So you want to be a farrier. The first things you will require are a strong back, loads of patience and a sense of humour.
Whether you want to make a living as a farrier or just want to learn how to trim your own herd, there are hundreds of great schools around the world to choose from, with courses that last anywhere from four months to four years.
Think About Apprenticeships
Some offer apprenticeships and some leave it up to you to find your own, if you want to. I chose to go to farrier school in Guelph, Ontario because it was the closest to home at the time. When I graduated, I was pretty good at trimming, but wasn’t confident enough to shoe a horse by myself, so I moved to Calgary, Alberta and worked with some different, amazing farriers.
Each one let me try out their tools and showed me useful tips and taught me different ways of trimming, shoeing and making shoes until I acquired my own style and was confident enough to go out on my own. I would definitely recommend apprenticing and learning from as many different farriers as you can.
Find A Farrier School That Fits You
Before you decide on a farrier school, do some research. They should all have websites with prices, details like requirements, content and duration of the courses, what tools are supplied by the school and what tools you will need to buy, and if apprenticeships are mandatory or even available.
The websites should also tell you how many people they accept for each class. I loved the small, personable atmosphere of my class of four students and two teachers. Get in touch with the schools you’re interested in and ask lots of questions about their programs.
Decide If You Want Certifications
Some schools also have the option of taking your farrier skills further to become a journeyman or master farrier, if you want the title. You don’t need either to make a living, but if you choose to, there’s a timed written exam, and you’ll need to make a shoe board.
That means your instructor will give you a list of specialty shoes, like a rocker toe front shoe or a hind one with clips or calked heels. You will be required to forge them and nail them to a board and bring the board with you to the exam. The shoes get harder to make with each level. Finally, you will have one hour to trim a horse, make a set of shoes and nail them on.
A great farrier once told me to figure out a way to work smarter, not harder. Any way you do it, this isn’t an easy job some days and your back and patience will be tested. I wish you the best of luck.
This is our monthly feature, “Ask a Farrier,” a Q and A with farrier Karen McMann. Karen has been a full-time farrier for 17 years. She graduated in 2002 from the Canadian School of Horseshoeing, where she studied under Pat Cullen. She serves on the Advisory Board of Equi-Health Canada and Equi-First Aid USA as a Farrier/Hoof Health Support specialist. Karen lives and works outside of Okotoks, Alberta.
If you have a question you’d like to ask a farrier (about horseshoeing, farriery, hoof and horse health, blacksmith tools, working as a farrier, etc.), email or leave it in the comments below. Every month, we’ll pick one question to answer in our feature.
Feature image: Yohan Cho