Vetting a Horse

Vetting a Horse


Just as you never buy a horse before you have ridden it, you don’t ever buy a horse before you have him or her
vetted. Vetting a horse before you buy one is very important and is the final thing that you should have done to a
horse before you buy it. See this page for the details on vetting a horse.

Visual Inspection:
The first thing a vet will do when vetting a horse is giving it a visual inspection. If possible, you should be
there throughout the entire inspection. After the horse has been taken out of its box, the inspection will
begin. When visually inspecting a horse, the vet will study the way it stands, the condition of its paddock
and loose box, how it reacts to its surrounds, how it reacts to being handled by both you and its vendor, etc.
All of this can tell the vet a great deal about the horse’s mental and physical state.

Health Inspection:
The next part of vetting a horse is the health inspection. The vet will check the horse’s temperature, its eyes
and nose for discharge, the condition of its skin, the horse’s heart and its tendons and joints for heat. Then,
the vendor will walk and trot the horse in hand so the vet can check for any signs of lameness. The vet may also
ask for the horse to be turned in a tight circle, backed for a few strides or lunged at a trot on a hard, flat
surface to check for lameness. The vet may also perform flexion tests on the horse’s limbs to check them. However,
if this is done with sufficient force, it can lame the horse.

Conformation and Body Inspection:

Next, the vet will make a very detailed inspection of the horse’s conformation. Once this has been done and the
horse has been positioned on flat, level ground, he will study the horse’s whole body – its head (including
mouth and teeth), neck, ribs, sternum, back, abdomen and limbs.

Wind and Heart Inspection:

When testing the horse’s wind and heart, the vendor of the horse will tack it up, warm it up gently at a walk,
trot and canter, and then take the horse for a flat-out gallop. The vet will watch to see whether the horse
dips its back when the saddle is put on (some horses just do this, but it could mean back problems). Then,
after the horse has been galloped, the vet will listen to the horse’s lungs for any signs of unusual respiration
and to the heart for any irregularity.
After the exercise, the horse will be cooled off and untacked. Then, it will be put in its stall to rest for half
of an hour. Once the rest is up, the horse will be trotted in hand again while the vet watches. If the horse has
any muscular or arthritic problems which will have been hidden while it was warm, they will show up when it is
trotted half an hour later. Any signs of previous lamenesses will also show up after a fast period of exercise. The
vet will also listen to the horse’s heart and lungs after the trotting to check them.

The Certificate:
After the final inspection has been completed, the vet will write out a certificate for the horse. The certificate
includes a detailed identification of the horse, the vet’s report on its condition and his opinion about its suitability
for buying, considering what the horse will be used for. The certificate is not a guarantee of the horse’s health, but
more an opinion expressed by a professional. The certificate means that the horse was found free for certain disorders
at the time of the inspection. It does not mean that the horse is and will remain totally unhampered by disease, nor
does it mean that the horse is free from stable vices such as crib-biting, weaving and box-walking. If you want a document
stating these things, you will need to get a warrant from the vendor.

If you find the vet’s report satisfactory and have tried the horse (see Trying a Horse),
you can buy it for yourself. Hopefully the horse you buy will turn out to be the horse of you dreams. Just remember to always
try and vet a horse before you buy it!

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