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Horse Rehabilitation Careers: Job Options and Requirements

Horse rehabilitation specialists, sometimes known as equine therapists, utilize medical procedures to help injured horses regain mobility and lead healthy lives. Ranging from simple physical therapy techniques, such as exercises and heat treatments, to more technologically advanced methods, such as electro-muscle stimulation and ultrasound, horse rehabilitation requires significant medical knowledge and a good temperament to work with large, injured animals.

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Job Options for Horse Rehabilitation Specialists

Horses are used in multiple job settings, such as police units, gaming, recreation centers and film. Specializing in horse rehabilitation allows individuals to cater to a specific field, such as horse racing. However, working as a veterinarian that specializes in large animal care provides the opportunity to rehabilitate horses that work in almost any job field.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2008 that only six percent of veterinarians focused their work exclusively on horses (www.bls.gov). Many horse rehabilitation specialists work as independent contractors or as part of a veterinary clinic. Larger industries, like film companies or racing organizations, tend to hire private horse rehabilitation specialists to work with the animals on-site.

Besides private practice, government agencies offer contract opportunities for horse rehabilitation specialists. In 2008, the BLS reported that 1,300 veterinarians, some of who specialized in horses, were employed by different branches of the government, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Several nonprofit equine organizations employ specialists to help rehabilitate neglected and abused horses. Wildlife facilities, such as zoos, also require the assistance of rehabilitation experts.

Requirements for Horse Rehabilitation Specialists

Education Requirements

Within the United States, there is no academic or training standard to become a horse rehabilitation specialist. However, schools that offer specific programs in equine therapy and rehabilitation typically require applicants to at least have some college education and licensure as a veterinary technician.

Those who wish to offer horse rehabilitation specialists as a veterinarian need to earn both bachelor's and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees. Veterinary schooling usually takes four years to complete, and many schools include large animal clinics and affiliations with teaching veterinary hospitals. Not all programs include coursework in rehabilitation, though the additional training could be completed through internships, volunteer work or graduate certificate programs.

Licensure Requirements

Once a degree is earned, veterinary technicians and veterinarians must earn a state-issued license by passing a state or national exam. Other licensing requirements for horse rehabilitation specialists differ by state. Some states require a physical therapy license with a specialty geared toward animal sciences in addition to a veterinarian license. To deal with legal issues concerning property law and animal neglect, some states require veterinarians and animal rehabilitation specialists to take a state jurisprudence examination.

Salary and Job Outlook

While there are no specific employment statistics for horse rehabilitation therapists, the BLS projects that employment of veterinarians will increase 12% from 2012 to 2022, which is average compared to other job sectors. In May 2012, the BLS reported that veterinarians earned an average annual salary of $93,250.

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