How to Become a Horse Veterinarian


Horse veterinarians, also known as equine veterinarians, are animal-based health professionals that have a doctorate in veterinary medicine. They have also passed a state and/or national licensing exam. These doctors work with ranchers, horse breeders and horse owners to treat and care for horses.  Horse veterinarians vaccinate, diagnose, treat and perform surgery on horses. In addition, they typically treat the horses their residences (ranches and farms) rather than at veterinarian offices and/or animal hospitals.

These individuals usually have extensive experience working with and/or caring for horses.  Horse veterinarians help horse owners with stabling, nutrition, performance issues and breeding. If you are interested in becoming a horse veterinarian, you have come to the right place. This article can provide you with the information you need to have a long, successful career in veterinarian medicine.

Job Duties

As a horse veterinarian, your main duties will consist of diagnosing and treating horses. You may work in a variety of settings, but all of these settings will require you to interact with animals and their owners. You normal routine will be to give exams, administer vaccinations, perform surgeries, draw blood, prescribe medications, assess and treat injuries, illnesses and medical conditions and suture wounds.

You may also be required to monitor the fertility of broodmares and stallions, take x-rays and assist with foaling. There may be time when you will need to work with other veterinarians to treat lameness issues, correct limb deformities and/or resolve balance problems. You should expect to work between five and six days week. In addition, you may be required to be “on-call” at certain times. You will more than likely spend the majority of your time outside.

Educational Requirements

If you want to become a horse veterinarian, your first step is to acquire a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Your coursework should consist of: calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, biochemistry, statistics and zoology. Once you have successfully completed an undergraduate program, you will need to take the Veterinary College Admission Test, Graduate Record Examination and/or the Medical College Medicine Admission Test.

After you have passed one of the exams listed above, you will need to send those scores to various veterinary medical schools. You should expect to be in a veterinarian graduate program for approximately four years, after which you will need to complete an internship and take licensure and/or certification exams. Once you have finished your graduate program in veterinary medicine (with an emphasis on small and large animals), you be a doctor of veterinary medicine.

Professional Organizations

You may also want to join a professional organization once you have obtained your doctorate degree in veterinarian medicine. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (2013), approximately 10,000 veterinarians, from 67 countries, are members of the organization.

Salary Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), approximately 70% of horse veterinarians have their own practices. These horse veterinarians either make ranch or farm visits or work from an equine-specialized veterinary clinic. Some horse veterinarians offer clinic-based and home visits so that clients have a choice for services. In addition, it is not unusual for horse veterinarians to also treat and care for other animals like: sheep, cattle, dogs, cats and/or goats.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), you can expect to make approximately $85,000 per year. If you fall in the lower 10%, you can expect to earn approximately $45,000 per year, while if you fall in the higher 10%, you can expect to make approximately $143,000 or more a year. Moreover, if you own a large veterinarian clinic you can expect to make approximately $63,000 per year. You will make the most, per year, if you are board-certified in a certain area (oncology, ophthalmology and/or surgery).

Career Outlook

The career outlook for veterinarian services looks positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), horse veterinary employment opportunities are expected to increase approximately 35% by 2018. The increase will stem from the lack of horse veterinarians in the workforce. California, Florida and Texas boast the highest numbers of horse veterinarians. Although the United States has the highest number of horse veterinarians, the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany also have a large number of horse veterinarians.

The growth will also come from the increasing interests in equine competitions. Moreover, as people turn to alternative methods (caring for and riding horses) to treat ailments and medical conditions the need for horse veterinarians will continue to rise. There are over nine million horses in the United States so job employment should be available for the foreseeable future.

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