This CareerStint article provides information on the duties and responsibilities of a farrier, a specialist in equine hoof care. Also find the skills required for this job, and the average income of a farrier.
Did You Know?
A horse cannot be ridden barefoot after shoe removal. A hoof boot can protect its hooves during this transition period.
Farriery, the shoeing of horses and similar animals, is an ancient and highly skilled craft. In the olden days, a blacksmith did everything. Now, farriery involves making horseshoes, preparing the animal’s feet for the shoes, and fitting the shoes. In UK, according to the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975, only the person who has registered himself as a farrier is entitled to be called ‘farrier’, and only the registered farriers can carry out farriery work. However, in the United States, horse farriers do not get any legal certificate, as farriery is not regulated by law.
The qualifications of a farrier may vary from person to person. In the US, three organizations – the American Farrier’s Association (AFA); the Guild of Professional Farriers (GPF); and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers (BWFA) conduct voluntary certification programs for farriers. They promote the well-being of horses through education of the horse owner, veterinarian, and farrier. Apart from horseshoeing, the duties of a farrier involve hoof trimming and equine foot care. A farrier specializes in difficult or skittish horses. Shoeing racehorses is a specialized trade in itself.
➺ Cleaning the hooves
➺ Cutting away excess hoof growth using tools like rasps and nippers, so that the horse is perfectly balanced
➺ Choosing the most appropriate shoe for a horse
➺ Adjusting the shape of the shoes for a particular horse
➺ Removing old shoes and fixing new shoes, as horses typically require re-shoeing every six to eight weeks
➺ Putting special shoes on horses before a race (Sometimes, special shoes are put before training.)
➺ Identifying health problems in horses
➺ Examining injured or diseased hooves
➺ Consulting the owner and the vet for speedy recovery of the horse
➺ Thorough knowledge about horse anatomy and physiology is required, as in order to find the defects in the legs and hooves of a horse, a farrier needs to evaluate the horse’s gait, hoof balance, etc.
➺ Knowledge about how to take care of horses
➺ Love for horses and a genuine interest in their care and behavior
➺ Skills to handle horses (Some horses are stubborn.)
➺ A lot of patience, stamina, and strength to cope with the physical demands of the job (Changing or fitting a shoe requires a farrier to lift up and hold a leg for several minutes. The job involves standing for long periods of time. Some horses are difficult to work with. Many farriers get hurt while performing their duties. If something hurts a horse, it bolts or kicks.
➺ Willingness for hard work
➺ Willingness for traveling (A farrier may have to work in barns, which are usually located in villages.)
➺ Thorough knowledge about blacksmith equipment and properties of metals is required as different types of metals are used to make shoes, and different types of shoes are required for jumping horses, racehorses, or gaited horses.
➺ Practical metalworking skills are needed, as a farrier has to shape the shoes and fix them when the metal is cold, or he has to forge the shoes when the metal is hot (cold shoeing and hot shoeing).
➺ Experienced and trained farriers can make more money by working on race and show horses than by working on pleasure horses.
➺ They may charge extra for an ’emergency service’ (a horse loses a shoe or has a sore foot that needs prompt attention).
➺ A farrier’s salary varies from place to place. In UK, an experienced farrier could expect to earn £30,000 a year, sometimes more.
➺ An American Farriers Journal survey in 2012 found that the average annual salary for full-time farriers in the U.S. was reported to be $92,623 per year and for part-timers, it was $21,153.
➺ Farrier salaries may vary from place to place as they are based on experience level, working hours, distance traveled to the job site, gas prices, insurance, and other factors.
After completing the essential training, it takes time to become a truly skilled craftsman. With lots of practice, a farrier can develop the necessary skills and proficiency. Besides, a farrier has to invest in the adequate tools and equipment. Many farriers work part-time maintaining separate careers. There are over nine million horses in the United States (and another hundred thousand below the radar), and each horse requires foot care multiple times a year. The demand for farriers is expected to increase over the next ten years.