Horse Vettings

5-Stage Horse Vettings – Pre-purchase equine veterinary examinations

Video: Jane Nixon Performs a 5-Stage Equine Vetting

Pre-Purchase Equine Vetting Stages 1 and 2

When buying a horse, an equine pre-purchase examination or “horse vetting” by an experienced equine veterinarian is always recommended. Equine vet Jane Nixon (formerly joint senior partner with RCVS accredited Nixon Equine Vets along with her husband Stewart Hastie MRCVS) has a particular interest in horse pre-purchase vetting, in terms of assessing veterinary suitability for the new owner’s requirements when buying a horse, with a special emphasis on correct horse conformation.


Jane has a long history of in-depth equine veterinary examination of horses pre-purchase, having performed stallion and mare grading for many Sports Horse Societies since since 1980. Jane’s husband Stewart Hastie MRCVS began lecturing on this very subject in the early 1970’s, to final year equine veterinary students of the Royal Veterinary College (RCVS).


In addition to her work evaluating youngstock, mares & stallions for the BEF, SHBGB and other Sports Horse Societies, Jane has the flexibility to offer an experienced and affordable horse vetting service UK-wide.


Pictured: Jane evaluating a yearling for the BEF Futurity


Jane Nixon can perform horse vetting at the client’s own yard; assuming a suitably safe and secure environment for the critical examination and appraisal of the horse being purchased is available, including a dark stable for the eye examination. This flexibility enables Jane Nixon to offer a very convenient and affordable UK-wide horse vetting service.


For local clients, Jane also offers special terms for horse vettings and performance examinations undertaken at Addington Manor Equestrian Centre near Buckingham, making use of the superior facilities available at Addington e.g. excellent in-hand trotting and riding surfaces both inside and outside, in a safe and secure environment, plus a dark stable for eye examinations. Pictured right: Horse vettings can be performed at Addington Manor E.C.


BEVA / RCVS 5-Stage Horse Vetting Procedure

A Summary of the 5-Stage Vetting Examination Procedure & Veterinary Report

When vetting a horse, Jane Nixon follows the British Equestrian Veterinary Association (BEVA) / Royal Collage of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) guidelines; which outline the principles of the 5 stage equine pre-purchase examination and veterinary report.In summary, the full 5 stage pre-purchase vetting examination follows five stages, hence the name, and takes between 1.5 and 2 hours to carry out a series of thorough checks – at rest in the stable, exercise in-hand and exercise under saddle. Here are the 5 stages of the examination provided by equine veterinarian & consultant Dr Jane Nixon:

Examination Stage 1: Observation of the horse at rest

  • In the stable to note the horse’s breathing rate, listen to the heart and examine the eyes in the dark. If the horse crib bites or points a toe at rest this will be in evidence.
  • Outside in good light to conduct a full surface examination of the skin, limbs, and of the teeth to confirm age. A full dental examination can be conducted by special request. Examination and palpation of the skin checks for abnormalities, even under the belly. Any lumps & bumps from old injuries, sarcoids and any conformational defects should apparent and at this point.

Examination Stage 2: Exercise in-hand

  • On a hard surface involving walking and trotting up in a straight line, looking for signs of lameness, including conducting flexion tests on the joints of the lower limbs.
  • If sound, the horse should be reined back and trotted on a circle each way – this will exacerbate and therefore show up any more subtle soundness problems.

Examination Stage 3: Exercise under saddle

  • Strenuous exercise, preferably ridden or lunged. If the horse is unbroken he should be loose-schooled. The horse will be checked for a dipped or cold back when mounting, and coordinated movement once mounted. The horse will be examined by listening for abnormal heart and wind sounds after exertion.

Examination Stage 4: Period of rest

  • 20-30 minutes rest to show up any stiffness when a horse is re-examined in stage 5.

Examination Stage 5: Trotting up

  • Final trot up is followed by listening to the heart and looking further at any areas of concern. A blood sample may also be taken & stored at this stage if requested.

Horse Vetting Report

On completion of the 5 Stage veterinary examination the buyer will be given a verbal “best opinion” on the day of the horse vetting. Whilst there is no obligation to reveal this “best opinion” to the seller, if there is an obvious problem the seller may be given this information. A written report can also be provided if required. Further tests may be required to insure expensive competition horses, including ultrasound scanning of the tendons, or X-rays of the distal limbs and feet, but will only be recommended if there is cause for concern.


You can read the full BEVA 5-Stage Horse vetting procedure document in its entirety using the link below:

BEVA/RCVS Guidance Notes on the Examination of a Horse on Behalf of a Prospective Purchaser (amended 2011)