If you are interested in pursuing a career as Veterinarian, training and qualification requirements can be obtained from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).
There are numerous opportunities for employment as a vet within the UK horse industry. Clinical involvement can range from care of pleasure horses within a mixed practice, to highly specialised sports horse or racehorse care in a referral practice. Specialisation surgery and medicine are much in demand within universities and private practice. Non-clinical positions, within organisations such as Defra and pharmaceutical companies and as advisors to educational establishments or breed and industry societies, can also prove rewarding and open different aspects of veterinary involvement. Equine charities also depend on input of vets with an equine interest or speciality.
Routes of access
There are various options if you wish to pursue an interest in the equine industry. These include:
- First job in a mixed practice with a significant proportion of equine work - While the proportion of truly mixed practices appears to be decreasing, the growth of the pleasure horse industry within the UK has meant that the opportunity to do some equine work within the mixed practice context is still an option. Such employment provides an introduction to general equine practice while allowing the opportunity to improve surgical skills through small animal procedures and also client management skills through exposure to a wide variety of animal owners. It is important to realise that horses are large and potentially dangerous animals and that your horse handling skills will be almost as important as your veterinary capabilities if you are to maintain the confidence of your clients.
- Internship - Many large equine and mixed practices and academic institutions offer an internship programme providing training and hands-on experience while working under the supervision of skilled and specialist clinicians. These internships are for a period of between one and three years and many allow a degree of specialisation (for example, either medical or surgical), while others, particularly those within practice, are broader based. Internships can provide a very sound basis for further specialisation such as residencies in orthopaedic, medical, soft tissue surgery or other fields. They also provide a very sound foundation for a move into general equine practice.
- Employment within solely equine practice - There are often jobs for new graduates within established equine practices, allowing early experience of first opinion equine clinical work. There might eventually be opportunity for partnership. Some of these will be in the form of an ambulatory internship where there will be an increased emphasis on learning more specialised skills.
- Research positions - There are research-based positions at most academic institutions and some larger companies. In some instances these positions might lead to further qualifications and opportunity for specialisation. These positions are advertised in the usual places alongside clinical jobs but also in certain scientific publications such as The New Scientist.
Further employment opportunities
As more experience is gained further opportunities for employment or involvement become available. These include:
- Specialist equine practice - Specialisation can be achieved by further training within an institution or by studying for certificates or diplomas in your chosen field. Some ‘specialisation’ can be achieved without achieving further qualifications simply by concentrating on work in one area of practice. For example, racing work requires specialised knowledge of the nature of the industry, types of injury which might be incurred, insurance implications and treatment options available. Other fields of specialisation include reproduction, dentistry, surgery (soft tissue and orthopaedic), anaesthesia, and so on.
- Consultancy roles - Regulatory and advisory bodies are often in need of specialised equine veterinary advice and involvement. Examples include the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA) and British Horse Society (BHS).
- Insurance - Many equine veterinary surgeons are involved in advising vets, insurance companies and underwriters on insurance matters arising from the treatment, purchase and keeping of horses. This can involve some travelling if you are involved in examination of the animals on behalf of underwriters particularly.
- Officiating at competition events - Vets need to be present at racecourses and all major equine events such as show jumping, driving trials, eventing, endurance races and so on. Although most organisers have a regular arrangement with a local practice, it is sometimes possible to become associated with the organisers or the course/track as the regular veterinarian. Familiarity with emergency care and, less obviously, the intricacies of insurance claims is often required.
- Charities - Numerous charities require the input of equine vets either to provide treatment for sick or injured animals, or opinions in instances where prosecutions are to be attempted. Some of these positions provide full-time permanent employment. More often a vet is only required on an irregular or infrequent basis.
- Involvement in professional associations and committees - There are several professional bodies, including BEVA, RCVS Council, British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT), Federation of European Equine Veterinary Associations (FEEVA) and so on, which require input and involvement of equine vets.
- Employment within the pharmaceutical industry - Opportunities exist for vets, particularly those with some business acumen, to take up positions within the pharmaceutical industry. These roles may be research, sales or management based.
- Employment within government departments - DEFRA and Animal Health employ veterinary surgeons in a number of different roles from checking imports and exports to advising on disease control and matters of legislation.