Equine Surgery? Good Idea or Far Away Dream?

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Equine Surgery? Good Idea or Far Away Dream?

This is a discussion on Equine Surgery? Good Idea or Far Away Dream? within the Equine Careers and Education forums, part of the Horse Resources category

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  • 1 Post By Sharpie
  • 1 Post By DancingArabian
  • 1 Post By Incitatus32
  • 2 Post By Sharpie
  • 2 Post By 4horses

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    03-23-2014, 12:47 PM
Arrow Equine Surgery? Good Idea or Far Away Dream?


First off, I'd like to thank you for any and all advice you might have. This is something I rarely stop thinking about, and as I age I am finding that I need a lot more information than I have.
Since I was young, I've only ever wanted to do one thing; Equine Veterinary. I've kept my grades up and done enough ACT practices for every kid in America, all in hopes to obtain my dream job. Later I would find that taking it a step further would be even better. Equine Surgery is decidedly what I want to do with my life.

After speaking to my Vet, my enthusiasm did not fade. He said it took him a very long while to become a vet, and the internship and residency to become a surgeon wasn't worth it to him, but could be within my reach. He gave me tips on how to get there, and it was obvious that I wanted to do this now more than ever. Coming on Horse Forum, I'm getting worried.

I've seen countless threads saying not to take a career in horses, that it is a bad idea with little reward. Could this field be an exception? I am fortunate enough to live close to Rood & Riddle, an acredited equine hospital in Lexington, KY. Would my location make this career in better reach?

I'm looking for as many opinions as I can get. Is this dream something I should act upon? Is there really any benefits to it? Will I be able to find a job? Also any information about good schools for veterinary would be extremely beneficial. Thank you!
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    03-23-2014, 01:32 PM
It is doable. You're looking at 4 years undergrad, 4 years vet school, 1 year internship, and 3 years residency, so 12 years overall after high school. Even if you never take any time off, you'll be 30 before you begin to make any money and have that many years of school loans to pay off. I had help from the Army for my loans, and I still have payments of about $1k per month for the next 8 years.

It is a long hard road, but some people have the desire, the drive, and the skill to get there in the end. Not me, but maybe you. It is very competitive to get in to vet school, and can be even tougher to get the residency you want. If you can look at that, recognize reality, and still say it's your goal and start working towards it, more power to you and don't let anyone stop you.
xJumperx likes this.
    03-23-2014, 02:30 PM
When most people consider a horse job, they're looking at training, coaching, running a boarding facility, selling horses, etc. Those fields are generally what we're all referring to.

I think staying in Lexington may be your best option. I think if you can manage a part time job, taking anything at Rood & Riddle is a good thing, even if it's just mopping the floor, so that you have an 'in'. Talk with your vet about good schools in the area.
xJumperx likes this.
    03-23-2014, 02:33 PM
I'm planning on specializing in Equine Orthopedic Surgery. Sharpies right. My thought process was to go ahead and get the certification in addition to my regular DVM so that if the time came that I no longer wanted to do field work I could get a job at the local hospital at my college.
You are looking at 12 to 16 years depending on if you want board certification (which you can always go back to get years later ) There will ALWAYS be the need for vets in all fields, the demand is actually growing.

I will say for the money, get loads of scholarships and work will be your friends. Don't be dissuaded from not doing something you know you'll love. :)
xJumperx likes this.
    03-23-2014, 03:01 PM
Originally Posted by Incitatus32    
There will ALWAYS be the need for vets in all fields, the demand is actually growing.
Yes and no. While the need for vets is there, when times are lean, as they are now for many people, the paying jobs for those vets disappear. Many of my colleagues are currently unemployed because people are unwilling or unable to pay the money to take care of their animals' medical needs. Then the animals either go without or are euthanized (which is not a money maker for vets). Fortunately things seems to have stabilized now and places aren't laying off associates like they were a few years ago.

The need for large animal vets IS huge, but unfortunately, the areas that 'need' them the most also can't afford to pay them what they need to make in order to even make their monthly expenses, let alone their loan payments. That's why the vets aren't there. It was a rude wake-up for me when I left vet school and saw what the job market is really like. Vet schools make money by minting new vets, and so they tend to be far more optimistic about the prospects than those of us out in the world are. Niche markets for specialties (including equine surgery, radiology, etc) are about saturated by providers as well since so many, seeing the bleak GP market, decided to go back to school and delay entry to the job market and are just now out there looking for jobs too. This is likely to make the average income for specialists to drop over the next 5-10 years as there is increased supply relative to the number of people that are willing to pay for their services.

So, if you do it, do it because you can't imagine doing anything else, not because you're operating under delusions of making it rich. I live barely better than I did as a student because of my loans. Working during undergrad is easy. It's much harder, verging on impossible, to work enough to make a dent during vet school, internships, and residency where your 'work week' at school averages 80+ hours.
xJumperx and Incitatus32 like this.
    03-23-2014, 05:52 PM
Thank you all very much for your input! You have no idea how valuable this is for me. I am definitely in it for the love and passion, the income is just a bonus. Thank you all for the motivation and tips, and please keep it coming!
    03-24-2014, 02:01 AM
There is a vet school near me. Tuition for 4 years is $100,000. It will take years to earn that back by working.

I took some of the pre-vet classes during college. It is hard. If you are studying animal reproduction, you don't just learn one animal (like dogs and cats), you learn everything- dogs, cats, goats, sheep, horses, cows etc. I think being a doctor would be easier. At least doctors only need to learn human anatomy and physiology.

I wouldn't do it, just because I was burned out by the end of college. To me it is not worth the stress. And the other issue is, if you work with animals all day, you are going to be too tired when you get home to enjoy your own horses. Most of the vets I know stopped riding. They have horses. They just don't get to enjoy them.

Plus, being on call at all hours. My vet came at 6pm and stayed til 10pm on Saturday night with a colicy horse. Another vet had to come early on Sunday morning to help with a colicy horse and we had her on hold the night before as we weren't sure the horse would make it til the next morning. And the vet that stayed til 10pm, had another emergency call after he was with me!

The other issue I see, is that if you for some reason get sick, and cannot work as a vet, what will you do? Especially with all those loans? Younger people don't plan on getting ill, but sometimes the unexpected happens.

You can do it, but I would consider it carefully. Vet tech work might be an easier field to get into. There is a demand for vet tech managers who have at least 5 years of experience or more and are certified.
boots and xJumperx like this.
    03-25-2014, 12:05 AM
4horses, you made many great points. For some reason, all of that is worth it to me. Im completely fine with insane hours, stressful school situations, all of the above. I do wish to continue riding throughout my life, but perhaps specializing in surgery will help keep things a bit more under control.

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