Equine medicine encompasses an unusual place in animal husbandry as horses fulfill both companion and production niches. Veterinarians often have to balance practical and emotional considerations when working with horse owners.
Equine veterinarians provide diagnostics in the form of laboratory tests and physical examinations to horses and ponies. They treat conditions based on their professional assessment. They also provide preventative medicine by vaccinations and deworming protocols. Sometimes they may have to perform lameness evaluation, surgery, and reproductive assistance.
There are over 9.2 million horses in the United States alone. Although a third of them are concentrated in Texas, California, Florida, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, there are plenty of career opportunities for equine vets throughout the nation
An estimated two million people in America own horses and another two million are involved with the equine industry in various capacities.
The private sector employs 75 percent of all veterinarians, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners. About 63.5 percent of private practices are sole owner enterprises while the remainder involves multiple partners or specialty referral centers.
Many equine practices provide mobile services rather than requiring owners to haul their horses. A veterinarian’s vehicle can quickly become a rolling clinic. A truck or van can easily be transformed to supply inhouse radiographic and diagnostic capabilities along with medications, injections, running water, and other supplies.
Referral practices may offer an ambulatory service. A common practice is to combine mobile and inhouse options.
Some equine veterinarians provide services to all large animals, including food animals, while others treat dogs and cats. Almost 50 percent of equine veterinarians treat only horses, and some have the luxury of focussing on certain disciplines like dressage or horseracing. This necessitates additional knowledge about specific horse breeds and certain activity-related issues.
Becoming a board-certified certified equine specialist involves more than focusing on dedicated horse-related events. Examples of specialties are radiology, equine surgery, and reproduction. Obtaining board certification will increase the demand for your skills.
The public sector
There is only about five percent of equine veterinarians in academia. A very small percentage work for the government.
Equine veterinarians can also find opportunities in animal feeds, pharmaceuticals research and development, and herd management of wild horse populations in the Western United States.
How to start
Minimal educational requirements to become a veterinarian are two years of undergraduate work with a specific curriculum and four years of study at an accredited veterinary medicine school. The veterinary school focuses on teaching anatomy, pharmacology, biochemistry, and clinical applications involving all species.
If you are considering a career in equine medicine, you can never start your preparations too early. You should focus on doing well in science and mathematics as early as junior high school. In high school, you need to concentrate on chemistry, biology, and math.
Your veterinary education will result in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. The United States also requires you to pass a licensing test with clinical and standardized parts before you can practice. Different states may mandate you take their specific exams as well before you may work in any clinics.
Like in human practice, equine board certification usually requires both an internship and a residency. Once you complete these, you will take a test to prove your qualifications.
Although having experience around horses is not an absolute requirement to be an equine veterinarian, it is a huge benefit. Internships and externships prefer to match people who are comfortable around horses.
Owners will have more confidence in your abilities if you handle their horses in a self-assured manner. Finally, horses can pose a danger by virtue of their size alone. Experience gives you the tools to manage the largest and high-strung of horses.
If you did not grow up around horses, you are not doomed. Obtaining valuable horse experience is relatively easy. People are eager to teach others about horses because they require so much work. You can reach a nice level of comfort around horses in a relatively short time.
Future of equine veterinarians
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinarian jobs are projected to grow by 19 percent between 2016 and 2026, faster than most other industries. Equine veterinarians, however, are influenced more by economic fluctuations than the other fields.
Despite the decline over recent years of horseracing, other Sporthorse disciplines have correspondingly risen. State-of-the-art facilities that once catered to standardbred harness racers and Thoroughbred milers now treat expensive hunter/jumpers and dressage competitors in a similar fashion.
The average equine veterinarian can expect to make between $42,000 and $87,000 annually. The AVMA puts the median salary for equine veterinarians around $85,000 per year. Veterinarians who stick with equine work, however, reap benefits.
Equine veterinarians aged 50 years and older often make $140,000 or more each year. Finally, equine practitioners in south-central states like Kentucky and Tennessee make $143,000 average annual salary, higher than any other US geographic region.
Broken down into types of practices, equine veterinarians make an average of $114,00 annually in private practice. The highest earners in this group still come from the racing industry. The largest salaries overall are reported from those who work in the public sector with equine feed or supplements. In 2016, 25 percent of equine veterinarians earned more than $118,000 annually, and 75 percent earned at least $69,000 per year.
Not only do you help horses as an equine veterinarian, but you provide unmatched service to your clients. Almost 80 percent of horse owners say they rely heavily on their veterinarians for advice and guidance in the care and treatment of their animals.