Becoming a farrier is a big commitment, so before jumping in headfirst, it’s best to do some thorough research and test the waters first. Josh Emsley, a full-time second generation farrier, writes that assessing oneself is an important first step before finding out how to become a farrier.
Is farriery right for you?
Four hours of farriery is equivalent to eight hours of hard construction work, so you have to know whether you’re up for the job. You also have to realize that this job brings danger since even friendly horses can be spooked. So if you’re working closely with horses, you better know what you’re doing!
For this reason, Emsley suggests asking a farrier if he or she can let you shadow them and help out with some basics of the farrier trade. Doing this will give you a good feel for what a typical day as a farrier is like. The initial months, year or even more will take a lot of adjustment as your body gets used to the physical work and new body positions that you’re working in.
Farriery is a tough physical job, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to a particular type of person. Though a certain amount of fitness is required, men and women of all backgrounds become farriers, so as long as you’re motivated, work hard and love horses, you can too! If you’re still deciding whether to get into farriery or not, read “Is farriery right for me?”
Different paths to become a farrier
Legally working as a farrier in the UK requires accreditation through the National Farrier Training Agency (see their website for details). In other countries, accreditation is not required, which means there’s a much greater level of freedom in becoming a farrier.
Since farriery has become a more specialized trade than in years past, there’s more reason than ever to take the time to get quality experience before working as a farrier. Since it’s a hands-on job, experience is paramount. That initial experience is typically gained either through school or through an apprenticeship.
The level of experience you gain from a farrier school will be dependent on the length and quality of your program. Any experience you gain after that will be up to you. Read “How to choose a school“ for more information, then browse through the school directory to find the right school for you. Remember that school is just a start to your experience.
If you have the opportunity to do an apprenticeship, it’s a good idea to do so as it offers an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and will make it easier for you to find work. Some learn how to become a farrier only by apprenticing while others do a combination of schooling and apprenticing or just schooling.
It’s important to note that if you choose to learn solely through an apprenticeship you’ll be learning the way one person does things and may pick up his bad habits. If you attend a school, that may be the case as well if there’s just one instructor, but if there are multiple instructors and you have the opportunity to attend different clinics and workshops you’ll be exposed to a variety of new ideas and methods, which will expand your tool belt of possibilities.
Apprenticing can be done at any point. Some feel that you’ll get more from school if you apprentice first (or shadow at least) since you’ll already know the basics and will be better able to understand what you’re taught from your own experience. Read the “Farrier apprenticeships” page to find out what to look for in an apprenticeship.
Career vs. job
If you’re looking at farriery as a job rather than a career, the decision to become a farrier won’t require as much long-term foresight. But if you’re thinking long-term you’ll want to think of your longevity. It’s a demanding job, so the more skilled you are the easier you’ll make your life and the more you’ll appreciate your job.
There are some start up costs to becoming a farrier. If going the school route, there’s school tuition and living expenses and transportation costs while in school. If apprenticing, living expenses still need to be taken care of. There are also a number of tools required to work as a farrier, though some schools may let you keep the tools you use while in school. Visit the “Farrier supplies” page to get an idea of how much you will need to spend in tools.
On your way
Once you’ve done your research to determine whether farriery is right for you and have assessed if you can fund the start-up costs, the next step is deciding how you’d like to gain the required knowledge and experience to become a farrier. Read through the “Education Guide“ for ideas. All the best with your journey!
An informative video on how to become a farrier:
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photo courtesy 7tenths (CC – BY)