How To Become A Horse Doctor Or Equine Veterinarian

Equine veterinarians are fully qualified vets who specialize in treating horses, donkeys, mules and perhaps other equines (e.g. zebras). A horse veterinarian’s duties can be challenging because they involve traveling from place to place to see patients, working in less than optimal conditions and dealing with large animals (and their owners) who may be under duress. Even so, people who pursue this career usually do so because they love horses, so the challenges are all just part of a days’ work.

What Does A Horse Vet Do?

What Does A Horse Vet Do

Equine veterinarians perform examinations, administer vaccines and medications, deliver foals, provide advice on feeding, perform needed surgeries and much more. An equine vet must help owners meet the health and medical needs of their equine companions.

How Much Education Is Required?

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

A horse doctor must successfully attain a 4 year degree as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. This is typically done after attaining a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree. All-in-all, like an MD, veterinarians should have 8 years of higher education altogether.

In addition to formal education, an equine vet must have good horse sense, genuine compassion for equines and the ability to work and communicate effectively with horse’s owners, trainers, jockeys, law enforcement professionals and others who may be involved in the care of horses.

What Do You Have To Do To Become A Horse Vet?

What Do You Have To Do To Become A Horse Vet

First, you should go to college or university and earn a Bachelor’s Degree. This is not a strict requirement for attending veterinary school, but candidates who have a degree in an animal health care related field, such as:

  • Nutrition
  • Genetics
  • Zoology
  • Physics

…have a much better chance of being accepted to veterinary school than even the most experienced horseman or woman who may wander in off the street hoping to become a vet. Some veterinary schools will accept applicants who have successfully earned between 45 and 90 undergraduate credits.

It’s wise to pursue a well-rounded course of study that includes a good collection of general education requirements, such as:

  • Social Science
  • Humanities
  • Business
  • English
  • Math

All of these courses will help you in dealing with your human clients and in managing your business.

Second, you must apply to veterinary school and submit to standardized testing, such as:

  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
  • Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT)

Once you have passed the required exams, you can buckle down and earn your degree in veterinary medicine. If all goes well, this should take four years and you will emerge as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).

Of these four years, the first two will consist mostly of class work focusing on biomedical science. There will also be coursework that will help you prepare for working in a clinical practice.

Once you’ve completed the class work, you will get hands-on experience by participating in a clinical clerkship, supervised by a licensed vet. In the final year, this may involve completing clinical rotations in the specialty of your choosing (equine medicine).

Third, you may wish to complete an internship to get even more direct experience. Although it is possible to go right into practice after graduating, the Bureau of Labor Statistics advises that completing an internship is a smart choice that will result in more job opportunities and better pay.

Fourth, you must approach the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME) to take your licensing test and obtain your license to practice veterinary medicine. Specific requirements and procedures may vary depending upon your location.

Fifth, in addition to specializing in working with equines, you may wish to further narrow your field by specializing in a particular type of care, such as:

  • Preventative Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Dentistry
  • Surgery

To specialize, you will need three or four more years of residency training, which must be approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Once complete, you would apply for board certification in your specialty.

How Much Can An Equine Vet Earn?

How Much Can An Equine Vet Earn

In 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that equine vets generally had an annual income of about $99,000. It is important to note that the BLS also predicted that income for a veterinarian specializing in equine care is predicted to increase at a rate of approximately 9% annually.

Where Do Equine Vets Work?

You may pursue private practice, work within a larger established practice or look into working at a zoo, racetrack, training stable or other establishment where equines are cared for and housed.

How To Become A Horse Vet

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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