Combining a passion and love for the welfare and care of horses, equine veterinary careers offer a broad range of roles from technicians, researchers, veterinary surgeons and nurses.
- Individuals who want to combine a passion for horses with an interest in science and medicine as a basis for improving health and welfare.
- Variety; great for individuals who enjoy working with a variety of people (horse owners, farriers, other professionals), horses, environments, clinical work and challenges. No two days are the same.
An equine vet specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of horses in addition to providing routine care such as dentistry and vaccinations. Most equine vets work specifically on horses although some will work in mixed practices treating a wider range of species. Although demanding, this is an extremely rewarding career with responsibilities including diagnostics and treatment in first opinion cases, emergency and out of hours visits, specialist referral diagnostics and treatment, surgery, attendance at equine sporting events, riding school inspections and pre purchase vettings.
Veterinary nurses (VNs) work alongside veterinary surgeons to provide a high standard of care for sick animals in addition to their involvement in routine diagnostic work ups with a veterinary surgeon. VNs are involved in a wide range of care and treatment and usually work in a veterinary practice or hospital. They can also be involved in educating owners about horse health and routine preventative care such as de-worming. Responsibilities include highly specialized care of sick animals, emergency and out of hours work, preparing surgery and anesthesia, carrying out diagnostic tests, medical treatment, post surgery care and rehabilitation.
A head veterinary nurse may also be involved in the leadership and management of a team of nurses and support staff.
Your next steps
Stage 2 Complete Horsemanship provides an in-depth foundation knowledge and understanding of equine care and management, lunging, riding on the flat and over fences and the initial principles of teaching and coaching to support a role within veterinary medicine. This career certificate demonstrates you have the foundation understanding of the equine industry to support a veterinary career with horses.
To pursue a career as an equine vet, you'll need to complete a general veterinary degree at an approved Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) university. There are currently seven vet schools in the UK. Depending on the university, this is a five or six-year course. You may then specialise in subjects such as internal medicine or surgery once qualified. A-levels, SCE Highers or equivalent in both Chemistry and Biology with Maths as a possible third subject are required to apply for this degree; you'll also benefit from appropriate work experience in a veterinary practice. 'A' grades are expected. Contact the university you are interested in for specific entry information.
Spending time doing work experience is invaluable in gaining a full insight into a veterinary career and is very strongly advised to anyone considering it. As well as giving a real understanding of this challenging, but hugely rewarding job, including the long hours and client expectations. A period of work experience with vets would be seen very positively by university admissions boards.
There are two pathways available to become a veterinary nurse; a vocational qualification or a higher education qualification. You must complete one of these pathways and be a general veterinary nurse before being able to specialise in equine nursing.
This is perfect if you want hands-on experience and training on the job. The Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing is a vocational qualification designed to prepare veterinary nurses for professional registration on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Register of Veterinary Nurses. It is available on either a full-time basis or apprenticeship-style alongside a job in a vet practice.
Higher Education Pathway
A degree course will take a little longer than a vocational qualification and is more academic, although still requiring work experience. A degree in veterinary nursing can lead to additional career opportunities, such as research, the pharmaceutical industry and teaching, in addition to work in clinical veterinary practice. A number of institutions offer full-time integrated higher education courses leading to a Foundation or Honours Degree in veterinary nursing. The RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Nursing is also awarded to all graduates of courses approved by the RCVS.
To specialise in equine nursing, BHS Stage 3 Care will be extremely advantageous for your application.
To become an equine vet or nurse you should be able to demonstrate determination and drive with a strong emphasis on hands-on work experience with animals and good communication skills. Anyone thinking of a career in the veterinary industry should also have a deep passion for the love and care of animals; liking them is not enough. Any nurse or vet will need to be highly committed to their role and the animals they treat; the hours are long and the workload high but the rewards are enormous. The ability to demonstrate emotional strength is also very important when faced with some very tough decisions. You must have excellent communication skills, be a good team player and be able to think and make decisions rationally and efficiently in emergency situation.
- Opportunities to specialise in niche areas of veterinary medicine
- Opportunity to work in diverse situations –abroad, industry, research, academia, education, welfare, charity sector, government and general practice. The job can be as specialised or diverse as you want to make it.
The BHS Stewart Hastie Veterinary Student Champion scheme has been launched in partnership with the University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine to forge a link between veterinary students, horse owners and the work of the BHS.
The inspiration for the initiative came from Dr Teresa Hollands, Senior Teaching Fellow in Veterinary Nutrition. Dr Hollands said: “Veterinary universities provide an amazing opportunity for the work of the BHS to be promoted to a new and important audience.
"Equally exciting will be the sharing of research being undertaken by veterinary universities and the dissemination of this knowledge to members. Surrey is proud to be part of this initiative and look forward to working with the BHS."
The first BHS Stewart Hastie Veterinary Student Champion is Mariella Savage, who commenced her studies at Surrey in September 2015. Her knowledge, passion and enthusiasm made her the perfect choice for the role. In partnership with Mariella we hope to provide lots of interesting and informative articles and advice to our members. Here you can find all of her updates and articles.
"My first year as a veterinary student at the University of Surrey has flown by; it really does seem like yesterday that I was moving into my ‘halls’ accommodation and collecting my veterinary uniform. This time last year, as I was still waiting for A-level results, I would never have imagined that one year later I would be in the position I am in now with my studies, and having had such an amazing first year."
"My second year as a vet student has yet again flown by, and while this year academically has been more challenging, I have absolutely loved it. This year, we have been building on our knowledge of animal anatomy and physiology learnt in our first year by learning all that can be ‘abnormal’ in the body systems of domestic species. This has included parasites, bacterial, fungal and viral infections, trauma to bones, tendons and ligaments as well as congenital, acquired and autoimmune diseases."