Enjoy horses, working outdoors and helping animals? Graduates of vet tech programs who love horses are ideal candidates for an equine vet tech career. Many vet techs who choose to specialize in this field grew up on a farm or ranch or spent a lot of time around animals. Compassion for all animals and a willingness to help them are qualities of a person who will succeed in this field. Equine vet techs perform the same duties as vet techs in small animal practices, but their focus is on caring for horses.
An equine vet tech is a highly trained, skilled professional who focuses exclusively on the care and well-being of horses. Veterinary technicians in this field care for horses with disease or injuries as well as preventative care like dental cleaning and hoof maintenance. Volunteering at a farm or ranch and assisting with equine care is an excellent experience before or during a degree program. Many employers prefer applicants that have some basic experience in equine care.
What Does an Equine Vet Tech Do?
An equine vet tech works with a vet to manage the care of horses. Many equine veterinarians operate mobile veterinary practices, and they are traveling to farms, stables, racetracks, or sanctuaries. Equine vet techs may also travel to horse shows and competitions when needed. Equine vet techs must have a lot of strength and stamina to handle horses and keep them calm during examinations. Duties of an equine vet tech include:
- Assisting the equine veterinarian with births
- Cleaning a horse’s teeth
- Maintaining hooves
- Helping with minor surgery
- Taking x-rays and performing diagnostic tests
- Drawing blood for lab work
- Administering vaccines and injectable medications
Horses that are frightened must be handled in a humane way to calm them and prevent injuries during exams. Vet techs may be asked to ride or walk a horse so the veterinarian can conduct a soundness exam.
Schedule of an Equine Vet Tech
The schedule of an equine vet tech can’t be considered typical since the duties vary from one day to the next. Some days are routine, and others have emergencies. Traveling to stables and farms means an early start to the day. Vet techs may conduct examinations, administer vaccines and medications, and be prepared to respond to emergencies. Most equine vet techs work on a rotating schedule and they have to respond to calls day or night.
Although most equine veterinarians work out of a mobile practice, they also maintain an office. When the vet tech arrives for their shift duties include:
- Checking messages and responding to emergency calls
- Returning owners calls and scheduling appointments
- Discussing cases with the veterinarian on-duty
- Checking the mobile unit for all the necessary medications and supplies
- Keeping track of the mobile unit inventory and re-stocking when necessary
- Going on scheduled visits and emergency calls with the veterinarian
- Planning the schedule and stops for the following day
Duties at an Equine Hospital, Racing, or Breeding Facility
When working at a horse facility, equine vet techs make early morning rounds to check the horses in their care. During rounds, duties include determining the horse’s general health and response, taking vital signs, and checking on the progress of surgical procedures, wounds, or other injuries. The vet tech checks respiration, temperature, and pulse and reports any changes to the veterinarian.
Preparation for surgery includes clipping the hair at the surgical site, sterilizing instruments, and checking supplies. When surgery is done in a barn, a sterile environment must be created using clean sheets and blankets. During surgery, the equine vet tech assists the veterinarian by handing over instruments and monitoring vital signs. In some cases, a second vet tech may be asked to help.
How Do I Become an Equine Vet Tech?
The first step toward becoming an equine vet tech is to earn an Associate’s degree in Veterinary Technology. Coursework in an equine vet tech program includes:
- Animal Medical Techniques
- Basic Surgical/Medical Principles
- Treatment of Disease
Vet tech schools mandate hands-on experience for students. The supervising veterinarians at vet tech schools recommend that students get involved in a preceptorship, which includes practical training and experience for a student in a medical field under a specialist or expert’s supervision. Students at vet tech schools can also gain practical, hands-on experience by attending externships.
What Skills Are Needed to Be an Equine Vet Tech?
There are many different skills that an equine vet tech will need, including communication skills, proper handling of animals, attention to detail, problem solving and stamina. Having these skills will help the equine vet tech manage the horses in their care and provide the best outcomes.
Skill #1: Communication
The vet tech must have excellent communication skills, which means listening carefully to what the owner says and asking questions. An equine vet tech should be sensitive to the needs of the owner while determining the best treatment for the horse.
Horses are used for lessons, compete in shows or races, or are family pets. An owner may worry about lost income and want a horse to compete or work sooner than it’s ready to, which could cause additional health problems. The veterinary team must balance the owner’s concerns with what’s best for the horse and be able to communicate their concerns with the owner effectively.
Working with animals also requires a vet tech to have a calm demeanor and be soft-spoken. Animals that are sick or injured are frightened and need reassurance from their caregiver. When a horse trusts the person handling them, it’s easier for the vet to perform the exam and determine the most effective treatment plan.
Skill #2: Good with Animals
The veterinarian and vet tech can’t assume that the horse they treat will be well-behaved, so being good with animals is a must. Younger horses are often more challenging to handle than older animals. Observing the animal can give the vet tech hints about how the horse may behave during an exam. If an animal has been confined to a stable when it doesn’t feel well or if the weather is inclement, it may be harder to handle.
Skill #3: Attention to Detail
Attention to detail is necessary for determining why the horse isn’t feeling well. Many horses will mask pain, so it is up to the equine vet tech to check every aspect of the horse to understand the problem. They must examine the horse slowly and methodically.
Skill #4: Problem-Solving
Problem-solving skills can help a vet tech determine the cause of a horse’s lameness, loss of appetite, or change in demeanor. A horse’s body language can explain a lot about any possible problems. Observing the horse’s behavior and asking questions of the owner can be beneficial in a successful outcome.
Skill #5: Stamina
Working with horses requires a lot of stamina and patience. The equine vet tech spends long hours outside, sometimes in the middle of the night.
Many people own, breed, train, and raise millions of horses in the US. Someone has to have the knowledge and ability to medically care for all of these horses. If you are interested in helping care for animals, have a passion for horses, and have a way with horses, you could become an equine vet tech. Hop in the saddle and start a vet tech program today.
Now that you are more familiar with what an equine vet tech does, want to learn about becoming a vet tech? With an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology, you’ll gain the knowledge, qualities and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.
Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.