Last Updated on November 14, 2022 by Fola Shade
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Veterinary medical technicians who specialize in working with horses are known as equine veterinary medical technicians. There is a high demand for equine veterinary technicians in the United States, with roughly 3.6 million horses and 504,795 farms reporting owning, breeding, producing, or training horses.
Other forms of veterinary technicians are not distinguished from equine vet techs by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, however the profession is increasing faster than average. From 2014 to 2024, the profession of veterinary technician is predicted to grow at a pace of 19 percent, which is 12 percent faster than the average job growth rate.
A Brief Overview of an Equine Veterinary Technician’s Job
Samantha Rowland, a graduate of Wilson College and an equine veterinary technician (LVT, VTS [Anesthesia/Analgesia]), says that the majority of equine veterinarians operate a mobile practice. Veterinarians on the road almost all day long, and the technician often rides along on farm calls, assisting with whatever is needed. “This can include horse handling, assisting with radiographs or ultrasounds, assisting with shockwave treatments and many other things,” Rowland said.
In general, equine veterinary technicians work beside equine veterinarians, similar to the way a small animal vet tech assists veterinarians in private practice. They may assist during surgery, routine examinations or health checks. Giving injections, drawing blood for lab tests and conducting X-rays or other tests may also be part of the job.
Equine veterinary technicians must have a keen eye for a horse’s demeanor and be able to spot any signs of lameness, illness or other issues to report to the veterinarian in charge of the case. Some equine vet techs monitor horses at specialized veterinary hospitals, while others work at racetracks, breeding farms or in private practice.
To be an equine vet tech, you must also be in good physical health. Horses are large, strong animals, and a frightened or injured horse needs to be safely and humanely restrained so the veterinarian can treat it. You may need to hold a horse still for X-rays or walk or trot the horse for a soundness exam. Some vet techs may be asked to occasionally ride a horse, so riding skills are also essential.
The Typical Schedule of an Equine Vet Tech
The hours an equine veterinary technician works are typically long, but there can be a great deal of variety in what you accomplish from day to day. Most equine veterinary technicians go on barn calls, which can mean rising at dawn and accompanying the vet on calls to check on horses, conduct pre-purchase exams, administer vaccinations and worming medications, and respond to emergencies.
Like human nurses and doctors, equine veterinarians and technicians are “on call” seven days a week. Most work on rotating shifts within a practice, which means that for one day out of every three or four days, they may respond to calls at any time—day or night. Just like people, horse emergencies don’t always fall within a regular 9-to-5 schedule.
A typical day may look something like this:
- Arrive at work. While most equine vet techs are associated with a mobile practice, they may still have an office from which to complete paperwork and check messages.
- Typical duties may include:
- Reviewing messages and responding to emergencies.
- Returning calls to collect additional information on a horse’s condition and schedule appointments.
- Discussing cases with the veterinarian.
- Checking the mobile unit and restocking supplies as needed.
- Going on barn calls with the veterinarian. Calls may include emergencies (colic, injuries), scheduled visits to administer vaccinations or check on a horse’s condition, or pre-purchase examinations, among others.
- Planning the care and schedule necessary for the following day.
Most equine vet techs’ hours range from 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m. each day. Some days are longer. If an emergency call comes in late in the day, you’ll be expected to accompany the veterinarian and stay as long as needed.
Duties at a Veterinary Hospital
Equine veterinary technicians working at a teaching hospital or large breeding or racing facility typically make rounds to check on their patients. This includes taking horses’ vital signs, checking on their overall health status and responsiveness, and examining the healing process of wounds or surgical procedures.
Veterinary technicians may use a system with the acronym “SOAP” to check horses first thing in the morning:
- Subjective assessment: How does the horse look? Is he responsive and alert?
- Objective assessment: What is his temperature, pulse and respiration? The vital signs may be checked against previous shifts and any changes reported to the veterinarian.
- Action: What actions are needed? Bandages may need to be changed or medicines administered.
- Planning: What care must be planned for the next 24 hours? For example, horses may need to be hand-walked, clipped or prepped for surgery.
Equine veterinary medical technicians must take special care in preparing for surgeries, which may include clipping and cleaning the surgical site on the horse. They are also responsible for setting up the site for surgery, including:
- Creating a sterile field for barn surgeries or emergency calls (draping blankets or sheets and cleaning the general area).
- Preparing and sterilizing instruments.
- Checking medications and supplies.
- Checking equipment.
Equine vet techs may hand equipment to the veterinarian during surgery. Often a second vet tech is in the room to circulate and replenish supplies or assist as needed.
Benefits of Working as an Equine Veterinary Technician
For people who love horses, science and a changing daily schedule, becoming an equine veterinary medical technician may be the perfect job.
Equine VMTs study equine health, anatomy, physiology, feeding and nutrition, and animal husbandry. Many also help veterinarians with the business end of their practice, so they may want to include business courses in their education. While associate degree programs are typical, a four-year bachelor’s degree program provides ideal preparation for the field.
Equine VMTs also must learn to ride horses, and colleges like Wilson that have VMT programs often offer equestrian programs, where students can learn to ride or become more proficient riders. Regardless of when you learned to ride, as an equine VMT, you should be comfortable in the saddle and around horses of various training levels—you may be asked to hop onto a green prospect in the morning and school a seasoned champion later that day.
For equine VMTs who work at a large teaching hospital, there is also the added benefit of being able to specialize in the veterinary field. Specialists in the equine vet tech field include:
- Equine anesthesiology
- Emergency/critical care
- Internal medicine
- Neonatal intensive care
Many equine vet techs also work with other equine professionals. The veterinarian may call in a farrier—a professional skilled at assessing, trimming, and shoeing horses—for example. Vet techs must be comfortable working with many different equine professionals in a given day.
Of course, becoming a successful equin requires more than a passion for horses.
The following veterinary schools can prepare students to become equine veterinarians:
|College/University||Location||Institution Type||Tuition (In-state, 2016-17)*|
|University of California – Davis||Davis, CA||4-year, Public||$31,324|
|Cornell University||Ithaca, NY||4-year, Private||$33,732|
|Colorado State University||Fort Collins, CO||4-year, Public||$57,766 (non-sponsored)|
|North Carolina State University||Raleigh, NC||4-year, Public||$18,516|
|Ohio State University||Columbus, OH||4-year, Public||$31,148|
|University of Wisconsin – Madison||Madison, WI||4-year, Public||$22,762|
|Texas A&M University – College Station||College Station, TX||4-year, Public||$22,224|
|University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||4-year, Private||$51,384|
|University of Minnesota – Twin Cities||Minneapolis, MN||4-year, Public||$31,420|
|Tufts University||Medford, MA||4-year, Private||$47,010|
Equine Vet School Requirements
What Is an Equine Veterinarian?
Horses can be seen everywhere from rodeos to dressage meets to Olympic competitions. Equine vets are specialty veterinarians for horses. They can have their own clinics or work for barns or organizations that take care of or board a large number of horses. They need a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, and they may complete a postgraduate internship in equine care. Their duties could include examining horses to diagnose health problems, treating injuries, performing surgery, prescribing medication, euthanizing sick or injured horses, providing vaccinations and advising owners regarding the care of their horses. The following chart gives an overview of what you need to know to enter this profession.
|Degree Required||Bachelor’s degree & Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from an accredited school|
|Education Field of Study||Veterinary medicine with specialization in horses|
|Training Required||Optional 1-yr. internship available post-grad|
|Key Skills||Provide medical treatment & healthcare for horses; provide information on horse nutrition, breeding & housing|
|Licensure/Certification Required||North American Veterinary Licensing Exam required; state license required; board certification optional|
|Job Growth (2018-2028 )||18% increase for all veterinarians*|
|Average Salary (2018)||$105,240 for all veterinarians*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Education Do I Need to Become an Equine Veterinarian?
Some professional veterinary programs will admit students that do not have bachelor’s degrees, but if you have not earned a bachelor’s degree, you may struggle to be admitted. All programs require students to complete at least two to three years of pre-veterinary coursework from an undergraduate program. Undergrad classes should include animal and general biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, genetics and physics.
To become an equine veterinarian, you must obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from a college or university accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A DVM program takes four years to complete. Generally, the first three years of the program involve coursework useful for all types of veterinary practice, such as anatomy, histology, veterinary neurobiology and reproductive physiology. The fourth year is dedicated to clinical rotations through several areas of veterinary care like large animal medicine, surgery, critical care and ambulatory care.
Many graduates of a DVM program opt to pursue a 1-year internship to gain further hands-on experience before entering practice. Organizations like the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians can connect you with an internship under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.
After completion of your internship, you can specialize further by applying to a residency program for a subspecialty like sports medicine, radiology, theriogenology, large animal surgery or equine internal medicine. A residency program lasts 3-5 years and will prepare you to take a certification exam in your subspecialty.
What Licensing or Certification Do I Need?
Following graduation from a DVM program, you must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, which is provided by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. You’re also required to obtain a license from the state in which you intend to practice. After you become a practicing veterinarian, you can become board certified in equine practice through the AMVA without a residency.
What Would My Job Duties Include?
As an equine veterinarian, you might provide assistance with reproduction and birthing, as well as medical care, including vaccinations, wound dressing, surgeries and procedures to repair mild bone breaks. You could care for all types of equines, like farm, ranch, race, performance or reproductive horses.
Equine veterinarians often travel to farms or ranches to perform their duties. You might also consult with ranchers and farmers regarding the feeding, housing and breeding of horses. You could also opt to work in a veterinary teaching hospital, where you would research new methods used to prevent and treat equine illnesses.
Best Equine Vet Schools UK
Top Eight UK Universities for Veterinary Medicine
1. University of Edinburgh
The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh was the highest ranked veterinary school in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework 2014 and is currently ranked the best in the UK by the Guardian University Guide.
Extra-Mural Studies placements allow students to further practice their animal handling and clinical skills, as well as increasing their confidence, increasing their work experience and providing a valuable insight into the real world of work and the School is fully accredited by the UK’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- Course to consider: BVMS (hons) Veterinary Medicine
2. University of Nottingham
The School of Veterinary Science at the University of Nottingham ranked top of the National Student Survey (NSS) since its first graduating cohort in 2011, as well as being ranked 2nd in the UK for research power. In a recent Association of Veterinary Students survey, Nottingham was ranked first for career progression preparation, extra mural studies structure and student welfare.
- Course to consider: Veterinary Medicine and Surgery including a Gateway Year
3. University of Glasgow
The University of Glasgow Veterinary School is one of only four Vet Schools in Europe to have achieved accredited status for its undergraduate programmes from the American Veterinary Medical Association. In the 2016 National Student Survey, the School of Veterinary Medicine was voted number 1 in the UK for Veterinary Science.
- Course to consider: BVMS veterinary Medicine & Surgery
4. University of Liverpool
The University of Liverpool Institute of Veterinary Science has two on-site working farms as well as two referral hospitals, and three first opinion practices, enabling undergraduates to gain valuable hands-on experience of all aspects of veterinary practice. The Institute was voted second for veterinary science in a recent national student survey of universities.
- Course to consider: BVSc (hons) Veterinary Science 1+5 year (Foundation route)
5. University of Cambridge
Modern facilities in the Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital at the University of Cambridge include a five-theatre small animal surgical suite, a fully-equipped intensive care unit and an equine surgical suite and diagnostic unit, with an MRI machine capable of imaging standing horses. Small animals, farm animals and horses are housed on-site to provide continual opportunities to consolidate your animal handling skills. The nearby University Farm also allows all students to become involved in lambing and dairy management.
- Course to consider: Vet.M.B (hons) Veterinary Medicine
6. University of Bristol
The Veterinary School at the University of Bristol currently offers three undergraduate degrees, one taught Masters programme and have been training veterinary professionals for over 50 years. In the School of Veterinary Sciences, academics are leaders in their field, whose research helps inform national policies that can lead to developments within veterinary practice.
- Course to consider: BVSc Veterinary Science: Accelerated graduate entry
7. University of Surrey
The School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Surrey is the UK’s newest veterinary school, opening in 2015. State-of-the-art facilities worth £45m include a Veterinary Clinical Skills Centre, Veterinary Pathology Centre and modern lecture theatres and laboratories. In the National Student Survey 2019 the School achieved 100% student satisfaction and continues to go from strength-to-strength.
- Course to consider: BVMSci (Hons) Veterinary Medicine and Science
8. Royal Veterinary College
The Royal Veterinary College is the first veterinary school in the UK, and the only one worldwide, to achieve full accreditation by the European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education (EAEVE) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). 86% of recent Veterinary Medicine students found work (or went on to further study) within six months of graduation.
- Course to consider: BVetMed (hons) Veterinary Medicine
Best Vet Schools in the World 2021
|Top 10 Universities for Veterinary Science in the World Based on the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021|
|Rank||Name of Institution||Location|
|1||Royal Veterinary College, University of London||United Kingdom|
|2||University of California, Davis (UCD)||United States|
|3||University of Edinburgh||United Kingdom|
|4||Cornell University||United States|
|5||University of Guelph||Canada|
|6||Ohio State University||United States|
|7=||University of Cambridge||United Kingdom|
|7=||University of Copenhagen||Denmark|
|7=||Vetsuisse Faculty Bern and Zurich||Switzerland|
|10||University of Glasgow||United Kingdom|