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Global Equine - News


Aug 20, 2014

Buying a Horse

While many of you will have been through the process of buying a horse and pre-purchase vet checks, I’d like to share my recent experience when I purchased Gordon in France. It’s interesting to compare and see how ‘horsey’ things are done in different parts of the globe. 

Buying a suitable competition horse for me to campaign in Europe was certainly a huge step emotionally and financially. I had been fortunate enough to ride and compete Gordon for a few months but I needed to put him through the best vet check I could, to make sure that all was as it should be and he was the right man for the job!



Trotting up for a vet check at CSI2* Dinnard © Jacqui Ridley

Step one was to determine where I needed to take him. Back home in Australia I had learnt the importance of consulting the most experienced equine vets with access to high quality diagnostic equipment and skills. Fortunately I could rely on recommendations from Amy (Graham) and our own equine specialist at Haras Du Ry and I found that the place to take Gordon was CIRALE (Center of Imaging and Research in Equine Locomotor Affections in Deauville. CIRALE is a unit dedicated to the diagnostic imaging of the equine movement and health with state-of-the-art equipment beyond my imagination. Gordon was to be examined in depth by the very best in France! 

Arriving at CIRALE I quickly realised that Gordon was in for the works and we were immediately surrounded by not one but 10 vets and trainee vets all eager to observe the investigation. Needless to say Gordon was on his best behaviour and we began with close inspection of general conformation, feet and legs etc. The all too familiar flexion tests came next. The purpose of the flexion test is to identify any potential sources of lameness.  Positive reactions to a flexion test are graded on a scale of 1 to 5 and any reaction warrants further investigation to determine where and if there are problems. 


Flexion test © Jacqui Ridley


The next in hand test had Gordon walking then trotting around in a very small circle. Tight circle work can sometimes show a point of weakness and unevenness and all eyes were glued on him as he performed the circle work in hand with absolutely no problem. I must add that while the entire examination was in progress the staff of CIRALE were taking both video footage and photographs. The video was later replayed and studied in slow motion to determine the correctness of his action in all paces. 

With the extensive in-hand tests complete I saddled up and worked him under the intense gaze of these equine experts: walk, trot, canter, extended and collected work and then jumping. Again all was videoed and studied later in slow motion. There was a lot of incomprehensible (to me) discussion in French but everything was carefully summarised and explained to me in perfect English, (note to self - I must somehow master at least a basic smattering of French equine lingo sooner rather than later!).


 I think it was safe to say there were enough vets present during the examination! © Jacqui Ridley

When the senior vet had seen enough of Gordon working under saddle it was time for the x-rays and scans to be taken. There seems to be a standard number of x-rays that are taken in France - around 22 is the norm. If there are any specific areas of concern then further images are generally recommended. In Gordon’s case I was recommended to have images of his front tendons taken since he is long in the pasterns. The length in the pasterns gives him a lot of spring in his stride but can result in strain on the tendons. One recommendation that came out of the examination was that I should have him shod with lighter aluminium shoes. Another additional group of x rays were taken of his spine to check for ‘kissing spine’, a condition where the processes of the vertebrae impinge on each other and result in back pain and other problems. Again Gordon was given the all clear. Another important area for any performance horse is the sacroiliac and lumbar regions. The vet used a rectal probe to check this area on Gordon. While there were some areas of fusion found I was told not to be concerned as this condition was congenital and even one of the best Olympic show jumpers had similar!


Getting the full work down with over 22 x-rays © Jacqui Ridley

Finally samples of Gordon’s blood were taken for checking. It is important to check for any diseases which the horse may carry - the presence of certain diseases may make a horse ineligible for import to Australia for example.


Just some of the results of over 2 hours of radiographs and scans © Jacqui Ridley


Some more scans © Jacqui Ridley

With approximately 5 hours of extensive diagnostic examination Gordon came through with as near to perfect a report as one could wish for. For me ... ‘quite a reasonable’ vet bill (bit of an oxymoron) but the satisfaction that I have a healthy, capable horse to invest time, money and training in. Now let’s hope I can keep him in peak health and fitness for a long, long time!

A great reference picture for some typical vet check lingo


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