Equine Physical Therapist: Job Description & Career Info

Equine physical therapists require a significant amount of training. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Equine physical therapists aid in the rehabilitation of injured horses, designing and implementing therapeutic programs. No formal education is required, but degrees in physical therapy or veterinary science can be beneficial. Equine physical therapists can also gain certification if they choose to become licensed veterinarians.

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Essential Information

An equine physical therapist uses non-invasive techniques to help rehabilitate injured horses and prevent future injuries. These practitioners may be required to be licensed as either veterinarians or physicals therapists. Read on for more information about equine physical therapists and how to join this profession.

Required Education No traditional education required; candidates my benefit from degrees in physical therapy or veterinary science
Other Requirements Additional certification may be obtained
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% (animal care and service workers)
Median Salary (2015)* $21,010 (non-farm animal caretakers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of an Equine Physical Therapist

Horses are naturally compelled to move freely at all times, which makes injury recovery a delicate process. Equine physical therapists are trained to relieve chronic pain, enhance performance, and help prevent injuries that often occur in horses. They begin by designing therapeutic programs based upon diagnoses, assessments, and goals of the horses' veterinarians, owners, and trainers. They implement individually tailored plans that may consist of rehabilitative exercises, massage, muscle stimulation, electrical nerve stimulation, and therapeutic ultrasound, according the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Education Requirements

There are no standard education requirements for equine physical therapists, and degree programs dedicated to equine physical therapy are rare. Students might begin their educational paths to this career by pursuing undergraduate degrees in animal science or veterinary technology; however, equine physical therapists are generally required to complete graduate-level education. There are a couple of graduate-education options that can lead to a career in equine physical therapy, including physical therapy and veterinary medicine programs.

Physical Therapy Education Route

After undergraduate school, students may choose to become physical therapists by obtaining master's or doctoral degrees in physical therapy, which entail two to three years of graduate coursework. They must then obtain licensure and may be required to gain apprenticeship or postgraduate training specific to equine physical therapy. In such cases, they might have to gain several years of experience working with humans before qualifying for equine physical therapy apprenticeships.

Veterinary Education Route

Another option is to become a licensed veterinarian. These professionals must complete four years of veterinary school to earn Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees. After obtaining licensure, veterinarians may gain equine-specific training in three- or four-year residency programs, which might also qualify them for board certification.

Required Skills

Equine physical therapists must be experienced with horses from both medical and riding standpoints. Familiarity and intuition with horses and their movements can prevent injuries when working with these animals. The ability to communicate the animals' needs effectively to owners is also important for extended treatment and the owners' peace of mind.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide data specific to equine physical therapists, it does track statistics for both veterinarians and physical therapists. In May 2015, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $21,010 for non-farm animal caretakers. Job opportunities for animal care and service workers are expected to increase by about 11% between 2014 and 2024.

Equine physical therapists need to have a familiarity with horse anatomy and health in order to be successful. A degree is not required for this field but could help to give equine physical therapists the skills needed to perform their job duties at a high level.

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