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BTEC Advanced Diploma: Equine Nursing Technician

Enrolments open for entry in Spring 2018 

Final registration date: 29th March 2018

Spring 2018 cohort Induction Study Week: 9th – 12th April 2018

This course is suitable for students with experience working in veterinary practice who wish to back up their experience with a qualification. This course is a popular alternative to the City and Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Equine Pathway) for those who may be working in a practice that does not meet RCVS Training Practice criteria.

The BTEC Diploma is comprised of 12 modules, all of which focus on the equine species only. BTEC Diploma students attend the same study weeks as City and Guilds Full Diploma students.

Programme Structure

Module 1 Laboratory Diagnostics for the Equine Nursing Technician

1      Understand use of laboratory equipment and safe working practices

Laboratory equipment;  glassware, microscopes, centrifuge, refractometers, analysers, diagnostic aids, cleaning and maintenance.

Safe working practices:  health and safety in the laboratory, key safety points to observe in the laboratory, laboratory use protocol, personal protective equipment.

Disposal of laboratory waste:  sharps, liquids, samples.

2       Understand the processes involved in the collection and preservation of pathological samples and specimens

Haematology: obtaining blood samples, correct storage of blood, vacutainers.

Sample collection; urine and faecal collection: peritoneal and joint taps, skin scrapes, methods and storage.

External laboratory analysis: sending samples to external laboratory, packaging postal samples, documentation.



3      Understand the processes involved in the processing of pathological samples and specimens

Haematology:  manual PCV reading, RBC/WBC counts, preparing a blood smear.

Cytology:  urine analysis, measuring specific gravity, tracheal washes and bronchioalveolar lavages (BALs), faecal worm egg counts (WEC), bacteriology in practice, bacteriology in Thoroughbred reproduction, reproductive swabbing techniques.

Biochemical analysis:  biochemistry, glucose and electrolytes, serum biochemistry analysis, total protein reading, acid-base balance, muscle enzymes, liver enzymes, blood glucose, renal function, intestinal function..

Examining skin scrapes:  ectoparasites, fungal infections.

Faecal analysis:  worm egg counts, endoparasites.


4      Be able to interpret results of laboratory diagnostic tests           

Haematology:  parameters assessed by haematology analyser, red and blood white cell parameters.

Cytology:  urine cytology, peritoneal and joint fluid cytology, normal parameters.

Module 2 Equine Veterinary Nursing Care

1      Know how to assess, plan, implement and evaluate nursing care.

Nursing models:  Roper, Logan and Tierney 2000 ‘Activities of Learning’), Orem (2001) Universal Self Care Requisites.

Planning nursing care:  history taking, assessment, admission forms, equine passports, planning, implementation, observation, evaluation of care plans.


2       Know the role of the veterinary nursing technician during diagnostic tests and procedures

Diagnostic testing:  assisting with testing, understanding abnormal results and adjusting care plans where required, restraining the horse during tests, blood testing, urine testing, peritoneal tap testing, skin testing, faecal tests, electrocardiograms (ECGs), assisting with diagnostic imaging procedures.


3      Be able to plan care for patients with a range of commonly encountered conditions

Commonly encountered conditions:  infectious and allergenic respiratory disease, metabolic disorders, laminitis, colic, orthopaedic conditions, sick foals.


4      Understand the application of fluid therapy in the nursing process

Fluid therapy:  fluid balance, causes of fluid loss, estimating dehydration. post-operative requirements, transfusions.

Fluid types:  crystalloids – lactated Ringers solution, Hartmanns, physiological saline, buffers, colloids – plasma, hetastarch, calculating fluid replacement volume, administration rates.

Routes of administration;  intravenous catheter placement, maintenance of catheter patency, giving sets.





Module 3 Diagnostic Imaging In Equine Practice

1   Understand the principles of radiation

Radiation:  formation of X-rays, the X-ray image (radiograph), positioning the cassette, developing the x-ray image.


2   Understand radiography as a diagnostic tool

Radiography:  preparation of the patient, labelling an x-ray film, positioning for standard views, contrast media, problems with poor quality x-ray images, digital imaging.  Care of the x-ray machine, X-ray storage.

Radiation safety:  radiation legislation, effects of radiation, radiation protection.


3   Know imaging techniques used in equine veterinary practice

Ultrasonography: preparing a patient for ultrasonography, how diagnostic ultrasound creates an image

Other diagnostic imaging modalities;  nuclear (gamma) scintigraphy, bone scan safety, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans,  thermography, endoscopy, care and cleaning of the endoscope, arthroscopy.

Module 4 Surgical Theatre Practice For The Equine Nursing Technician

        Know how to create and maintain a surgical theatre environment that is suitable and safe for aseptic procedures

The surgical theatre environment:  theatre layout, cleaning the theatre.

Instruments:  cleaning, maintaining and identifying surgical instruments, autoclaves, packing materials.


2          Understand the preparation and positioning of the equine patient prior to surgery

Preparation of surgical patients:  the theatre list, patient preparation, preparing the surgical site, additional preparation of the patient prior to surgery, surgery in foals.

Positioning; use of the hoist, positioning the operating table, positioning the horse on the operating table, positioning drapes.


3         Understand the preparation of personnel and equipment for surgery

Preparing for surgery:  role of the theatre nurse, scrubbing up, gloving and gowning up, closed gloving, open gloving, laying out surgical tables and Mayo stands.

Equipment and instruments:  basic stitch kit, castration kit, trephining kit, foot care tools, dentistry tools, basic nursing equipment, electrical equipment.

Suture materials: absorbable suture materials, non-absorbable materials, suture size, needles for suturing, suture patterns and techniques.

Module 5 Supporting Anaesthesia In Equine Veterinary Practice

1    Understand the key principles of anaesthesia in the horse

General anaesthesia:  physiological effects associated with general anaesthesia,  anaesthetic agents.                                 

Total intravenous anaesthesia, monitoring the anaesthetised horse, monitoring field anaesthesia, effects of recumbency, anaesthetic emergencies, recovery.


2   Know the preparation needed prior to anaesthetising a horse

Preparation:  anaesthetic machine:  breathing circuits, gas supply.

Preoperative assessment:   catheterisation, pre-emptive analgesia premedication, induction, padded headcollar, eye protection.


3   Be able to outline the processes involved when monitoring an anaesthetised horse

Monitoring:  clinical observation, monitoring of physiological parameters of the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system and core body temperature. Depth of anaesthesia, maintenance, pulse, blood pressure, ECG, mucous membranes, respiration, pulse oximetry, eye position and movement, monitoring field anaesthesia,

Effects of recumbency: reduced cardiac output, ventilation and tissue perfusion problems post-anaesthetic myopathies and neuropathies.

Anaesthetic emergencies:  prevalence thereof, respiratory arrest, respiratory arrest, dypnoea or apnoea, cardiac arrest, uncontrolled haemorrhage, obstetric emergencies


4    Understand the recovery process

Recovery:  recovery box, positioning, extubation, personnel safety, horse safety, assisted recovery.

Module 6 Pharmacology For The Equine Nursing Technician


1       Understand how to safely and effectively manage stock in a veterinary pharmacy

Pharmacy stock management:  stock management, safe storage of medicines, legal requirements for record keeping of pharmacy stock, ordering, recording, delivery, usage and storage.


2         Understand the principles relating to prescribing and dispensing veterinary medicines

Legal categorisation of veterinary medicines:  AVM-GSL: Authorised veterinary medicine – general sales list, NFA-VPS: Non-food animal medicine – veterinarian, pharmacist, POM-VPS: Prescription only medicine – veterinarian, pharmacist, POM-V: Prescription only medicine – veterinarian, Controlled drugs (CD): Schedules 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Veterinary prescription:  veterinary prescribing cascade scheme, controls on marketing of animal medicines, drug data sheets, formulae and common abbreviations used in prescribing and dose calculation.


3        Understand the basic pharmacology of commonly used veterinary medicines

Drug categories:  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, (steroidal anti-inflammatories), opiate analgesics, bronchodilators and mucolytics, antibacterials, antibacterial resistance, sedative-tranquillisers, anti-ulcer drugs, anthelmintics (endoparasiticides), anthelmintic resistance      .

Local anaesthetics:  topical application, perineural injection, intra-articular injection, field block injections, epidural injections.


4         Understand the selection and administration of veterinary medicines

Use of prescription drugs in performance horses:  equestrian competition, detection times and withdrawal periods, FEI – The Medicine Box.

Classes of drugs:  drug formulation, drug dosage, calculating drug dosages, frequency of dosing, route of administration, intravenous injections, topical application, enteral administration, parenteral administration, post administration, medication and passports, adverse drug reactions.

Administration:  preparation, safe handling and disposal of equipment and drugs used for the administration of injections, nursing observation following the administration of medication.


Module 7 Equine Anatomy And Physiology

1      Understand the structure of cells and tissue

Cell structure:  The components of a cell, indirect cell division.

Tissue types and organs:  Epithelial, connective, nervous and muscular tissue.        

Musculo-skeletal: bone formation, structure and types of muscle.


2         Understand the function and anatomy of the systems of the horse

Skeletal:  Functions of the skeleton, skeletal anatomy, joints, classification of synovial joints, range of joint movement.

Muscles:  Superficial, deep.

Cardiovascular:  composition and circulation of blood, structure of the heart and blood vessels, effect of exercise on the circulatory system.

Respiratory: functions and anatomy of the respiratory system, the process of gaseous exchange, the way in which energy is produced during respiration.

Lymphatic:  structure and function of the lymphatic system.


3        Understand of the systems of information and control

Information and control:  functions and anatomy of the central and peripheral nervous systems, way in which sensory neurons transmit impulses from receptors to the central nervous system, way in which motor neurons transmit the impulse from the CNS to the muscles or glands, structure and functions of the organs of the sensory systems – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch the functions of the glands of the endocrine system, the actions of the hormones produced by the glands.


4         Understand the physiology of the urinary system of the horse

Urinary:  structure of the organs of the urinary system, functions of the urinary system, the way in which the kidneys filter water and unwanted substances from the blood, how the correct balance of salts and fluids is maintained within cells.





Module 8 Equine Reproduction

1    Understand the oestrus cycle

 Oestrus cycle:  physiology of the oestrus cycle, foal heat, recognising oestrus, examination of the mare’s genital tract, manual examination, ultrasound examination (scanning).


2     Explain how pregnancy is detected and outline the stages of pregnancy

Pregnancy:  pregnancy diagnosis, rectal palpation, ultrasound scanning, blood tests and urine analysis, twin pregnancies, procedure upon diagnosis.         

Stages of pregnancy: fertilisation, development of the foetus and foetal membranes.

Milk production: mammary glands, composition of milk.


3       Understand the management of the pregnant mare

Care of the in-foal mare:  nutrition, feeding in the first seven months, feeding in the eighth to eleventh months, general care, problems in late pregnancy, ‘running milk’, placentitis, colic, prolonged pregnancy.


4       Be able to explain the stages of foaling

Foaling:  preparation for foaling, foaling at grass, foaling box, labour, inspection of the membranes, induction of labour.

Problem foalings (dystocia):   recognition of dystocia, causes of dystocia, forelimb and/or head and neck, malpresentation, hind limb malpresentation, backward presentation, other causes of dystocia, non-surgical treatment of dystocia, surgical treatment, care of mare and foal.


5        Understand the management of the mare and foal

Neonatal foal: immediately post partum, check breathing, check heart rate, the first hours, bonding, suckling, provision of adequate colostral immunity, passing meconium, lactating mare, immediately post partum, general care, nutrition,  the loose box, exercise.

Post partum problems in the mare: perineal lacerations, retained placenta, delayed uterine involution, mastitis, blocked teat canal, handling the foal in the first few days.

  Equine neonatal disorders: infective conditions of the newborn foal, neonatal septicaemias, joint-ill, diarrhoea, rotavirus, gastroduodenal ulceration, rhinopneumonitis, pneumonia, non-infective conditions of the newborn foal, prematurity and dysmaturity, neonatal maladjustment syndromes, meconium retention, colic, congenital abnormalities, entropion, ruptured bladder, button eyes, parrot mouth, hyperflexion (contracted tendons), immunological conditions, haemolytic disease (jaundiced foal), combined immunodeficiency.

Module 9 Equine Lameness And Rehabilitation

1        Be able to identify lameness in the horse

Lameness diagnosis:  examination to diagnose lameness, rule out the obvious first, medical history and reported signs, observation at rest, observation during movement, foreleg lameness, hind leg lameness, palpation of the limbs, passive movement of the joints.

Diagnostic aids: nerve blocking, radiography, ultrasound scanning, arthroscopy.


2         Know the conditions that cause lameness in the horse and the relevant treatments

Disorders of external structures of the foot:  sandcrack, grass cracks  and brittle hooves, seedy toe, contracted heels, long toes and collapsed heels, thrush, bruised sole, punctured sole, corns.

Disorders of the internal structures of the foot: nail prick nail bind, quittor, laminitis, navicular syndrome.

 Joint disorders:  joint disorders, arthritis and degenerative joint disease (DJD), osteochondrosis, intermittent upward fixation of the patella.

Bone disorders: periostitis, splints, sore (bucked) shins, ringbone, bone spavin, sesamoiditis.

Synovial and bursal enlargements:  synovial joints, bursae and tendon sheaths, synovial joints, bursae, tendon sheaths, bog spavin, windgalls, thoroughpin, acquired bursae, capped knee, capped elbow/hock, synovitis, bursitis, ligament strain,curb, suspensory ligament strain.


3     Understand a range of therapies to reduce inflammation 

Cryotherapy – cold treatments: sea water, hosing, tubbing, boots, therapeutic spas, ice/cold packs,   ice massage.

Heat therapy:  effects of heat therapy,  hot packs, poultices, hot tubbing, fomentation, Infrared, short-wave diathermy, therapy machines, magnetic field therapy, ultrasound, laser, massage, support.

Anti-inflammatory drugs – corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, topical anti-inflammatory preparations, salicylate gels, blistering and firing.


4         Understand the benefits of a rehabilitation programme

The recovery process:  box rest:  the stable, warmth, feeding, grooming, the boredom factor, keeping veterinary records.

Introducing exercise:  walking in hand, horsewalker, swimming, long-reining, basic ridden schooling, turn out, lungeing.

Module 10 Equine Nutrition

1   Understand basic functions and sources of nutrients

The nutrients:   macronutrients, carbohydrates, lipids (fats and oils), proteins, water, micronutrients.

Vitamins: fat soluble vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, water soluble vitamins, vitamins B1, Band B6, vitamins B3, and B5, folic acid, biotin and choline, B12  and vitamin C.

Minerals: macro minerals, calcium and phosphorus, sodium and chloride potassium, magnesium, sulphur, trace minerals, iron, iodine and cobalt, manganese and zinc, copper, molydenum and selenium, supplements.

Energy storage and utilisation:  storing energy sources, the release of energy,

Feedstuffs:  types of feedstuffs, cereals, protein feeds,  bulk feeds, compound feeds, food preparation, whole barley, linseed, to make a bran mash, forages, nutritive values of various feedstuffs, the main rules of feeding.


2          Understand the functions and anatomy of the horse’s digestive tract

The digestive tract: structure of the digestive tract, mouth, pharynx, epiglottis, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, liver, pancreas, large intestine.


3        Know the principles of ration formulation

Rationing:  calculating the ration, breed or type, height and weight, determining maximum daily feed, energy requirements, sample feed rations, useful measurements, monitoring condition.


Module 12 Important Medical Disorders: Management And Treatment

1   Know the important non-infectious diseases that affect horses in the United Kingdom

Non-infectious diseases: disorders/disease syndromes of the horse:  diagnosis, management and treatment: recurrent airway obstruction, exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage, equine myopathies: exertional rhabdomyolysis, polysaccharide storage myopathy, laminitis, equine dysautonomia (grass sickness), head shaking, sweet itch, colic, gastric ulcers, oesophageal obstruction (choke), liver disease, equine Cushing’s disease, recurrent laryngeal hemiplegia, osteochondrosis. Hyperlipaemia, lymphangitis, enteritis, skin disease. Poisoning.


2   Understand the factors involved in the development of disease

Development of disease: predisposing factors, age, diet, exercise, management, stress, neurology, allergy, toxins, poisoning, hormonal imbalance, frequency of occurrence, environmental factors.


3  Understand the basis of heritability of disease in the horse

Heritability: The principles of heritability of disease and predisposition to disease. The genetic basis of common equine diseases.

Enrolment includes BEVA membership

Programme specifications


Academic Level: Further Education Level 3
Number of units/modules: 12
Study Hours per Unit: 60
Total Hours:  720
Course Duration:  Maximum of  36 months to complete course requirements
Study Week Requirements: 7 x compulsory 4 day study weeks
Awarding body information

Pearson (BTEC) are the UK’s largest awarding body and are regulated by Ofqual (England), SQA Accreditation (Scotland), CCEA Accreditation (Northern Ireland) and Qualifications Wales (Wales). Pearson offer academic and vocational qualifications that are globally recognised and benchmarked.

TOCES bespoke designed courses accredited by Pearson (BTEC), are on the Self Regulating Framework (SRF).  When selecting a course with a view to using it as an entry qualification for other higher education institutions (HEIs) it is important to check their entry criteria and confirm that they will accept SRF programmes as well as QCF programmes. This course is on the SRF.

Study Weeks

September 2016 cohort

Study week 5 20th – 23rd February 2018

Study week 6: 11th – 14th June 2018

Study week 7: 13th – 16th November 2018

March 2017 cohort

Study week 4: 1st – 4th May 2018

Study week 5: 30th July – 3rd August 2018

Study week 6: 4th – 7th December 2018

Study week 7: 21st – 24th May 2019

September 2017 cohort 

Study week 2: 16th – 19th April 2018

Study week 3: 10th – 13th July 2018

Study Week 4: 16th – 19th October 2018

Study Week 5: 19th – 22nd February 2019

Study week 6: 11th – 14th June 2019

Study week 7: 12th – 15th November 2019

International students: 

Study block 1: 9th April – 4th May 2018

Study block 2: 4th – 28th June 2019

March 2017 cohort

Study week 1: 9th – 12th April 2018



Entry criteria
  • Applicants must have completed the BTEC First Diploma: Equine Nursing Assistant unless they have significant, demonstrable previous veterinary nursing experience.
  • 16 years old or older.
  • Must undertake at least 100 hours of work experience (paid or unpaid) within a veterinary practice with equine provision.
Work experience requirements
  • Students must undertake at least 100 hours of work experience (paid or unpaid) within a veterinary practice with equine provision.
  • The 100 hours can be spread across the duration of the programme – it does not need to be undertaken in one block.
  • Work experience does not need to be arranged prior to enrolment.
  • While most work experience should be spent in equine practice, work experience can include shadowing your own equine veterinarian and spending some time in other types of veterinary practice i.e. small or large animal
  • Veterinary practices do not need to be an RCVS accredited training practice
Assessment method
  • Each module includes two written work assignments – a Formative Work Assignment and a Summative Work Assignment.
  • College based theory written assessments
  • College based practical assessments

Full Payment

Plus registration fees
  • Online access to all course materials
  • Tutor support
  • Seven four day study weeks
  • Does not include accommodation, breakfast and evening meals
  • Printing and postage fees (optional)
  • BTEC Registration fee £101 payable upon enrolment
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