Equine nutritionists plan and recommend healthful dietary regimens for horses. And since dietary planning is about good health, equine nutritionists generally receive their training through agricultural allied health or animal science programs. Some schools, such as Rutgers University, offer equine studies programs with a minor in nutrition. Students have the option of earning an associate, undergraduate, graduate or doctoral degree. Certification also is an option.
Earn a high school diploma. Nutrition is a science requiring study beyond a high school curriculum. Take classes in biology, chemistry and physiology to prepare for a two- or four-year degree program in equine, animal or agricultural science.
Start off with courses. Take a course in equine nutrition as a career introduction. Rutgers University's Equine Nutrition course covers the gastrointestinal system of horses and the importance of nutrients in their diet. Students learn about common feeds and supplements. They learn how to read and decipher feed labels. The course also teaches students how to identify feed-induced illnesses and meet the dietary needs of older horses, foals, broodmares and various breeds. Instruction on computer applications for nutritional analysis is included in the course. Take an online course if convenience is a preference.
Consider enrolling in a two-year program. Ohio University offers an associate's degree in equine studies through its applied science curriculum. The program has four tracks of core courses and electives, each with a course in equine nutrition. Track D offers basic preparation for equine nutrition with a focus on pre-animal science and pre-veterinarian studies. The equine nutrition course covers the horse's digestive system, nutritional requirements for all levels of performance, and problems with feeds and feeding. Other courses include principles of chemistry I, elementary microbiology, veterinary technology, anatomy and physiology, reproduction, and lameness and conditioning. All tracks include an internship.
Earn a bachelor's degree. Take the SAT and enroll in an animal science program. The University of Connecticut has an eight-semester, equine studies program in its Animal Studies Department. Writing, literature, math and psychology are part of the basic studies curriculum. Besides the common science subjects, courses include introduction to animal science, horse science, principles of nutrition and feeding, behavior and training of domestic animals, health and disease management, and horse breeding, selection and evaluation.
Pursue a master's degree. Take the graduate record exam and apply to a program in equine science. Colorado State University has an Equine Science Department that offers a master's degree in equine nutrition. Applicants must pass the GRE with a combined verbal and quantitative score of at least 1000 based on the old scoring method or 297 based on the new system. The university requires applicants to submit three letters of recommendation, transcripts from all higher academic institutions they attended and a questionnaire on animal science.
Consider earning a doctoral degree. Apply to programs in the animal sciences that offer advanced degrees. Conduct research in equine nutrition for the doctoral thesis. Present the research according to the academic institution's standards. The University of Kentucky's Equine Animal and Food Sciences program offers a Ph.D. in equine nutritional research. The university encourages doctoral candidates to publish their research findings.
- Consider studying equine categories that are broader than nutrition. Most animal, agricultural or equine science programs include dietary courses.
- Be prepared to teach or do research with a Ph.D. degree. Doctoral programs in equine nutrition usually lead to careers in these areas.
- Earn a certificate. Certification is available in equine nutrition from the Equine Science Certificate, a Canadian program, and Kansas State University.
- The median salary for animal scientists, which include equine nutritionists with advanced degrees, is $68,680 a year.
- Always use precaution when working with horses. Be respectful of their size, weight and strength. Get proper training in feeding, grooming, walking, exercising and riding horses, if necessary.
- Enroll in programs at accredited schools. Programs at schools known for their equine programs lend your career credibility.
Valerie Bolden-Barrett is a writer, editor and communication consultant specializing in best business practices, public policy, personal finance and career development. She is a former senior editor of national business publications covering management and finance, employment law, human resources, career development, and workplace issues and trends.