At the market type horse auctions the horses are most often sold as seen with no vetting or warranty. In such cases it is necessary to check the horse over yourself before the auction starts and don't rely on any information given by the seller unless proof is given.
At the low or middle range auctions horses may be offered in the auction with some form of "warranty" that the horse is as described, sound and/or fit for a particular purpose. Definitions of any warranties are usually listed on the auctioneer's web site or in the catalogue. If such a warranty is given for any horse this will be announced as the horse enters the ring or the auction may have different sections in the auction for warranted and unwarranted horses. Where a horse is warranted the buyer is usually entitled to return the horse to the seller if the horse is found not to live up the warranty, ie is not sound or fit for the purpose specified, within a certain timescale although this timescale is usually only a few days.
However, warranties may be loosely worded or open to interpretation and the onus will be on the buyer to proove that the horse is not as described, sound or fit for the purpose specified. The seller may also be some distance away and you may or may not be able to recover any vetting costs that you have incurred after buying the horse, or the travel costs incurred when returning the horse. It is important to read through the auction terms for full details of any warranties given.
Some horse auctions offer vetting as an option to be carried out at the auction premises by vets in attendance after the hammer has fallen, with the cost of this vetting being added to the final hammer price. Once the hammer has fallen the auctioneer will ask the successful bidder if they want the horse vetted and an answer must be given before the horse leaves the ring. The horse will then be taken back to its stable and added to the list of horses to be vetted.
The on-site vets are kept informed of the lot number of horses to be vetted and they will vet each horse in turn, so depending on the number of horses that have already gone through the ring and requiring vetting it can be some time before any horse is vetted. The list of horses waiting to be vetted is usually displayed by their lot numbers so buyers can keep a check on when their horse is likely to be vetted and be in attendance when the vetting is carried out.
Following the vetting, the vet will inform the buyer of the results and if the horse has failed the vetting the buyer has no obligation to continue with the purchase of the horse. If the horse has passed the vetting then the buyer is obligated to complete the sale.
Should the horse fail the vetting but the buyer still wants to purchase the horse, then this may still be possible by negotiating a lower price directly with the seller.
The prestige horse auctions most often have all horses vetted before the auction with x-rays also carried out. The cost of the vetting and x-rays is usually added to the hammer price to be paid by the successful buyer and the cost of these can be found in the auction terms and conditions in the catalogue.
The vets are in attendance at the auction and potential bidders are able to view the vetting results and discuss these with the vets prior to the auction starting. It is important to check the vetting records before the auction starts as buyers are obligated to complete the sale once the hammer has fallen.