Farrier work is a craft skill. It takes many years to master any craft. Farrier school is only the beginning. You must study and practice to become competent. You must train your eyes, your brain, and your motor nerves and muscles to do this precision work. You must obtain the knowledge and develop the skills of a competent farrier. This means you know your craft and are no longer struggling.
There is a shortage of competent farriers. Many are practicing with inadequate training and experience. The only reason more horses aren’t lame is because most horses are very forgiving of farrier error. Following are skills that are essential. If you don’t have these, the horse owner will look for one who does. Your possession of these traits raises the cost of switching to a new farrier.
1) You must be able to balance a foot. To do this you must take into consideration the horse’s conformation, gait, use and environment. You must position your eyes perpendicular to the plane you desire to assess. You must be able to project the ideal on to and compare it to each foot you work on. You must be able to recognize and describe balance. You must be capable of compensating for imbalance.
2) You must be able to use the trimming tools to achieve balance. Keep your tools sharp and well maintained. Replace them when they are worn out. Practice making over lapping cuts with your nippers to create a level hoof that requires very little rasping. Remove hoof distortion or flares with your rasp. Trim hooves and fit shoes so there is no sole pressure. Round the edges of hooves that are to be left barefoot.
3) You must be able to select or make and fit shoes to the trimmed and dressed hoof. Shoe fitting skill is often lacking in practicing farriers. You must see the hoof shape first before you can accurately fit to it. Visualize and shape starting with the toe and move toward the heels. Shaping shoes accurately is aided by the forge. You must learn where on the anvil to hold the shoe to make precise adjustments. Even well made machine made shoes must be altered to fit individual feet. A well fit shoe is easy to nail accurately.
4) You must know the anatomy and physiology of the horse’s foot. You must know the foot and what’s in it. You must know how it works, what can go wrong, and what may be done to fix it. You must learn the vocabulary, the form and the position of the structures. You should know the foot as well or even better than the vet. You must become a respected foot specialist.
5) You must be aware of foot abnormalities and be able to accommodate them by forging alterations in shoes. You should be able to recognize abnormal conformation of the foot and limb. You should know the common foot diseases and what the vet can do to treat them medically and how you can treat them mechanically with various therapeutic shoes. You must be efficient in your use of the forge to make and alter shoes.
6) You must be able to explain what is needed to the horse owner and veterinarian and convince them of its value. You must know anatomy and a specialized industry vocabulary so that you can adequately explain a problem and present options for them to choose. After they have chosen and committed to the agreed-upon course of action, you must continually remind and convince them of the value of such a course.
7) You must be able to run a sustainable business. To do this you must exercise self-discipline. Don’t waste your resources. Keep accurate and honest records. Live by a schedule. Plan ahead so you can be on time for appointments. Communicate your expectations. Guard your health. Thank people for their business. Be an information resource. Do those things that will keep your clients happy.
This is what I think a competent farrier should be able to do. I believe a number of the problems in our industry are ones that poorly prepared farriers have brought upon themselves. They are not doing any or all of these things to a high standard. As a result, farriers have an image of ignorance. I hope you will commit to changing that image by resolving to be a professional farrier and master your craft!
Butler Professional Horseshoeing School
495 Table Road
Crawford, NE 69339
If you think you want to become a farrier (or know someone who does), this book can help you make that decision. Horse owners will learn the importance of choosing a qualified farrier and how to select the “right” one.
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