Equine Physical Therapist: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for equine physical therapists and the career paths to achieve this goal. Get the facts about the job duties, job outlook, education requirements and salary information to determine if this is right career for you. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Equine Physical Therapist?

Equine physical therapists develop rehabilitative programs to help injured muscles, mend broken bones and prevent permanent disabilities in horses. They can also help evaluate lameness in horses. These professionals are trained in specialized massage techniques that can help heal injuries or help a horse reach its maximum athletic capability. They also apply heat and cold to heal and stretch the animals. Equine physical therapists are often called in to help heal injuries more quickly than allowing them heal on their own. They may provide advice and different techniques to prevent further or future injuries as well. More information on this career can be found in the table below:

Equine Physical Therapist Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Degree Required Accredited program Doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Equine physical therapy Veterinary medicine
Licensure State license Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
Job Growth (2014-24) 11% (for animal care and service workers)* 9% (for veterinarians)*
Average Salary (2015) $36,000 (for equine physical therapists)** $99,000 (for veterinarians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Houston Chronicle

What Do Equine Physical Therapists Do?

Like any athlete, horses can become injured in competition or training. Equine physical therapists (PTs) help them to recover as much of their pre-injury abilities as possible. As with human patients, therapists evaluate, diagnose and develop a treatment plan for the individual animal. They can help to relieve pain from lameness, track or training injuries, colic, inflammation and other musculoskeletal conditions and to facilitate post-surgical healing.

Equine physical therapists may also be licensed doctors of veterinary medicine (DVMs) who add this sub-specialty to their regular practice. Therapies may include hot or cold treatments for muscle and tendon injuries, acupuncture for medical conditions as well as joint pain management, and magnetic therapy for inflammation, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (www.aaep.org).

What Kind of Training Do I Need?

Currently, there is no standardized training for equine physical therapy, although some veterinary schools offer courses related to the specialty. Some schools also offer training in equine massage.

Most states that permit equine physical therapy and other forms of 'alternative medicine' require that persons administering treatment be either licensed veterinarians or equine physical therapists. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), most states have some regulations regarding who may administer such therapies and under which conditions (www.avma.org). Currently, many practitioners of equine physical therapy are either licensed veterinarians or licensed or registered equine physical therapists.

How Much Can I Earn As an Equine Therapist?

The government does not keep records of equine physical therapists' salaries; however, as of May 2015, most veterinarians earned an annual average salary of $99,000, according to the BLS. Equine physical therapists earned an average salary of $36,000 annually as of most recent statistics (work.chron.com).

What Is the Job Growth Outlook?

Due to the growing awareness among horse owners and veterinarians - particularly those who treat race horses - of the benefits of various kinds of physical therapies, this field can be expected to grow. Current debate among the AVMA centers around whether physical therapy should be administered solely by licensed DVMs, as some veterinarians believe, or whether this could become a sub-specialty, much as massage and physical therapy are for humans.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Veterinary technologists and technicians are related careers that require a high school diploma. These professionals work alongside veterinarians and assist with examinations, care for animals and perform medical tests. Physicians and surgeons are also similar positions, but require a doctoral or professional degree. Physicians perform many of the same duties as veterinarians, but diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries in human patients. Surgeons also treat human patients, but typically through various kinds of surgeries meant to remove disease, fix broken bones or reconstruct damaged tissue.

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