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Equine Rehabilitation Therapist: Salary, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an equine rehabilitation therapist. Get a quick view of the job duties as well as details about education, training programs and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Equine rehabilitation therapists treat horses needing recovery from injury, muscular issues, or other physical problems. They combine a variety of healing modalities in treating horses, and may be trained in physical therapy, massage, equine care, or other fields. Education varies and aspiring therapists may find there are many different routes when it comes to training to enter this field.

Essential Information

There are few animals as athletic as the horse, particularly race horses and show horses. However, the strain of physical activity often results in muscular or other physical problems. An equine rehabilitation therapist diagnoses and treats these ailments using technology, muscle massage and other rehabilitative methods. Because equine rehabilitation therapy is a relatively new profession, it is considered to be a growing field. Employment opportunities are available at horse farms, racetracks or stables, and some equine therapists go into business as independent contractors. While there is no hard salary data for equine rehabilitation therapists, the field is similar in training and certification to that of physical therapy.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Physical therapy training or similar
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 34% (for physical therapists)*
Median Annual Salary (2015) $84,020 (for physical therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties

An equine rehabilitation therapist works with veterinarians, trainers, farriers and owners in order to reach a common goal of healing the horse from illness or physical distress without the need for surgical intervention. After evaluating the animal equine, rehabilitation therapists use a variety of healing modalities in order to help the horse fully recover from musculature, nervous system and joint ailments. Healing modalities used by equine therapists include:

  • Neuro-muscular exercise training
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Hot and cold manual therapies
  • Electrical stimulation

Massage therapies are used to decrease pain and increase circulation, while exercise programs are deployed in order to improve the horse's range of motion and core stability, along with enhancing tendon and ligament recovery. The rider is also evaluated, to determine if the horse's walking pattern is adversely affected by the rider.

Educational Requirements

Because equine rehabilitation therapy is a very new profession, few schools offer a certification program. Some colleges offer bachelor's degrees in equine studies, which traditionally concentrate on animal management and other applications. Rarely, a program will offer a focus on equine rehabilitation; however, none of them offer a licensed professional degree. Aspiring equine rehabilitation therapists may find a multi-tiered educational approach to be the best preparation for a career in this burgeoning field.

Bachelor's Degree in Veterinary Technology

A four-year degree program in veterinary technology prepares graduates to work with veterinarians dealing with large animals, and also to move forward to a physical therapy program. Core courses include animal physiology, comparative anatomy, diagnostic procedures and large animal clinical procedures. Advanced courses such as large animal management, equine care, emergency care and advanced pathology techniques prepare students for clerkships that may specialize in areas such as equine medicine and surgery.

Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree

Physical therapy programs at the undergraduate level usually last six years, or can be taken as a transfer major after earning a degree in another concentration. Early studies concentrate on anatomy, neurology, orthopedics and patient management. Advanced courses focus on practical knowledge application in issues such as tissue trauma, manual therapy and cardio-pulmonary studies. There are also a number of courses that connect students with patients in a clinical setting.

Equine Rehabilitation Therapy Certification

Schools that offer an equine rehabilitation certification program begin by reviewing regulatory issues, equine anatomy, gait analysis, lameness evaluation and neurological issues. Remedies such as heating and cooling therapies, ultrasound and shock wave therapies and pain relief options are explored. Further courses focus on medical or surgical options, join or ligament therapy, neurological evaluation and rehab program implementation. Measuring response to injury is an advanced practice, along with investigating various case studies for analysis.

Salary and Career Information

Equine rehabilitation therapy is a very specialized career without specific data regarding wages and job growth, but it is comparable to a career as a physical therapist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists earned a median annual salary of $84,020 as of May 2015 . Job growth for physical therapists is expected to increase 34% between 2014 and 2024, a rate that is much faster than average.

Equine rehabilitation therapists specialize in caring for and rehabbing horses suffering from injury or other physical problems. They may have a degree in veterinary technology, physical therapy, or be trained in other fields such as massage therapy. They typically combine different types of therapy and even technology to help a horse recover.


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