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How do I Become an Equine Practitioner?

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  • Written By: Vicki Hogue-Davies
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2018
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Equine practitioners care for sick and injured horses. It takes determination and hard work to become an equine practitioner, also called an equine veterinarian or equine veterinary practitioner. An undergraduate degree that includes college coursework in pre-veterinary study and four years of veterinary school followed by licensing normally are required. Competition to get into veterinary school can be stiff; in the United States, for example, approximately one-third of applicants are accepted. To increase your chances of being accepted, you should make sure you get good grades in math, in general sciences such as biology and in other parts of your pre-veterinary studies.

Horses can weigh as much as 2,000 lbs (910 kg) and can frighten easily. For safety's sake, you should be knowledgeable about horse behavior and comfortable working around horses when seeking to become an equine practitioner. Gaining hands-on experience by working in a horse-related job or riding, grooming and caring for your own horses or the horses of others is valuable. In the United States, Pony Club, 4-H, The National FFA Organization and youth chapters of horse breed organizations expose young people to horses and often are good places to gain experience.

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When planning for the best undergraduate program to become an equine practitioner, look for schools with programs in basic sciences and animal sciences. Some typical undergraduate majors for aspiring equine veterinarians include veterinary science, animal science, biology and zoology. When majoring in a science area, the courses required for that major often overlap with required pre-veterinary coursework. Any undergraduate major can be chosen, however, as long as the required pre-veterinary courses also are completed.

It is important to speak with advisors at undergraduate schools about the specific pre-veterinary classes that are required to get into specific veterinary schools. Pre-veterinary course requirements can differ among schools. They generally include the humanities, mathematics, sciences such as biology and more.

There are a couple of other things to keep in mind in your quest to become an equine practitioner. It is not necessary and won't necessarily give you an advantage to earn your undergraduate degree from a veterinary school. Also, it can be important when selecting an undergraduate major to consider how you can use the major in alternate careers, should that become necessary.

You might be required to take a test as part of the admissions process for veterinary school. Veterinary school typically takes four years to complete, followed by licensing, to earn the title Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). During veterinary school, you can apply for summer internships to gain experience in the field. You can also look for internships after graduating to help familiarize yourself with your new career working in horse health.

If you are planning to specialize in a specific area of equine medicine, additional coursework usually is required. Specialty areas include equine dentistry; surgery; theriogenology, which is involved with equine reproduction; and others. The majority of equine practitioners work in private veterinary practice. Others conduct research to improve horse health or teach in universities. Still other equine practitioners work for private corporations, pharmaceutical companies or government agriculture agencies.

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