Whether you’re a lifelong equestrian or have come to develop a new passion for working with horses, you may be interested in a career that involves horses. If so, you may be wondering how to become a farrier, trainer, or equine medicine expert. It’s okay not to know where to begin!
The truth is, many potential career pathways involve caring for, training, and working with horses of all breeds. Also, many professional equestrians spend time in different areas of horse-related work before settling on a career path that fits.
One of the most critical and specialized pathways among equestrian careers is that of the horse farrier. The work that a professional horse farrier does is an essential component of:
- The general upkeep and health of the horse
- Horse training
- Horse riding
- Horse shows
- Creating a perfect balance between a horses’ feet and the horseshoe
You might find yourself working for horse breeders, owners, or in a stable. When you have the proper level of experience and confidence you can consider going out on your own and become one of the many farrier business owners out there.
Farriers can be considered a part of the consumer services career path, which is a good one if you love helping people.
What Do Professional Farriers Do?
Professional farriers specialize in equine hoof care, focusing primarily on horses and donkeys.
The word “farrier” derives from the Latin word for “blacksmith,” which is one of the reasons many people assume a blacksmith and a horse farrier do the same job.
In reality, the job involves a combination of skills from various professional focuses, including medicine, blacksmithing, and horse training. These skills are used to improve the health and resilience of horses throughout different developmental and training phases.
One of the primary responsibilities is the health and fitness of a horse’s hooves. Hoof care is the most important part of the daily duties. Farriers inspect the hooves for damages, signs of disease, and other problems.
These examinations combined with basic therapy can reduce the likelihood of lameness in the event of hoof injury or weakness.
You may work along side an equine veterinarian to offer relief to a horse that my have been severely neglected or has disease or trauma of a hoof.
Horse hooves need regular trimming and clipping. These preventative measures improve the horse’s leg balance by keeping hooves in the proper shape and length for well-fitting shoes.
Farriers might use a tool like a rasp or nipper to safely cut away at the hoof, inspecting the horse for any signs of injury or illness during the process.
Because horses are often keep in limited spaces such as barns or small pastures, hoof hygiene is essential. While examining and trimming the hooves, farriers also use the opportunity to clean them.
During cleaning, farriers cut out excess hoof material, dead soles, and excess frog.
Finally, the most well-known role that farriers play in the care and training of horses is horseshoeing.
Domesticated horses require horseshoes for many reasons, including to:
- Improve hoof hardening in captivity
- Protect hooves from wearing down
- Regulate balance
- Protect hooves from disease
- Correct a horse’s gait
- Improve traction
- Therapeutic shoeing
- And more
As part of the horseshoeing process, farriers remove old horseshoes, trim hooves, measure, fit, and apply new shoes. The methods used are typically cold shoeing or hot shoeing which bends the shoes into the proper fit for each horse. You will also need to learn how to do forge work as well.
How To Become A Farrier
To become a farrier, you will need a high school diploma or GED and should attend a farrier training program either at a trade school or community college. Once completed, an internship is recommended, followed by testing for an optional farrier certification through the American Farriers Association.
For residents in the United States, farrier certification may not be necessary but could still give a new farrier an edge over the competition. In many ways, the path you choose to take on your journey to becoming a farrier can greatly impact the quality of your career once you get started.
High School Diploma or GED
A high school diploma or GED is required to become a farrier.
Shadow A Farrier
Get a job shadowing a training farrier, work at stable, and spend time networking with people in the horse community.
Training + Apprenticeship
Entry level farriers will find that an apprenticeship can help you refine your craft and make you more desirable to potential employers. Taking farrier courses at an accredited horseshoeing school is highly recommended.
Becoming an AFA certified farrier is highly recommended for future growth and income potential. There are several certificate classifications you can obtain during your career.
As a new farrier you will work with a more experienced farrier to gain the experience you need. Once you have some experience you can then work on your own or another team of farriers.
Shadow A Farrier
The most important step you can take when beginning your journey as an aspiring farrier is learning. We recommend finding an experienced local farrier that you can ask about shadowing. Shadowing a professional gives aspiring equestrians the chance to see what a typical day is like when working as a farrier.
In addition to providing a sort of preview of the work the farrier career path entails, the shadowing experience is also an excellent opportunity to showcase equestrian interests, form valuable professional connections, and get answers to any questions about the field.
Attend An Accredited Farrier School
Attending one of the many accredited farrier schools is highly recommended for this field and can mean the difference between being a good farrier and an amazing farrier.
A horseshoeing school can average 12-18 months and will offer a variety of farrier courses to help you become a competent farrier, even business courses in case you want to go out on your own.
This step will set you apart from the competition. Attending an accredited farrier school to gain foundational skills and knowledge will also help you earn higher wages and offer better long term prospects.
At some schools you may be introduced to several instructors who will help broaden your experiences and ideas. Be sure to ask about this when choosing a school! We encourage programs that have multiple instructors so you can get a variety of views and experiences.
Work As An Apprentice
Working as an apprentice farrier may be required for several years to get a great job. The sooner you begin working under an experienced farrier, the sooner you can advance to the professional level.
Certifications – AFA Certified Farrier
Some countries require a person to receive special certification before taking clients as a professional farrier. If you live in the United States, this certification may not be necessary in your area but could still provide a professional edge and an advantage over your competition. The American Farriers Association offers certified farrier exams which are offered to farriers who have at least one year of experience and demonstrated knowledge of their skills.
Those who pass the AFA Certified Farrier exam provide demonstrated knowledge of of horse anatomy, pathology, gaits, various horseshoes, and so much more making them much more desirable to employers.
There are 4 levels of certification that you can work towards during your career including:
- AFA farrier classification (FC)
- AFA certified farrier (CF)
- AFA certified tradesman farrier (CTF)
- AFA certified journeyman farrier (CJF)
The AFA farrier classification requires that you can pass written and practical testing as well as show solid knowledge of how to perform hoof care.
The AFA’s farrier certification program will become extremely important if you want to elevate your services to show horses or breeding farms. A horse owner of these kinds of horses will not only want to ensure you have an AFA certification, but also that you are continuing education in the field.
After you’ve finished your training, apprenticeship, and education, it’s understandable to want to branch out on your own. However, it may be wise to work alongside a more experienced horse farrier for the first few years of your career. This extra guidance allows for skill training that may not happen during the standard apprenticeship or learning experience.
While most farriers are self employed, others may work with stables, horse racing teams, or other organizations as a full-time employee.
Recommended Skills For Farriers
Clearly a love of horses is probably the biggest requirement to land a farrier job. Having problem solving skills and persistence are also great skills.
You will need exceptional people skills to work employers, horse owners, and stable hands. Understanding general horse health is also recommended.
Being in good physical health is also important as the job entails very physical work.
Pros & Cons Of Being A Farrier
- Working closely with horses
- Benefit the health and longevity of horses
- Gain experience and knowledge of multiple horse breeds
- Be their own bosses
- Travel often
- Work outdoors
- Physically demanding
- Required travel for clients
- Length, potentially expensive education and apprenticeships
- Lower initial salary rates
- Potential for injury
How Much Do Farriers Make?
For more in-depth information read our article on how much do farriers make that will break down the income of a self-employed farrier versus an employed farrier.
Data from the latest Farrier Business Practices Survey shows the average salary for a full-time self-employed farrier to be $116,486.
Employed farriers make a bit less coming in at about $51,826 annually.
Below are some additional resources to help become a farrier.