Equestrian Veterinarian

By: Emily Shrimpton

Education and Training

What is the typical education required for this career?

A bachelor's degree with coursework in chemistry, physics, biology, biochemistry, zoology, calculus and statistics. Students then take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT) or Medical College Medicine Admission Test (MCAT) and submit their scores to compete for spots in Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programs. With a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, the culmination of a rigorous course of study involving both small and large animal species. There are 28 colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States that offer a DVM degree. Those aiming to become an equine veterinarian can seek clinical work while in a program and serve internships in that field. Specialists in fields such as surgery, dentistry and neurology also must receive training in a residency program. Equine veterinarians must acquire a license from the state where they hope to practice.

How many years of study are involved?

These graduate programs typically take four years to complete, after which horse veterinarians complete board-certification exams to earn licenses, frequently followed by one-year internships.

Earnings

What is the typical range of salaries for this job?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that equine veterinarians just starting out earn, on average, about $43,000 annually, with the top 10 percent exceeding $145,000. Age, years of experience and location are all notable factors in salary.

In this area? Elsewhere?

The AAEP survey reported that members in the organization's south central district – consisting of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee – earned on average $143,560 annually. Compare this with the lowest average salary earned by its members practicing in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming - its northwestern district - of $82,240.

Job Skills, Skills, and Experience

What special skills, talents, or personality traits are necessary for this occupation?

The most important skill is a passion for animals and a commitment to the health and well-being of animals. All veterinarians need outstanding competency in math, science, language and research and a commitment to lifelong learning. A veterinarian practice is primarily a service business that provides health care for animals therefore business skills are needed. Interpersonal skills are also required when an animal is too old or sick to live a quality life and there are no more treatment options, a veterinarian must be sensitive around this situation and advise the owner that the animal should be euthanized.

Where could you gain experience?

Volunteering at an animal shelter or clinic can gain experience.

Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects that job opportunities for all veterinarians, including horse veterinarians, will grow 36% from 2010-2020. The limited number of graduates from veterinary medicine programs ensures that each graduate can typically find work. The mean annual salary for veterinarians, including horse veterinarians, was $93,250 in 2012.

Typical Day

What are the tasks involved in this career?

Equine veterinarians often are active travelers. Rather than requiring horse owners to bring their horses to a practice setting for treatment, equine veterinarians typically travel to farms and stables to treat horses where they live. Equine veterinarians' vehicles often are packed with equipment and medicine, amounting to an office on wheels, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Performing tasks such as basic exams, giving routine vaccinations, drawing blood, prescribing medications, evaluating and suturing wounds, performing surgeries, and post-surgical follow up exams are all part of a typical day. Other duties may include performing pre-purchase exams, monitoring the reproductive health of breeding stallions and broodmares, assisting with foalings, and taking x-rays.

What are the usual hours?

Equine veterinarians often have work weeks that exceed 40 hours and include emergency care, such as managing a birth, that can occur at all hours of the day.