Becoming a Vet

Ever since you took your first pet to the vet as a child and saw how she healed him, you’ve wanted to be a vet. But you’re not quite sure how to get started on the right path or what skills you need to learn to parlay it into a career in horse racing. 

First you need to realize that being a vet isn’t for the faint of heart. Sometimes you’ll have to make the decision to operate on or euthanize the animal and you’ll have to work in some unsanitary locations. You also have to understand that you can’t just like animals to be successful, you also have to be able to effectively  communicate with their owners as well.

“The hours are long, you do have to get up early, you are on call frequently and get called out when you might be out doing something that you much rather prefer doing at the time,” said Edwina Palmer about some of the downsides of being a vet. “I don’t think you could do the hours and the hard slog it takes to do what we do for any area of the industry if you didn’t love the horse. That is what drives you and motivates you.”

If you truly love the horses and want to continue on this path, be aware you are in for years of schooling. 

Not only will you have to complete an undergraduate degree in veterinary science, which usually takes three years, but then you’ll have to go to school to become a doctor of veterinary medicine. That degree takes about four years to take your overall schooling to seven years. Though be aware that vet school is extremely competitive so it’s not just a matter of completing your bachelors degree then getting into vet school, you must have good grades to prove that you want to be in the program.

When in vet school, you won’t just learn about how to treat horses but other animals as well to have a well-rounded education. While you will need to spend time about different animals, you can join different “tracks,” which lets you focus more of your education on horses if that’s the path you choose.

If you’d like to specialize in a certain part of veterinary science, such as surgery or reproduction you will also undergo advanced training under heavy supervision before sitting down and taking extra examinations to get specialized licenses on top of the normal exams you have to take in order to get your general veterinarian license.  

You do have many different options if you want to be an equine veterinarian in the racing industry. Many stud farms have vets who are either on staff or come to the farm often to do things such as ultrasounds looking for pregnancies, x-raying yearlings, and even working with the stallions. On the track, you may work for a big stable or even the track while working at vet clinics will provide you the opportunity to perform surgeries.

You also have the opportunity to be approved by the Australian Stud Book to help identify horses and lodge the information with the Stud Book. Duties for this role include taking and submitting DNA hair samples and filling out identification certificates for the horses.

Salaries in this career can drastically differ depending on what you decide to do but you can expect to make at least $50,000 as a base salary after you graduate with surgeons making $100,000 or more.

If you aren’t sure if you want to commit to vet school, Palmer says to take advantage of the time in your undergraduate career to decide if the path is right for you.

“Even when you are at school and think that it might be something you might like to be involved in, seeing if you can do some work experience and just get a taste for the industry, she said. “I certainly don’t think there would be an equine vet alive that would say our hours are great, but that just goes hand in hand with the fact that you get such amazing job satisfaction from it.” 
Becoming a vet involves long, hard hours and years of schooling. But if you like to help animals and are willing to put in the effort, this may be the job for you.