The saying “no foot, no horse” is one of the truest sayings you’ll hear in horse racing. It’s because of the reliance of a good hoof on a racehorse that a farrier is so important to the industry.
A farrier is the person who makes sure a horse’s feet are in top notch shape by shoeing them and making sure the foot is perfectly balanced. Many horses haven’t been able to live up to their talent due to foot issues while others have been helped by a good farrier.
But being a farrier isn’t just about trimming a hoof or putting a shoe on a horse.
If you want to be a farrier, you have to consider that it isn’t a nine to five job. You don’t have much control over your work hours with the potential of clients needing you to stop by and quickly work on their horse if they’ve lost a shoe or have a lameness in addition to regularly scheduled appointments. You also have to make sure you are very physically fit, with a lot of bending and lifting involved in the job, and have to have good hand-eye coordination. Good communication skills are also a plus, as you’ll work closely with clients.
“You are always on call when you’re a farrier, there is a lot of stress involved with working in a racing stable,” said Dean Kinane. “The job requires a lot more than just shoeing horses. Making appointments with clients and discussing a horse’s shoeing needs with his owner is harder than the actual shoeing process. Most farriers are self-employed, so you need to be able to organise your own bookings and order stock and tools. You may also need to keep accounts and promote your business.”
A few of the tasks a farrier has to do is figuring out the best shoe for the horse’s level of activity and foot condition, adjusting the shape of shoes that don’t fit, and noting if there is any abnormal wear or bruising caused by the horse’s shoes or activities. The more experience you have with horses, the easier these tasks will become, but no equine experience is needed to begin the path to becoming a farrier.
With all the different talents you need to be a farrier, you can’t just go buy tools and start a business with no knowledge of the trade. There are numerous educational paths available to someone who wants to be a farrier, even those with no equine knowledge, usually culminating with a Certificate III in Farriery.
A few of the lessons you’ll learn will include how to handle horses safely while working on them, determining the best plan for shoeing a horse and the best shoes to use on them, and how to use a variety of tools. In most cases you’ll also complete a four year apprenticeship to get real world experience. The apprenticeship will have you working under an experienced farrier and will also give you the chance to make connections that will help when you go out on your own.
After graduating from the course, you will have plenty of opportunities to continue your education with workshops and seminars taking place around the world. This career path also gives you the opportunity to work and travel to different parts of the world with horsemen always looking for a good farrier.
As your own boss, you get to set your own prices but they have to be in line with other farriers to build a good client base. On average, farriers in Australia make about $1,000 a week and work around 35 hours, though that can drastically change due to a variety of factors. Sought after farriers can make much more than that. As an apprentice, you’ll earn about $500 a week and work your way up from there.
However, you shouldn’t expect to be in high demand right after graduation as it can take a lot of time to build a good reputation.
When you build that reputation not only will you have the opportunity of working for trainers and other owners but you can also work with vets and equine hospitals. Many equine hospitals have farriers on staff or on call that help perform surgical farriery or corrective shoeing.
For Kinane, being part of the team that get a horse to perform his best is the biggest rewarding part of being a farrier.
“When you work very hard with a horse that has been a project and see it run well and it’s because of you that the horse is able to live up to his potential, that’s the best job satisfaction,” he said.
Being a farrier can be stressful and hard work but the work you’re doing is worth it and could see your client’s horse become the next Melbourne Cup winner.