Shortage of Equine Practitioners

Many areas of the United States and beyond currently face a shortage of equine practitioners to provide veterinary care to horses and other equids. This equine welfare issue will further intensify without action to address the diminishing number of equine veterinarians.

The AAEP has formed the Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability to develop strategies to retain and recruit more veterinarians to equine practice.

The Commission will be led by AAEP-member volunteers with work focused in five key areas: compensation, strategies for effective emergency coverage, veterinary practice culture, internships, and supporting the growth and development of the equine veterinary student.

While developing solutions to the five key factors affecting sustainability of equine practice, the Commission will ensure that the needs of one- and two-doctor practices are carefully considered. Approximately 50% of AAEP members operate practices of this size. Outreach to horse owners and equine industry partners will create expanded awareness and yield additional perspective.

Transforming equine practice is one of the largest initiatives ever undertaken by the AAEP. We look forward to collaborating with equine veterinarians and those who help support them in all facets of practice to change the numbers.

Why a Shortage of Equine Veterinarians?

According to AAEP data, approximately 1.3% of new veterinary graduates enter equine practice directly each year, and another 4.5% pursue further training in equine internship positions. Within five years, however, 50% of all these veterinarians leave for small animal practice or quit veterinary medicine altogether.

The primary reasons are burnout due to the personal demands of the profession and personal struggle due to the lower starting salaries for equine practice when compared to companion animal practice. Many new veterinarians begin their career with more than $200,000 in student loan debt.