You should not rely solely on printed advertisements in your search for a farrier
because the only advertisement some of the best farriers use or need is word of
mouth. And while some of the farriers that you see in advertisements may
be very qualified to handle your horse's shoeing needs, others are not worth the
risk of testing out on your horse as they may create long-term problems for you.
A farrier that is actively soliciting more clients will advertise in newspapers
or local horse publications or will put up notices on bulletin boards in feed
stores, tack shops, and stables. Start you farrier resource list by jotting
down the names and phone numbers of those who advertise. You can also collect
business cards or newspaper ads. Keep all of your information in a notebook
so that you can add to your list as you go through your selection process.
Never base your selection of a farrier solely on advertising. I recommend
that you primarily use a combination of the following three ways to find a good
There are many horseshoeing schools in the United States. Some issue a certificate
or diploma after a student has completed the course. Some farriers who have
attended these schools will list "certified farrier" or "graduate
farrier" after their name to indicate that they have been to school and have
received a certificate.
Joe and John
both call themselves certified farriers because they both received a certificate.
Joe attended a twelve-month program at the Equine Podiatry Institute of America.
John attended a two-week program at the Podunk Foot School. You can imagine
the difference in Joe and John's education in terms of thoroughness of detail
and quality of training. But if they both advertise themselves as certified
farriers, how would you know the difference?
To help standardize the skill level ratings of farriers (no matter what school
they attended) the American Farrier's Association has developed a means of testing
and certifying farriers by using identical exams and testing procedures across
the country. A farrier who has passed one of the AFA examinations can list
his credentials as "AFA Certified Farrier" or "AFA Journeyman Certified
Farrier". Although AFA membership and testing open to any farrier,
less than half of the farriers in the US belong to the AFA.
Applicants are required to pass written shoeing and veterinary-related exams as
well as demonstrate shoeing skills in practical exams. Currently there are
three examination levels offered by the AFA: the Intern Classification, the Certified
Farrier, and the Journeyman Certified Farrier.
The Intern Classification indicates one who has graduated from formal horseshoeing
training, has completed an apprenticeship, or has otherwise progressed in elementary
skills and knowledge of horseshoeing. This is NOT a certification that indicates
a qualified farrier. The intern classification written examination covers
horseshoes and nails (40%), anatomy of bones, tendons, and ligaments (20%), physiology
(20%), pathology (10%), and gaits and movement problems (10%).
The practical exam consists of shoeing and presenting a horseshoe collection.
The shoeing is based on the examiner's evaluation of the applicant's skill at
shoeing two feet. The shoeing job is judged on hoof preparation, shoe preparation
and fit, and nailing, clinching, and finishing. The applicant is allowed
plenty of time to complete the shoeing as the emphasis at the intern level is
on correct techniques. The shoe collection which must be presented by the
intern candidate should demonstrate that the farrier has the ability and knowledge
to alter shoes for specific purposes.
The Certified Farrier candidate must have a minimum of one year of practical experience
and must meet the basic standard of horseshoeing knowledge and skill to be designated
a qualified farrier. The written exam consists of more advanced questions
related to the topics covered in the intern exam. The practical exam consists
of shoeing two hooves and presenting a shoe collection. The Certified Farrier
applicant has one hour to shoe the two hooves.
The requirements of the Certified Farrier's horseshoe collection may include clips,
a rolled toe, a rocker toe, a hind shoe with extended heels, a bar shoe, a shoe
to raise hoof angle, a shoe with a pad, and two types of traction devices.
The candidate must be able to discuss and/or demonstrate the use of any shoe in
his collection and must be able to prepare any of the shoes to fit a particular
hoof or pattern as presented by the examiner.
The Journeyman Certified Farrier candidate must have a minimum of two years experience,
must have passed the Certified Farrier examinations, and must have demonstrated
a superior level of knowledge related to horseshoeing. The Journeyman written
exam covers the anatomy and physiology of the limb and hoof in great detail.
The first part of the practical exam requires shoeing all four hooves of a horse
in two hours with handmade shoes; toe clips on the fronts and quarter clips on
the hinds. Part two of the practical exam requires forging and fire-welding
a bar shoe to fit a pattern or hoof as provided by the examiner.
The AFA maintains an updated directory of farriers' names, addresses, phone numbers,
and level of certification. By contacting the AFA (American Farrier's Association,
4089 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, Kentucky 40511) you can obtain the names of the
AFA Certified and Certified Journeyman Farriers in your area. However, since
over half of the farriers in the United States are not members of the AFA, if
you rely solely on the farriers list from the AFA, you may miss finding a very
talented and capable farrier who may live just down the road from you. So,
take the list you began compiling from advertisements and add the AFA farriers
to it. Now you are ready to begin the most revealing portion of your research.
When you ask people who their farrier is, you are likely to get an overwhelmingly
enthusiastic recommendation. For some reason, most horse-owners have a very
strong allegiance to their farriers whether there is rational basis for their
devotion or not. That is why I am going to recommend that you speak with
nine different people before you formulate your master list. Talk to three
people in each of the following three groups.
Group 1: Veterinarians. Beginning with your own veterinarian,
ask him which farriers he has worked with. Ask how capable and open-minded
he felt the farrier was in solving problems with a veterinarian. Ask if
the farrier worked well with the owner in developing and implementing management
that would help deal with hoof problems. Ask your veterinarian to name both
the farriers he recommends and those he does not recommend. Then ask two
other equine veterinarians in your area to tell you what farriers they have worked
with. Take notes on your farrier resource list.
Group 2: Professional trainers, instructors, stable managers,
or breeders. Ask the professional horsemen in your community which farriers
they have had experiences with and which ones they currently employ. Don't
take one person's opinion so strongly that after you hear his or her testimony
you either cross a farrier off your list or put five stars by his name.
Just keep adding data to your list, including details such as, "never on
time", "my horses are always ready to go right into the show ring",
or "he's hard to get along with". Ask how long it takes for various
farriers to replace lost shoes; if a horse has ever been lame right after shoeing
and what the farrier did about it; if the farrier works well with the farm veterinarian;
if the farrier gets along well with horses.
Group 3: Horse owners. Choose three horse owners that are very
similar to the type of horse person you are or aspire to be. If you are
a casual trail rider, it would be inappropriate to ask a gaited show-ring rider
for his or her farrier recommendations. So, find three people who follow
the same level of management that you do and ride as frequently as you do in similar
activities and ask them the same sorts of questions that you asked the people
in Group 2. Add more notes to your farrier resource list.
By now, you should have a notebook bursting full of valuable personal recommendations.
Now you need to summarize. It should become fairly obvious which farriers
automatically rise to the top and which have stayed at the bottom during your
entire survey. Try to narrow your list down to 3 or 4 names that kept coming
up repeatedly in a very positive way. Also, while the information is fresh
in your mind, make a secondary list of all other names which didn't have negative
things associated with them, but which did not come up with as much frequency
as those on your top list. You may need this secondary list sometime in
the future, so compile it now in your estimated order of preference for later
reference. Now you need to either speak in person or on the phone to your
top farrier choices.
When you think about it, when you hire a farrier to work on your horse, he or
she becomes an employee of yours, so you have every right to request background
information. Some farriers have a biographical sheet that they give to prospective
clients that lists their education, experience, and rates. If not, you can
ask pertinent questions related to the school that the farrier attended, how long
he has been shoeing, and what areas of specialty he has. If you are interested
in riding reining horses, you'd better be sure your farrier knows about sliding
plates; if you will be raising foals, he'd better understand the developmental
process of the young horse's limbs. If you present your questions in a courteous,
respectful manner, no farrier should take such inquiries as an affront.
If he does, it may tell you something about how the two of you will get along.
Besides getting a feeling about a farrier's level of expertise and his manner,
a brief telephone or personal interview will also allow you to find out his rates
and scheduling procedures, two very important business details that must be clearly
discussed to prevent misunderstandings. Once you have found the farrier
that suits your needs, here's how to keep him.
2008 Cherry Hill ©