A very old profession that arose as a consequence of the increasing domestication of donkeys and horses, farriers specialize in making and applying horseshoes for horse owners, as well as providing them with all aspects of equine hoof care.
Often confused with blacksmiths, these equine specialists employ some of the skills of a blacksmith, but also need to apply some of the knowledge of a veterinarian. If you love horses and are interested in following this time-honored career path, this guide will give you all the relevant information.
We have answered all of your most frequently asked questions about this age-old profession, below. We also included helpful info on starting your own business in this exciting industry.
What Does A Farrier Do?
The Duties Of A Professional Farrier
Duties include trimming and balancing horse hooves, and if necessary, placing shoes on hooves.
While modern-day practitioners are still involved with the fabrication and adjustment of metal shoes for horses, veterinary knowledge such as the anatomy and structure of horses’ feet is essential to providing horses with the very best care.
There is more focus now on the health of a horse’s hooves. Many farriers choose to specialize in particular disciplines or breeds of horses. Knowledge of equine physiology and diseases is a must, as the farrier will be in consultation with veterinarians and horse owners regarding the health of horses’ limbs.
Typically, metal horseshoes are applied to a horse’s foot with nails driven through into the hoof wall. As the hoof grows and the nails subsequently loosen, the horseshoe must be removed so that the hoof can be trimmed, and a new horseshoe reattached. This has to be repeated every 6 weeks or so.
If you look back at the history of horseshoeing, you’ll learn that the local blacksmith would make and fit horseshoes, with little knowledge of or regard for the health and care of a horse’s hooves. In modern times it has evolved into a separate profession and this job is now done by specially trained farriers.
Special pre-made shoes are now readily available, allowing farriers to perform this task far more easily.
Skills Needed To Do Farriery Work
- A genuine love of horses
- Knowledge about horse breeds
- The ability to handle stubborn horses
- Knowledge of horse anatomy and illnesses
- Stamina and physical strength to manage horses
- Blacksmithing (metalworking) abilities for the making and adjustment of horseshoes
What Are The Most Commonly Used Tools Of A Farrier?
A hoof tester is used to examine a horse’s hooves by applying pressure in certain areas to check for painful areas that may be a sign of an abscess. A veterinarian uses such a device to test for lameness.
A hoof gauge is used to measure hoof length and angle, to ensure that the feet are level and even.
All farriers make use of a multi-purpose tool called a rasp. Rasps are like heavy-duty nail files for horses.
Rasps are used to keep unshod hooves even and level, to round the edges of hooves that have been trimmed, and to file away bits of the hoof that overhang a horseshoe.
Horseshoes offer protection and support to a horse’s hoof and prevent wear and injuries to the foot.
A farrier generally fits a horseshoe to a horse’s hoof by using a pre-existing metal shoe as a template and then checking to see if and how much it needs to be reshaped to fit the horse’s foot.
A horse cannot be ridden barefoot after shoe removal. While waiting for the new horseshoes, a hoof boot can be used to protect its hooves.
If a horseshoe needs to be reshaped to fit a horse’s foot, the farrier places it in a special oven that heats the metal, called a forge. This is where a farrier’s job mirrors a blacksmith’s, as this is what a blacksmith uses for heating metal to be worked into shapes.
Hammer And Anvil
After a horseshoe has been heated in a forge, the hot metal of the shoe is reshaped using a hammer and anvil. This is the same procedure blacksmiths use.
For an in-depth look at farrier tools, check out our ultimate guide to farrier tools.
How Much Do Farriers Make?
Farriers are usually self-employed and can thus ultimately charge what they want, per service. Their income is dependent on the number of clients they have and how well they market themselves. That said, experienced farriers can earn more money working on racehorses and show horses.
The average annual salary in the US, depending on which state you are in, can be anywhere from $40,335 to $57,675. The top 3 US states for high earnings as a farrier are Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Rhode Island.
There are approximately 2,900 registered farriers in the UK. Many farriers are self-employed, charging an hourly rate depending on the type of work done. But their yearly income can be anywhere from £16,000 to £35,000.
How Much Do Farriers Charge?
For a trim only, the cost will be somewhere between $37.22 and $43.13. The cost of a full set of horseshoes will be from $90 to $150.
A horse’s feet continually grow so, shod or not, will require trimming every 6 weeks or so. The cost each time will be about £25-£30 for trimming and £50-£85 for shoeing.
How Do I Become A Farrier?
Where And How To Train As A Farrier
When you study at a farrier school, the focus is on hoof care, although you’ll be taught blacksmithing skills as well. You’ll be taught about horse anatomy, how to trim hooves and assess medical problems, basic and advanced horseshoeing, and how to use smithing tools such as a forge and anvil.
The exact course may vary depending on which country you are in, but we list the top 3 courses of study in this field, below.
In the US, one of the top-rated schools is Butler Professional Farrier School. It teaches students basic trimming and shoeing and provides advanced classes offered by instructors with more than 45 years of experience in the equine industry.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University offers a 9-month program consisting of 3 levels: Basic, an introduction to horse anatomy and hoof trimming; Intermediate, expanding on the areas of forging, physiology, and shoeing; and Advanced, which focuses on evaluating horse lameness, equine diseases, and podiatry.
In the UK, to practice in this industry, you will need to complete an Apprenticeship in Farriery. This includes college tuition, on-the-job training with an Approved Training Farrier, and the completion of an End Point Assessment.
How Do I Start My Own Farrier Business?
If you are interested in starting your own business in the hoof care industry, you will first complete a course at a farrier school such as the ones above. Horse owners need to know that they can place their trust in you and that you will be providing their horses with the very best care.
Three organizations conduct voluntary farrier certification programs in the US. They are the American Farrier’s Association, the Guild of Professional Farriers, and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers.
The American Farrier’s Association
This community of professional farriers, veterinarians, equine services suppliers, and horse owners offers farrier classification upon the successful completion of written and practical tests.
Their Farrier Certification Program consists of 3 categories: Classification, Certification, and Endorsement. Membership of this association is highly recommended for farriers wishing to start their own business in the US.
The Guild Of Professional Farriers
The Guild Of Professional Farriers is an organization of American farriers that was founded in 1996.
The Brotherhood Of Working Farriers Association
This is a non-profit trade association, dedicated to providing information to horse owners and to farrier education and certification.
The Western Canadian Farriers Association is a non-profit association that was formed in 1983, to keep horse owners informed of the quality and standard of farrier services available.
According to the Farriers Registration Act 1975, only a person who has been registered as a farrier is entitled to advertise themselves as one and to engage in farriery work in the UK.