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A Career in Horses: What is a Professional Farrier / Horseshoer?
Become a Professional Horse Shoer

Article from Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School

What is a farrier?
The word farrier comes from the word ferrǒur, a Middle English word that refers to a blacksmith who also shoes horses.  The farrier’s job description also included veterinarians until the middle 1800’s when veterinarians and farriers split into two different occupations. The term farrier (horseshoer) is now used specifically to a blacksmith who specializes in shoeing horses.

Farrier Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster: “A career in farriery is an opportunity for self-disciplined people who don't mind hard work to be self-employed. An experienced full-time farrier can make more than $100,000, making it a good return on your educational investment.  July 31, 2020”

What does a farrier do? 
A farrier (or horseshoer) is someone who is involved in the hoof care of all equids; donkeys, mules and horses.  Additionally, most farriers are occasionally asked to trim domestic farm animals such as, goats, sheep and pigs.

A farrier will pick up an animal’s hoof (foot) and hold it in a variety of positions to stabilize the leg and foot. The foot is cleaned and examined for excessive length, diseases and distortions.

The farrier makes assessments of the animal’s feet, listens to the desires of the owner and then formulates a process that is in the best interest of the horse.  He or she may use several tools; nippers, hoof knife and rasp, to trim the excessive growth to leave barefoot or to trim the foot to apply a variety of appliances to the foot: steel or aluminum horseshoes, synthetic horseshoes, glue on shoes of a variety of materials and the application of rubber or polyurethane boots.

A quality farrier works in concert with a veterinarian, trainer and owner to develop a shoeing prescription that horse to move to its optimum performance potential.

Every animal should be trimmed or shod every four to eight weeks, thereby giving the farrier a regular income throughout the year with repeat customers and the requirement for a limited number of clients.
Working as a Professional Horse Shoer / Farrier
Some horses only require a trim.  Others may need horseshoes.  Horseshoes are not only used to compensate for excessive wear on a horse that is regularly ridden, but other factors that the farrier uses to decide if the horse needs shoes are;

protect the foot and foot structures.
support the limb from injury or conformation defects.
leverage reduction to the internal structures of the hoof.
add traction.
reduce traction.
for gait correction.
for gait enhancement.

Metal horseshoes are placed in a propane forge, and when heated to the right temperature, are placed on an anvil and shaped with a hammer to match the shape of the animal’s foot.

The metal shoes are nailed onto the animal’s hoof with a specially made horseshoe nail. The nail is drive from the ground surface of the hoof and exits approximately one third of the distance to the coronary band.  The piece of nail that has exited the foot is bent, cut to the appropriate length and folded against the hoof, forming the clinch. The horseshoe is literally hung onto the foot by the clinches.
Farriers are most often self-employed, working full or part-time.  They drive their farrier trucks, vans or trailers to homes, stables and ranches to care for the hooves of the horses, mules or donkeys. There are many part-time farriers as well as full time farriers.

As the business owner, the farrier decides on the number of hours per day that they wish to work and the specific days they wish to work or not work.  The farrier controls the number of animals they wish to work on per day.

Farriers in the United States are not regulated by any government agency in any state except for farriers working on the  racetracks.  Each state has a racing authority that tests and approve farriers to shoe on the racetrack.
Working Conditions of Farriers

Working conditions
Farriers work outside most of the time.  Some farriers have clients with large facilities so the work is inside. Farriery is very physical work. It involves a lot of bending, lifting and the handling horses,

A farrier must be capable of working outside and in the in the weather their area produces, year around.  Heat, cold and wind are normal working conditions for a farrier.

They should be capable of working with a variety of horses from ponies to large performance horses.  Like people, horses come with their own personalities and a good farrier can recognize these personalities and be capable of adjusting his approach and style to meet that particular animal’s needs.

Shoeing horses is a physical endeavor that requires agility, stamina, balance and athleticism. A farrier does not need to be big and strong but must be capable of physical work daily.

A farrier should be well-versed in horse anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. They should also be able to read a radiograph of the foot. Many good farriers continue their education through reading or attending clinics, seminars and conferences.
Careerr Success as a Farrier

Personality Traits of the Successful, Self-Employed Farrier.
To become a successful farrier you must possess the following traits:

An interest in and an enjoyment from working with horses.   You must possess the proper temperament for working with a variety of horses.  People who get easily frustrated and respond with anger do not make good farriers.

Horsemanship skills, not just riding but in ground handling horses.  If you are weak in these areas find a facility to volunteer your time so you can get practice in working with a variety of horses.

Self-discipline.  Entering into the horseshoeing profession will not afford you overnight success.  It takes hard work, patience, self-discipline and self-confidence.  It may take years to build a successful client base that provides the income needed to buy a house and support a family.  Self -discipline is required in large doses.  Every minute of every day requires that you exhibit qualities that are not necessary if you are an employee. 

Self-confidence.   Being a farrier requires that you be prepared for failures and setbacks particularly in the first couple of years.  If failure is a roadblock the freezes you and creates a negative environment that haunts you all day and into the next, you will have problems. For many ex -employees who are used to having a paycheck arrive regularly every two weeks, the uncertainty of being self-employed maybe difficult to deal with.

The ability to be a self-motivated initiator. If you are an employee, other people tell you what to do, either directly or indirectly. You get used to having your actions directed by others. If no one tells you what to do, you do nothing.  You have to be your own motivator and you will have to direct your own actions as a small business owner. You can't just sit there and hope that your business will grow. You have to make an overt effort for success, every day.  No one's going to point out what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and how well it must be done.

The ability to possess consistent effort all day every day.  We've all seen employees who are just going through the motions, or who were just "putting in the time" until their shift is over. You don't need to work there to know who these people are and the affect they have on the business’ reputation. As an employee, you may be used to operating in a "head-down" position but if you are going to start a business and become successfully self-employed, you need to start operating in the "head-up" position. 

You can't afford to just coast along, or go through the motions, if you're running a business. Your clients need to know that you are devoting 100 percent of your talent, skills and attention to them - they will go elsewhere if they don't feel this is the case.

Dedication and the ability to sacrifice. You need to deliver this constant and consistent effort without the employee safety net. Many employees are used to being able to "call in sick" and have someone else cover their job, for instance. As a self-employed business owner, you'll have to go in and give it your best effort no matter how you feel.

You can also say goodbye to the holidays that many employees enjoy, those national and state holidays, at least until your business is established to the point that you can manage your own time.

Many employees are used to having days filled with predictable activities; self-employed people don't.  You must be able and willing to meet the needs of each and every day.

The ability and willingness to make decisions.  Once you start your own business, there's nowhere to pass the buck. As an employee, you may be used to passing problems up along the food chain or not be very involved in decision making. As a self-employed business owner, you're the one who will have to deal with whatever the crisis is and solve the problems as immediately as possible. You're the one who will have to make the decisions.

The ability and desire to maintain current and accurate financial data and closely monitor finances.  Many small businesses fail because of the owner’s failure to keep accurate records and maintain a healthy financial position on a regular basis. 

If you make $500 shoeing horses in a day you do not have $500 to spend on personal items.  You must maintain sufficient funds to purchase materials and supplies for your business.  You must be able to purchase gas and have money for maintenance of your vehicle when needed.  You will need to put away money for taxes, since you do not have an employer taking your taxes out of your paycheck.

Most farrier practices fail if these traits are not adhered to. You must be able to take control of your life, your finances and your business to be successfully self-employed.

How do I become a farrier?

Gone are the days of the cowboy farrier, unkempt, mouth full of tobacco with no formal education in farrier science.

Today’s modern farrier is a specialist in the equine care giving group.  Today’s farriers must have an in-depth knowledge of anatomy, physiology and the bio-mechanics of the equine foot.  He/she must have a full understanding of equine conformation, knowing that conformation dictates movement and what a farrier can and cannot do to correct or enhance that movement.

A modern farrier must have a grasp of equine lameness and know how to relieve stress on an injured system when where to place that stress so that there are not additional injuries.  A knowledge of gaits and gait defects.  In short, the modern farrier needs to be educated in the art and science of horseshoeing.

As the owner and instructor of Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School, Inc. in Plymouth, California I have trained farriers for over 32 years.  I have seen what it takes to produce a successful, self-employed farrier and I have modified my program over the years to facilitate that result.

The selection of a school is one of the most critical aspects of becoming a farrier.  Your basic education is the foundation upon which your practice will grow.  As a potential farrier you MUST take control of your education. 

Selecting a school just because it is the closest school to where you live can be disastrous to your start as a farrier.   School selection should be based upon interviewing the school, not the secretary, about the curriculum and the instructors.

At Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School, Inc. I have three instructors, besides myself.  A condition to employment is that the instructor must have a minimum of 10 years actively shoeing and supporting themselves as a farrier.  Someone with less experience may be able to teach you how to tack a shoe on the bottom of the foot but they are incapable of teaching you how to be professional farrier and how to have a successful farrier practice.  They have not lived it.  They have not dealt with customers, trainers and veterinarians so you will not get the benefit of that experience .An 18-year old instructor who just finished the class before you is a very, very poor instructor.

Questions to Ask a Farrier school.
Farrier Schools

1.  Who will be my instructors and what is their experience as a professional farrier?  How many years of an independent did they have?

At Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School our instructors have a minimum of ten years of shoeing.  Not only can they instruct on the methods of trimming and shoeing but they can offer insight into many obstacles a new graduate might face because they have faced them as well.  Running a successful shoeing practice will change the way you teach because you know what it is like.

2.  Will I be learning new things daily for the length of the program?

Yes, there is repetition in learning this craft, particularly the forge.  However, students need to be increasing their knowledge daily.

3.  Is there an influx of new students weekly where I will be responsible for helping them? Or do I get to work on improving my own skills, daily?

At Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School each class starts and ends together.  Everyone is on the same “page” and become the support group for classmates.

4. What kind of horses will I be working on? 

There is no longevity, in this field, if you work on ill-mannered animals. You cannot learn the concepts of balance and quality shoeing on a moving foot. An 1100-pound horse can put an end to your career before it begins or it can put a permanent stop to a successful career.  The modern, successful farriers take a pass on ill-mannered horses knowing that working rough stock is not part of being a modern professional farrier.

5.  Will I be able to work after hours and on weekends in the forge and classroom?  Or am I restricted to the eight-hour day, five days a week.?

At Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School, the forge area is open from 6 am to 8 pm, seven days a week for students to enhance their skills.  The classroom/library is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for students.

6. Does the school have an active relationship with farrier trade organization, the American Farrier’ Association and/or the International Association of Professional Farriers?

Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School is the first and only school to be endorsed by the American and the International Association of Professional Farriers.  Our curriculum, instructors and success rate have set the benchmark for approval for American and International schools.

7.  Is the school invested in the students continuing education after graduation?

At Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School we are committed to our graduate’s success. The school pays for a one-year membership with the American Farrier’s Association (AFA) and a two-year membership to the International Association of Professional Farriers (IAPF) for each student.

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