Stage one

The horse’s heart, lungs, eyes and teeth are examined at rest in its stable. The animal’s general condition and any behavioural abnormalities are noted.

Stage two

The horse is taken out into the daylight and observed standing square. It is then trotted-up on an area of hard, level ground. Some vets may lunge the horse on a circle at this stage, and initial flexion tests may also be performed.

Stage three

The strenuous exercise stage at which the horse is ridden or lunged, and observed in circles and straight lines on both reins. The horse will usually be cantered or galloped to assess the heart and wind. The vet will often want to see the horse tacked up and mounted (if broken) to check for any back problems.

Stage four

A short rest period is allowed to see if any stiffness manifests. The vet may also complete the identification or perform a more detailed examination of legs, feet and body at this stage.

Stage five

The final trot-up takes place once the horse’s heart rate has returned to normal, and, again, flexion tests may be performed. A blood sample is usually taken at this stage and stored pending any later disputes.


X-rays (radiographs) of various joints and feet can be performed on request, as can other detailed investigations such as an endoscopy, tendon scans and pregnancy tests. Blood tests are also optional. None of these are part of the routine procedure.

Read about proposed changes to the pre-purchase vetting procedure >>

  • This information was first published in Horse & Hound (20 January , ’05)