Discover why and how to become an equine veterinary technician.
YYou can’t remember a time in your life when you weren’t in love with horses. From your first pony ride at 5 years old, you were hooked. Your life has revolved around learning everything you could about horses, from riding to behavior to nutrition to training. Now you’re ready to fulfill your yearning to be a part of the healing hands in the equine world, to learn everything you can about equine health care.
If this is you, it’s time to explore the opportunities that exist in the equine veterinary field. With some focused effort and education, you can become an equine veterinary technician. Here’s some advice from the experts to get you started.
Horse-Savvy Head Start
Your existing horse knowledge will be extremely helpful in any course of study you undertake related to becoming an equine vet tech. Such basic horse skills as grooming, tacking up, exercising, and feeding will be a part of everything you learn as you move into the field.
Grooming your horse gives you hands-on information about his shape and feel, so that you’ll notice any changes, such a swelling, scabs, heat, or sensitivity.
Making sure that your tack fits your horse properly will lessen the risk of him developing muscle soreness or rub abrasions that can impact his health and happiness.
Giving your horse regular exercise allows him to maintain a level of fitness that helps avoid such problems as muscle strain, foot issues, and weight gain, while creating a bright mind and willing partner.
And lastly, from years of feeding your horse, you already know that the horse is a grazing animal whose digestive system is designed to function best when he’s allowed to eat and move about throughout the day.
Your practical knowledge of basic equine medicine will prove useful, too. You already know that horses need to be dewormed on a regular schedule to prevent the buildup of intestinal parasites. You may also know a bit about why it’s important to rotate dewormers to avoid drug resistance in your horse.
You understand the importance of vaccinating your horse to prevent disease. You likely have basic experience with wound care and maybe even have some past experience with recognizing and treating colic, laminitis, or scratches.
By taking this fundamental knowledge and adding in focus and education, you can launch yourself into a career as an equine veterinary technician.
Know the Job Description
An equine veterinary technician is the person behind the scenes, working to assist the equine veterinarian. Most large animal veterinary practices will be manned by one or more doctors, customer service staff, and medical staff, such as veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians.
In a veterinary practice, personnel per- form different functions, depending on their roles. Customer service staff handles the front desk and perform such tasks as filing, collecting payments, scheduling appointments, and assisting with client relations.
Veterinary assistants help doctors and technicians with nursing duties, cleaning duties, lab preparation, diagnostic testing, imaging, surgery, and medical records.
Veterinary technicians, who have more training than veterinary assistants, perform nursing duties, conduct diagnostic testing and imaging, complete laboratory testing, supply medications to clients and patients, run anesthesia, assist in surgeries, and act as a liaison between clients and doctors.
To get the most from your equine veterinary technician career, investigate the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians and Assistants (www.aaevt.org), especially its certification and educational offerings.
The AAEVT is a professional organization founded in 2004. The organization’s purpose is to assist in providing the best medical attention and practices to improve the health and welfare of the horse, and to provide resources and leadership for the benefit of the equine industry and the veterinary community that serves it.
To accomplish its purpose, the AAEVT works to achieve the following objectives:
• To promote and provide continuing educational opportunities relevant and accessible to equine technicians and assistants.
• To encourage and improve communications between equine technicians and assistants by creating a network so we can share ideas, find others with similar interest and areas of expertise, and post job opportunities.
• To be more informed on legislative matters that affect the equine veterinary community.
• To educate the public and the veterinary profession as to the value and benefits gained by employing and supporting trained paraprofessionals.
• To promote and maintain professionalism and ethical behavior for all equine technicians and assistants and to improve the development of the vocation.
• To promote and maintain the professional relationship between the American Association of Equine Practitioners and members of the AAEVT.
To fulfill its purpose and objectives, the AAEVT offers its Animal Care Technologies Online Equine Certification Program, equine-oriented continuing veterinary technician education resources, information about accredited veterinary technician degree programs, and information on the AEVNT — the specialty academy for equine veterinary nursing technicians (www.aaevt.org/page/aevntfaq).
The AAEVT coursework is the ACT Online Equine Certification Program (www. schools.4act.com). The program is designed as a learning and training tool for equine veterinary technicians, assistants, and other support staff in the equine practice, or for those already enrolled in an accredited general veterinary technician program who are most interested in working in equine medicine.
To enroll, you must first become a member of the AAEVT. According to Deb- orah Reeder, CWAS, RVT, VTS-EVN, executive director of the AAEVT, “Applicants don’t need to be employed in an equine practice, but they do need to have a working relationship with a DVM, preferably an AAEP member.”
The AAEVT is a sister organization to the AAEP (www.aaep.org) — the veterinarians who work in equine medicine. AAEP members supervise and sign off on the course work and skills of AAEVT applicants. As Reeder notes, “Creating that relationship with a DVM who can mentor an applicant and teach the necessary skills is crucial.”
The program application is available online. Prerequisites are few, but be prepared. “There’s quite a bit of reading, and it’s helpful to understand some basic medical/veterinary information,” says Reeder.
However, there’s no need to already be a credentialed veterinary technician to enroll in the course; in fact, the AAEVT can provide you with information about accredited programs available around the country.
The program is self-paced and self-study, with enhanced educational materials that
include videos, a required textbook, PowerPoint presentations, and a website.
There are four courses, each made up of 9 to 10 modules. “These courses were created by credentialed technicians — myself included — who have worked in equine medicine for years, and they all have expertise in the specific topics they created,” notes Reeder.
Course 1 topics include equine basics, husbandry, medical terminology, physical examinations, equine patient restraint, equine wellness, and reproduction.
Course 2 topics cover anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, equine nursing care, equine medical treatments, emergency care, and equine diseases.
Course 3 topics cover surgery and surgical assisting, anesthesia assisting, laboratory diagnostics, diagnostic imaging and optional modalities, and office procedures. The final course covers nutrition and other advanced topics.
The program must be completed within a year of enrollment, and applicants must attend one regional AAEVT meeting or the AAEP/AAEVT national meeting, which must include attendance at a wet laboratory.
( Web labs provide practical, hands-on experience in specific techniques. For example, at the AAEVT 2016 National Convention in Florida, participants could sign up for wet labs covering Safety and Handling Procedures, Radiology, and Lameness and Sports Medicine.)
Applicants also must show proficiency in a list of clinical skills that include office procedures, assisting with examinations, pharmacy and pharmacology, surgical preparation and assistance, nursing care, laboratory procedures, radiology and ultrasound, and reproduction and foals.
After completing all coursework, attending a conference, and fulfilling the skills signoff, applicants receive a certification from the AAEVT.
Thereafter, certified equine veterinary technicians must complete five hours of continuing education per year and maintain their membership in the AAEVT.
Membership includes ongoing support. “We make available to graduates a listing of externships and internships if they want to pursue concrete, hands-on experience before seeking employment,” Reeder explains.
Lauren Russell, CVT, is an Intensive Care Unit Shift Lead at Littleton Equine Medical Center in Littleton, Colorado — one of the nation’s premier private equine hospitals.
Russell’s career in equine medicine started several years ago when she worked as a summer test barn technician for the Colorado Department of Racing, collecting samples to test racehorses.
“After leaving the track, I worked in a mixed animal practice for a year, where about 25 percent of the patients we saw were horses,” she says.
“I had been working as an equine-only technician for a year before taking the AAEVT coursework. Some of the basics in the beginning were aimed at students who didn’t have experience working specifically in an equine clinic, and since I did, that information wasn’t new to me.”
Russell did, however, like that the courses provide a good base for everyone, regardless of experience, noting that, “After the first course, we were all on the same level of understanding.”
What was the most important thing she learned from the ACT Program? “All parts of the program were important,” she says. She felt that some topics, such as nutrition and surgery, were especially well-covered.
Russell went on to graduate from the Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology in Denver, Colorado, with an associate’s degree in animal science. She passed the Veterinary Technician National Examination in August 2014, allowing her to be a Certified Veterinary Technician.
“I would and have recommended the AAEVT ACT Program to co-workers,” Russell says. “It’s great for those with some experience and for those who have worked in a mixed practice with limited equine experience.”
Next for Russell: She’s considering enrolling in the Academy of Equine Veterinary Nursing Technicians to get her veterinary specialty credentials.
If you long to become a part of a community that provides healing hands to our equine friends, consider a career in equine veterinary technology. A world of fulfillment awaits. TTR
If you long to become a part of a community that provides healing hands to our equine friends, consider a career in equine veterinary technology.