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For Equine Vets Everywhere

Practical Advice and Tips: Pre-Purchase Examinations

Since the start of ‘lockdown’ pre-purchase examinations were not deemed emergency work and therefore equine vets have been advised against carrying them out.

The time has come to review that advice.

It is important that pre-purchase examinations can proceed, where safe to do so, in order to facilitate the sale of horses. It is in the interest of both equine and the owner’s welfare to allow the sale of horses with pre-purchase examinations to proceed if at all possible and, most importantly, where it is safe to do so.


General Advice

  • Ideally the vet and only one other person should be present, with that person holding, presenting, and riding the horse. However, social distancing will be difficult / impossible to maintain when examining the eyes / mouth / head / forelegs, etc, so a fixed team of a vet and another (nurse / student / groom) might be preferable for the examination; if a separate person is required for riding, the horse can be handed to the rider for tacking up / riding, and then handed back to the team to complete the examination.
  • Any additional observers, for example the purchaser, should keep a safe distance (>2 metres) at all times and refrain from touching anything in terms of equipment, gates, stable doors, the horse etc 
  • Disposable gloves should be worn by everyone involved in the examination (excluding any observer who is not handling the horse or equipment). Head collar, lead ropes, tack and passports should all be considered as potential fomites for the transfer of coronavirus. 
  • Face masks / coverings should be worn when social distancing is unlikely to be maintained during the examinations.
  • The vet will need to remove their gloves to carry out palpation examinations, therefore hand-washing and disinfection procedures should be implemented accordingly.
  • If additional procedures are required, these should be discussed in advance, as they may require an additional person to attend the pre-purchase examination. Where appropriate, sedation should be used to facilitate the procedure being done safely (sedative drugs should only be administered after the routine blood sample has been taken).
  • If radiographs are required, it may be preferable to carry this out at a clinic, where a team who are already working together can radiograph the horse. 
  • If an additional procedure is to be performed at the yard, particular attention should be paid to maintaining physical distancing between all those involved.
  • For radiography, there should be no more than three people (handler, radiographer and plate holder). The plate holder should use long-handled equipment so that they are not within 2 metres of the radiographer, and where safe should be as far from the handler as possible, i.e. the other side of the horse or back to back.
  • For endoscopy, if possible this should be done with two people only, one passing and viewing the scope and the other holding the horse.
  • Endeavour to get the seller to pre-fill and sign either of the Full Seller's Declaration or the Seller's Permission Form (available shortly) prior to vetting or alternatively if this is not possible either of these forms can be signed at the beginning of the vetting. When obtaining signatures, gloves should be worn and the paperwork stored in a plastic enveloped that can be wiped down with disinfectant.
  • Discussion of the results of the examination should preferably be performed at a safe distance or by phone / video call.

Practical Considerations

Purchaser Viewings and Horse Selection Process

Whilst this element does not involve the vet (or BEVA) it must be considered where the pre-purchase examination process is being assessed in its entirety. 

  • Purchasers can, and do, view horses remotely using video footage
  • Purchasers can, and do, assess a horse's competition history online
  • Disclosure of the horse's veterinary history can be performed electronically (eg via email) where this is agreed by the seller, and can be done in advance of any physical interaction taking place.

BookING the pre-purchase examination

  • A telephone/video call with the purchaser is advised prior to embarking on a pre-purchase examination to avoid the pitfalls of starting a pre-purchase examination which may not proceed to completion for some reason. 
  • Endeavour to get the seller to pre-fill and sign either the Fuller Seller's Declaration or the Seller's Permission Form (available shortly) prior to vetting.
  • Facilities should be discussed in detail with the vendor to ensure they are adequate for the pre-purchase examination to take place. Particular attention should be paid to how easily it will be to physically distance between the persons present. 
  • Washing facilities or other means of cleaning hands and equipment should be discussed.
  • The temperament of the horse should be discussed with both the vendor and purchaser to ascertain whether the pre-purchase examination can be carried out safely with the minimum number of people required. Ideally the vet and one other person should be present, with that person holding, presenting and riding the horse. Any additional observers, for example the purchaser, should keep a safe distance at all times and refrain from touching anything in terms of equipment, gates, stable doors, the horse, etc. 
  • Additional procedures may be required and this should be discussed in advance, as they may require an additional person to attend the pre-purchase examination. If radiographs are required (for insurance purposes or otherwise) it may be preferable to carry out the pre-purchase examination at a clinic, where a team who are already working together and well-rehearsed in the process can radiograph the horse without the need for additional people (e.g. the seller) holding the horse. If an additional procedure is to be performed at the yard, particular attention should be paid to maintaining physical distancing between those involved. For example, the use of long handles during radiography, using blocks and plate stands, or positioning people so as to maximise physical distance from each other, and not facing towards each other, whilst maintaining horse handling and radiation safety measures. Face masks, gloves etc should be used judiciously.

Performing the pre-purchase examination

  • If presentation of the horse can be carried out by one person and physical distancing is discussed and adhered to, then this is the ideal situation.
  • If wearing gloves, the vet will need to remove their gloves to carry out palpatory examinations, therefore hand-washing and disinfection procedures should be implemented accordingly. We would advise that vets carry their own disinfectant wipes and hand sanitising products.
  • Ridden examination would ideally be performed by the person presenting to reduce the number of people involved, however a third person could carry out this process providing the same physical distancing rules are adhered to.
  • Blood sampling should proceed where safe to do so and the holder can restrain the horse suitably whilst maximising physical distance from the vet. 
  • The seller’s signature is normally required on both the quadruplicate document which accompanies the VDS Blood Sampling Kit, and the Seller Declaration on the BEVA pre-purchase examination worksheet. In light of the current Covid-19 restrictions BEVA have produced separate Seller Declaration and Permissions Forms (available shortly) which collate all the information a seller would normally need to sign or give permission for, minimising the need to exchange paperwork between parties. This document can be emailed to the seller beforehand, and a signed copy scanned and emailed back. If the seller does not have access to a printer an alternative arrangement will be necessary as deemed satisfactory by the attending vet (e.g. emailed receipt of the document as proof of agreement). If a hard copy of the document is to be signed by the seller and kept by the vet, appropriate measures should be used as deemed appropriate (e.g. gloves, separate pens, sealed plastic bag, etc).


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