In the fast lane: working as a veterinary officer in British horse racing
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For experienced veterinary surgeons looking to refresh their career, few opportunities are as exciting as working as a veterinary officer in horse racing.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the governing and regulatory body for British horse racing, employs a select team of fewer than 20 veterinary officers around the UK at any one time. An officer must be on site at any course where a meeting is taking place, overseeing a team of vet technicians. They work together to protect the welfare of the horses before, during and after races.
What does a veterinary officer do?
A veterinary officer ensures the stable area and veterinary facilities are of the required standards and hygienically maintained, and organises the regular drug testing of animals to ensure the integrity of horse racing is protected.
He or she assists in implementing the rules of racing – including whip usage, correct tack and shoeing – and supports the racecourse vet with the appropriate treatment of injured horses.
On non-race days, a veterinary officer has a range of duties relating to equine science and welfare, from liaising with the laboratory to reviewing databases, using his or her knowledge to assist the BHA with policy decisions.
Keep an eye out
If you have a passion for horse racing, a job as a veterinary officer will surely appeal. As few positions are out there, you may have to monitor the BHA website for some time before an opening arises.
You may also need to pencil this in as a long-term career goal. The organisation looks for experienced veterinary surgeons only, usually requiring a minimum of five years post-qualification experience.
A (long) day at the races
The hours can be antisocial as a lot of race meetings are on weekends and bank holidays and, as an officer must be on site from before racing begins until well after it ends, race days are long.
Courses are dotted around the country, so a lot of travelling is involved.
For anyone who truly loves racing and racehorses, the chance to play such an integral role in the sport and get hands on with some real equine superstars will make such considerations insignificant.