A farrier is a highly skilled professional who provides hoof care for horses. Although the job may be quite physically demanding, it offers a flexible work schedule and substantial financial rewards.
A farrier uses different tools in the performance of his job. These include nippers and rasps for trimming and shaping normal or defective horse hooves. The farrier also reshapes, applies, and adjusts horseshoes, whenever necessary.
Duties and Responsibilities of a Farrier
In general, a horse’s hooves will need trimming every 6 – 8 weeks to sustain a good balance between its hooves and lower limbs. Shoes in varying designs, sizes, and weights are available for immediate use with minimal reshaping. But some farriers have ironwork skills, and can craft custom made horseshoes. These farriers are also called blacksmiths.
Majority of horseshoes today are pre-fabricated. According to an American Farriers Journal’s recent survey, less than 10% of horseshoes are custom orders.
When determining the necessary hoof adjustment’s to make, the farrier must assess the horse’s gait, conformation, and hoof balance carefully. There are specialist farriers who are experts in shoeing and corrective trimming of young and growing horses. They use resin, epoxy, and glue-on horseshoes to alter the angle of the lower limbs and feet, as well as to induce proper growth.
Horse owners are the usual clients of farriers. They consult the farriers for suggestions on feeding, and which hoof care products, fly sprays, supplements, and equipment are best to use.
As mentioned, the job of a farrier is physically demanding. It requires standing for prolonged periods while in a bent position, and lifting the animal’s leg. Thus, an aspiring farrier must have the necessary strength and fitness for the job.
Farrier Training, Education, and Certification
In the US, there are 3 major farrier certification groups. These are the Guild of Professional Farriers, American Farriers Association, and Brotherhood of Working Farriers. Being a member of any of these associations comes with extra benefits to farriers. These include supply purchase discounts, continuing education clinics, and group insurance plans, among others.
The law does not require certification to practice the profession. But, most farriers in the US are members of at least one of these professional groups.
If you’re an aspiring farrier, you can enrol in several shoeing schools where you can learn the basics of horse hoof care. There are also lessons on equine physiology, anatomy, behavior, and conformation.
After completing farrier school, you can work as an apprentice for several years before you go on your own. This is how most farriers in the US start. The apprenticeship will help hone your skills. At the same time, you get invaluable assistance and advice from jaded professionals.
Demand for Farrier Services
According to the Media Guide of the American Farriers Journal, a full-time farrier handles around 270 horses each year, with an average of 7.1 visits to each of the horses. That sums up to more than 1,900 trimmings per year. The demand for farriers is expected to increase even further in the next decade or so.
Aside from routine hoof care, there’s also a high demand for emergency farrier services. These usually happen when a horse suffers from a sore foot or loses a shoe, and needs immediate attention.
Farrier Career Options
Today, around 90% of all farriers are self-employed. As mentioned, the job offers a flexible work schedule. This allows some farriers to make the rounds of racing and show circuits. They make their services available for horses that compete all over the US. On the other hand, part-time farriers run vanning, horse training, or breeding operations to supplement their shoeing work.
As a farrier, you’ll work with different equine breeds under various environments, from farms to racetracks. You can offer your services to owners of racehorses, pleasure horses, and zoo animals. You can also work with vets to come up with prosthetics or special shoes to help horses suffering from serious foot problems.
If you’re an experienced full-time farrier, you can demand an annual salary of around $95,000. If you’re a new farrier or you prefer to work part-time, you can earn an average salary of $25,000. Of course, salary will vary, depending on your location and type of services, but you can expect a very good earning potential.