Equine Veterinarian Career Information

Equine veterinarians are vets who deal exclusively with horses. This is a very large area of veterinary practice, and includes many related industries as well as basic local veterinary practice.

The Work Environment

Equine vets work in three main streams of practice:

  • Local vets: General veterinary practice care and treatment of domestic and farm horses. 

  • Racing industry vets: Concerned with health and treatment of racehorses.

  • Horse breeding vets: Involved in horse breeding programs, health care of horses and foals. 

Specialization in particular fields of equine veterinary practice is based on the fact that horses are very big business, globally. The racing and horse breeding industries are multi-billion dollar industries in the US, Europe, Australia and Asia. Some horses are worth millions as breeding stock. Racehorses may be worth much more as both racehorses and breeding stock. 

Basic equine veterinary practice involves:

  • Examination 
  • Diagnosis
  • Vaccination
  • Consultation
  • Treatment and management of medical conditions
  • Some surgical procedures which don't require hospitalization

These practices are often case management scenarios, requiring monitoring of the animal's health and extensive advisory work. 

Types of employment also dictate the work environment: 

  • Local vets: Local vets work in private practice, usually serving a specific local area. They provide broad spectrum general care, and in some cases are the primary source of medical advice for major issues with horses. 

  • Racing industry vets: Racing industry vets work for trainers and stables. Their work involves a structured program of monitoring and care of the horses under management. This involves ongoing examinations, monitoring of diet, checking the status of injuries, and the fitness of horses to race. 

  • Horse breeding vets: Horse breeding vets work for horse breeders, usually on a contract business basis. Their work is similar to that of local and racing industry vets, involving thorough management of brood stock health. This work includes specific elements of medical management of horse breeding, particularly any complications or diseases suffered during gestation.

Wages and salary: These vary considerably, depending on the nature of the work, employee status, whether the vet owns their own practice, and the specific services, like surgery, provided.

Entry level salary is around $45,000. Managerial salaries are up to $150,000 and above. Contract fees are determined by the parties. 

Hours: Local vets usually work clinic hours, with exceptions for emergencies. Other equine vets may be required to be available on demand for emergencies, or work within the time frames of the employer or client, or in accordance with the terms of provision of service in a contract. 

The Career Environment

The horse industry is a very big cash flow industry, and it's the natural area for career progression for equine vets. This is a network-based industry in many ways, and a good professional practice can be built up through references.

In many ways veterinary practices should be considered as businesses, as well as medical services.

  • A local vet may provide specialist equine services in accordance with the needs of the community, like rural communities.

  • Racing industry vets, within their specialty zone, can progress through the levels of service to major league stables and training establishments.

  • Horse breeding specialists progress through the industry levels to contract jobs working for major breeding businesses.