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Equine Veterinary Careers

There are lots of exciting and rewarding careers available in the equine veterinary profession. We've provided information below on some of the key roles you could explore.

Career paths
There are a number of different types of careers available in the equine health sector. We've provided information on some of the options below along with information and where to go for further information.
Veterinary Surgeon

Veterinary medicine is a popular career choice and can provide a huge range of opportunities. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) provides information on the qualifications and work experience required to become a vet.

Within the UK horse industry, there are a whole host of employment opportunities for qualified vets. Clinical involvement can range from the care of pleasure horses within a mixed practice to highly specialised sports horses or racehorse care in a referral practice. Non-clinical positions, such as roles within Defra and pharmaceutical companies or as advisors to educational establishments or breed and industry societies, can also prove rewarding and open different aspects of veterinary involvement.

Veterinary Nurse

Equine Veterinary nurses are key members of the equine veterinary practice team so team work and communication skills are key to a successful career. Veterinary nurses are often the first port of call for clients, forming strong bonds with them to ensure improved animal health and welfare.

Each day you are likely to be involved in a variety of different aspects of horse care, from helping a veterinary surgeon in theatre to mucking out and feeding horses. Other tasks you may be involved in include:

  • Preparing horses for surgery
  • Cleaning and preparing the theatre and surgical instruments
  • Nursing sick horses and administering medication under veterinary supervision
  • Dressing wounds
  • Carrying out diagnostic tests
  • Completing necessary paperwork

As with Equine Vets, RCVS is responsible for the Equine RVN's qualification and details on the different training routes can be found Veterinary nursing students - Professionals (rcvs.org.uk). You can also find out more information for Equine RVN Careers pathways via the Careers - British Veterinary Nursing AssociationBritish Veterinary Nursing Association (bvna.org.uk).

Farrier

Farriers, like blacksmiths, are skilled metal workers. They must be experts on the foot structure and lower limb of all equines. They are a professional person regulated by law, who through their good practice in care, trimming and shoeing plays a crucial role in the ongoing welfare of the horse.

In Great Britain, the approved route to becoming qualified is by completing an Apprenticeship in Farriery. The Apprenticeship includes periods of block release college training, on the job training with an Approved Training Farrier (ATF) and completion of the End Point Assessment (EPA). Once an apprentice farrier has passed the End Point Assessment (EPA) and received the qualification of Diploma (DipWCF) which is awarded by the Farriers’ Company, they are free to go out and shoe and trim equines for clients.

You can find out more on the Farriers Registration Council.

Equine Dental Technician

An Equine Dental Technician (EDT) can perform routine checks and rasping (but not extractions or more complicated procedures which must be carried out by a vet). The conformation of the horse’s jaw, or problems with their teeth, could lead to many welfare and performance issues so appropriate dental care from a suitably qualified EDT or equine vet is absolutely crucial as part of routine care.

It takes on average four years to become a qualified equine dental technician by passing the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT) exam. Passing this prestigious exam entails collecting case studies and gaining significant practical experience with a qualified equine dentist. It is these qualities which help to safeguard horse welfare and provide peace of mind to the owner. By being a fully qualified member of the BAEDT, it also ensures that they have the full insurance to carry out all the procedures safely.

To find out more about EDT training go to British Association of Equine Dental Technicians - Home (baedt.com)

Physiotherapist in Animal Therapy

Animal physiotherapists treat a wide variety of musculoskeletal problems and work with injured animals, or animals with movement problems, to help reduce pain and improve their health.. They manipulate and mobilise joints and soft tissue, use electrotherapies such as ultrasound and laser therapy, and prescribe exercise regimes.

These practitioners use a hands-on approach to promote passive stretching, weight-shifting and the activation of spinal reflexes — exercises that are also helpful for post-operative rehabilitation.

Although courses in “veterinary physiotherapy” exist, the only route to becoming a chartered (accredited) physiotherapist is through a three- to four-year course in human physiotherapy, followed by in-practice experience and specialisation in animals via another two-year course. The Association of Chartered Physiotherapist in Animal Therapy (ACPAT) provides and list of Chartered Physiotherapists and available training courses. 


Osteopath trained to treat animals

Osteopathy is frequently referred to as treatment/manipulation of bones - especially the back and spinal column. However, osteopathy is more than that.
Osteopathic treatment examines movement restrictions, treating the body as a whole with the aim of improving mobility and reducing inflammatory processes. The principle is that the body can heal itself and is self-regulatory - therefore if one joint is blocked or a muscle is tense it will affect other parts of the body.

Osteopathy is used to assist -

  • Loss or decreased level of performance
  • Horses with gait problems (e.g. difficulty picking up correct lead)
  • Horses (or other animals) who suffer from lameness or stiffness
  • Horses with suspected back problems
  • Rehabilitation following surgery
  • Musculo-skeletal problems in many animals - large and small.


The number of treatments necessary will depend on the nature of the problem and the animal's individual response. It can be helpful to have your animal regularly checked, as Osteopaths are trained to detect early changes in the musculo-skeletal system, which if treated can help prevent more serious problems in the long-run.

To become an animal osteopath, you'll first need to become a qualified human osteopath (registered with the General Osteopathic Council) - and then further specialist training is required in order to treat animals.

You can find out more about becoming an animal osteopath on the Association of Animal Oesthopaths website.

Chiropractor trained to treat animals

The principle of chiropractic care is to mobilise and manipulate dysfunctional joints in order to restore, improve and optimise flexibility, symmetry, coordination, strength and balance. When achieved, this will improve function and performance in terms of reducing pain, relieving soft tissue spasms and asymmetries, increasing mechanical strength and stability and helping to restore nerve function. Chiropractic care is a non-invasive adjunct to veterinary treatment for many musculoskeletal and post-surgical conditions

Most animal chiropractors are trained to treat mammals and birds, including farm animals, as well as many reptiles, but the majority of the patients they see are horses, dogs and cats. The animal chiropractor’s ability to treat the partnership between dog and handler, and horse and rider, is unique and particularly valuable.

Chiropractors currently undertake at least four years of training in human chiropractic studies in order to qualify at Masters-level and register with the General Chiropractic Council. In order to treat animals, training in animal chiropractic is undertaken at Masters-level, or equivalent. This training typically involves anatomy, physiology, neurology, osteology, arthrology, gait analysis and biomechanics. Advanced biomechanics and kinematics, from a chiropractic perspective, may follow. 

You can find out more about becoming an animal Chiropractor on the RCC Website - https://rcc-uk.org/animal-faculty/