What Is a Farrier?

Farrier shoeing a horse

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Farriers are highly skilled equine foot-care professionals. While this job is known to be very physically demanding, working in the hoof-care industry offers substantial financial rewards and a flexible schedule.

Duties

Farriers use a variety of tools, such as rasps and nippers, to trim and shape a horse’s hooves. They also adjust, reshape, and apply horseshoes to the hooves if required. Horses generally require trimming every six to eight weeks to maintain the proper balance of the foot and lower limbs.

A variety of shoes in different sizes, weights, and designs are available for use with minimal reshaping, but some farriers are skilled in ironwork and can make custom shoes. Individuals with these iron-working skills are also referred to as blacksmiths.

Farriers must carefully evaluate the horse’s conformation, gait, and hoof balance when determining what adjustments to make. Some farriers specialize in corrective trimming and shoeing of young, growing horses. They may use epoxy, resin, and glue-on shoes to change the angle of the foot and lower limbs to promote correct growth.

Farriers also are routinely consulted by their horse-owner clients for recommendations on hoof care products, feeding, supplements, fly sprays, and other equipment.

Physically, farriers must be able to stand for long periods while bending and lifting a horse’s legs. This is a very physically demanding profession and requires a degree of strength and fitness.

Career Options

Farriers can work with a variety of breeds in different environments, from the farm to the racetrack. Pet horses, racehorses and even zoo animals can require attention from a farrier.

The majority of farriers working today are self-employed. The profession offers a very flexible schedule, and some farriers choose to travel the racing or show circuits, providing their services as horses compete across the country.

Some farriers also choose to only work part-time and run horse training, vanning, or breeding operations in addition to their shoeing work. They may also consult with veterinarians and construct special shoes or prosthetics to aid horses with severe foot problems.

Education, Training, and Certification

Certification is not required for this profession but most farriers belong to at least one professional group.

There are three major certification groups for farriers in the United States: the American Farriers Association (AFA), the Guild of Professional Farriers (GPF) and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association (BWFA). These associations also offer additional benefits to their members, such as discounts on supply purchases, group insurance plans, and continuing-education clinics.

For those just starting out in the business, there are a number of shoeing schools that teach the basics of equine foot care along with some classes on equine anatomy, physiology, conformation, and behavior.

Most farriers work as apprentices for a few years before venturing out on their own. The training helps the apprentice fine-tune their skills while getting advice and assistance from a seasoned professional.

Salary

While compensation may vary widely based on geographic location and type of work, this field is well known in the equine industry for its very solid earning potential. According to PayScale.com, the median annual salary of a farrier in the U.S. is $55,000. However, the top 10% of farriers earn more than $165,000 per year.

While the gross salary may be substantial, a farrier must also consider the costs of maintaining their business. These considerations include expenses such as insurance, trade association membership fees, truck maintenance, gas and equipment replacement or repair.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that overall employment of animal care and service workers will grow 16% through 2028, which is more than the 5% projected growth rate for all occupations. The BLS doesn't break out separate statistics for for farriers. However, there are more than seven million horses in the United States alone, and each horse requires foot care several times a year, so the demand for farriers is likely to remain.

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