long-term commitments to equine practice (see Table 3-3), a situation likely to exacerbated by increasing levels of student debt that put practice ownership out of reach. Second, senior equine veterinarians are unable to sell their practices and are therefore continuing beyond their originally planned retirement age. Thus, the aging of equine practitioners as a group appears to be a direct result of the inadequate number of young veterinary practitioners entering the equine workforce to replace those leaving and retiring.
Equine medicine is aging and in need of new talent. Presently the racing industry is experiencing difficulties whereas show jumping, dressage, barrel racing events, pleasure riding and other equine sports remain energetic. Horses in all these categories need veterinary care. However, given the present conditions of practice and financial circumstances, it is difficult to attract and retain adequate numbers of young graduates in the profession. In order to address future workforce needs, the equine veterinary medical profession will need to consider the challenges related to low starting salaries, a shift in gender, and an aging workforce. Of particular concern is the difficulty of delivering equine care in rural areas, where the population of mixed equine/food-animal practitioners who have traditionally provided services to most of these animals is now declining. As is discussed in Chapter 4, Food-Animal Practice, this is likely to require new ways of delivering equine veterinary services and may provide the needed impetus for the creation of emergency equine services.
It is unknown how long the equine industry and equine veterinary medicine will take to recover from the recession. Economic forecasts predict that consumer spending will remain thrifty for the next several years (CBO, 2010). Under these circumstances, planning for future workforce needs in equine medicine will need to be conservative. In the foreseeable future, a majority of new graduates entering equine practice will be women, who may be likely to seek accommodations to fulfill family responsibilities while being no less committed to succeeding in practice. Large group practices, regional equine centers, involvement of paraprofessionals, and part-time work can accommodate the sharing of clinical duties and provide coverage for family emergencies, maternity leave, and elder care.
In emergency situations, many clients insist on seeing the veterinarian with whom they have established a trusted relationship; therefore, practitioners generally have to be available to their clients on a 24-hour basis. Unless they are part of a multi-person practice where clinical responsibilities can be shared, veterinarians have few alternatives but to work around this obligation. Well-trained paraprofessionals who are capable of follow-up visits after surgeries and other procedures may provide partial relief. It might be advisable that before entering equine medicine, veterinary students undertake externships in equine practice to be fully aware of its stresses and rewards. Academic centers need to find the resources to maintain state-of-the-art facilities and sufficient faculty to educate the next generation of equine clinicians and for research to energize outstanding teaching and create the future of equine medicine. High-quality specialty practices developed through university-private sector collaborations may offer ex-