Amateurs or Professionals?

It is very difficult, if not impossible, for farriers to determine their own skill level. Without a standard to measure themselves against with a largely uneducated public measuring their work, it becomes easy for farriers to deceive themselves by pretending and practicing above their actual skill level.

Skill can only be properly defined and measured when there is a standard. An accurate assessment shows us and the examiner whether or not we meet the standard. If we don’t meet the standard, we must keep practicing until we do. A standard is something that doesn’t change. Perfection in the Greek means “progress towards completeness.” The standard is what we should strive for and be measured by.

There has been a lot of talk lately about amateur and professional farriers. Words change meaning over time. In our language, there are many ways to define words. Words are typically defined based on perception and experience. There are many ways to look at the same thing and describe it in a different context. The English word “amateur” came from a French word which in turn came from a Latin word that meant “lover.” In English, amateurs are so called because they do something for love of doing it and not for pay. Conversely, “professionals” were known as those who had entered a profession in order to make money. An amateur can also be defined as a person who takes part in something without having any experience or skill in it.

Over the years “professional” has come to mean many different things. In a few weeks, the Winter Olympic Games will start again. It used to be that only amateurs could compete in the Olympics. An amateur in this sense meant that they did not compete for money. Things have changed. Now there is a combination of amateur and professional athletes competing against each other in the Olympics. An amateur who wins an Olympic event possesses skills and abilities. It is not that they have much more skill, talent, or ability than a professional athlete; it is that they have a little bit more. An Olympic athlete’s ability to win is not measured solely by how long they have practiced, but by the skill, abilities, and talent they have developed as a result of perfect practice. An Olympic athlete not only has to possess a set of skills that meet a standard, but also must compete against those who have mastered the standard. In some events, the difference between first and second place can be thousandths of a point. Amateurs practice until they can do it right; professionals practice until they can’t do it wrong.

Skill is not formed solely with the passage of time. It is hammered out, a blow at a time, through diligent and focused practice. It is very difficult to determine our own skill. It is easier to deceive ourselves by pretending and practicing above our level. When we depend on an uneducated public to determine our skill level, it is impossible.

When clients like our work, personality, or new truck, we mistakenly think that we are high level craftsmen. We forget that most of our clients are not discriminating judges. We should be honest with ourselves about our skill level. Having our work scrutinized by an experienced mentor can be painfully humbling yet it is a necessary experience in order to grow. Voluntarily certifying is a good way (but not the only way) of improving skill level by striving to achieve a standard.

Skill equals accuracy plus speed. A farrier who works full time will be much more profitable if they possess skill which allows them to complete shoeing jobs with accuracy and speed. In order for any farrier to progress from a lower skill level to a higher skill level, they must understand the fundamentals. Everyone agrees that a foundation must be strong and it takes time and effort to build a strong foundation. In order to properly define and measure our skill level there must be a standard- not just a designation of full or part time practitioners.

Professionalism is determined by skill and competence; not time on the job. We must all work to ensure that the standard of excellence is preserved in our craft. We can do it. We must do it. We will do it if we all work together for the common good.

We need to learn, understand and apply the principles of farriery in order to develop technique and master skills at each of the different levels. We must get an overall picture of what skills and competence are required to be at each level as well as the importance of learning the principles, understanding the various techniques necessary in order to execute the principles correctly, and properly apply the skills in our work.

A principle is a general or basic truth on which other truths or theories can be based. When principles are properly understood and applied, we can have confidence in new and unfamiliar circumstances even though we may not yet be at our highest level. With continued practice of proper techniques using correct principles, our skill level will increase and we will build a prosperous business. We will progress through the various skill levels as we recognize our inadequacies and strive to constantly improve with diligence and we will stop looking for shortcuts.

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