best explaination, as blank spaces require us to get you to repeat the form.

These two 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 their consent.

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.


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.

  • Relevant paperwork filled out, signed and returned before the visit. Check the contact phone number of the purchaser will be appropriate foir the time and day of visit; even better is that the purchaser is able to be present.
  • A competant horse person available to hold horse, trot, lunge and ride horse (riding not need for 2 Stage Examinations). Preferably also a horse that has been taught to do these things. 
  • A dark quiet area, preferably a stable, to fully auscultate chest and examine eyes.
  • A flat, straight and hard area for trotting the horse up. A quiet road is fine; arena surface is too soft. 
  • 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.
  • Shoeing – 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 it may well be that the examination will need to be rescheduled for after this is done.
  • A clean horse – it is necessary to thoroughly examine skin and this is much easier with a clean horse. It is preferable to not have any hoof dressings on

If you would like to know any more, or to book a pre purchase examination, please feel to contact us.