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Choosing a new farrier...

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  • Choosing a new farrier...

    Outside of the obvious referral, "this is the best farrier ever!!"...

    How did you choose your farrier? What certifications do you like? Is there a registry that you use? What questions did you ask before you picked? Did you ask to see their work? What is a reasonable expectation for communication if they choose to say, add a pad on one foot with no explanation... do you require them to run changes by you or do you assume they are the expert and deal with it after?

    I, unfortunately, took the path of least resistance on a referral and really do not like the results, so I am shopping after the fact.

    I plan to narrow it down to three referrals, but I want to interview them if you will, and I am looking for some things that others may have used to pick a good one. Communication is going to be a hot button for me, but I also want to manage my expectations.

    I think this is the area of horse care I know the least about and I feel like I am totally at the mercy of the farrier... if you consider the saying "no hoof, no horse," this is a pretty big relationship.


  • #2
    I like certifications offered by independent national organizations that require the candidate to pass a series of examinations involving anatomy, biomechanics, shoe fabrication/modification, and live trimming and shoeing.

    Such tests, like the American Farriers Association certifications, usually provide an objective measure of a farriers basic knowledge, hand skills, and proficiency in completing the tasks involved in the job - all horses are trimmed and shod to an exact arbitrary standard. The arbitrary standard makes the test objective because every job is judged against the same standard.

    What the basic tests offered by the AFA do not measure is a farrier's ability to judge a horse's needs. The only "certification" that has ever attempted to offer such an examination is the Guild Registered Journeyman Farrier exam. This organization is no longer active and its total membership never exceeded 150.

    Critics of the Guild exam pointed out that the live trimming/shoeing portion of the exam is very subjective as it judged pass/fail based on the opinion of the examiner. And indeed the critics are correct in their assertion.

    For the live shoeing on the Guild exam, the candidate evaluates the horse and then writes a shoeing prescription. The examiner challenges the prescription and the test candidate must successfully defend the prescription before proceeding to shoe the horse. Upon successfully defending the prescription the candidate trims and shoes the horse according to specific measurements spelled out in the prescription. Upon completion of the live shoeing, the examiner evaluates the final job and compares it to the prescribed measurements and the predicted results. For example, if the test candidate drew a horse that had a forging or interfering problem, and the shoeing prescription indicate that it would correct the forging or interfering, the examiner would fail the candidate if the horse continued to interfere or forge. OTOH, a candidate could draw a horse with very simple straight forward needs, and this horse would not present the same challenge as a horse with a lameness problem. Thus the luck of the draw comes into play with the level of difficulty of the exam determined by the horse rather than by an exact arbitrary standard.

    The Guild membership also had a minimum experience requirement - 4 years (verified on paper) full time before being eligible to apply for the registry. Thus membership was restricted to established full time farriers that had passed a series of examinations and at least part of those examinations involved building hand-made shoes. As such, the Guild entrance criteria narrowed the field of potential candidates considerably.

    Considering that the average failure rate for first time test candidates has been about 80%, the AFA basic certification exams offer a significant challenge to a farriers proficiency. IMO, that high failure rate is the main reason that farriers avoid the AFA test in droves.

    Now there is a new national organization that offers farrier "accreditation" without any testing at all. The certification is based completely on the amount of experience "claimed" by the candidate. There is no published method of verifying the experience claim.

    If you sign up with them and claim you've been a farrier for 6 or 7 years, they will take your word for it and give you a "professional accreditation."

    I don't like this "certification" because of what it stands for - an attempt to legitimize the lowest common denominator, that being anyone willing to call them-self a farrier and claim to have significant experience. But since they started this gig, hundreds of farriers have jumped on their band wagon and gotten themselves "accredited." Ain't that swell?


    • #3
      What does a CJF entail, and what should one expect from one? Is one to assume that that is an AFA designation.
      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


      • #4
        I agree with Tom with regard to everything he wrote.
        Since he mentioned two of the National organizations that offer accreditation, I will mention three more.
        1. ELPO(Equine Lameness Prevention Organization) which also offers a 'field practical' though the candidate does not write a 'prescription' and 'defend' it, per se.
        2.The BWFA(Brotherhood of Working Farriers), whose certification process I know very little about (other than what I have read). I am skeptical of this credential for a few reasons. 1. A dog was once awarded a credential. 2. They usurped several of the appellations, first and still, used by the AFA. 3. "The BWFA and BWFA ME have the only program designed to allow the Master Educator School to certify their own students upon successful graduation of a specific program as outlined in the guidelines of the BWFA." (Anyone see the conflict of interest that exists with that?)4. Once you achieve a level of certification, if you don't pay your yearly dues, you lose the certification designation.
        3. AAPF. (also described above, by Tom) When you first join, ya' pays your money and ya' gets your credential. Keeping your credential requires that you pay your yearly dues and attend 16 hours of Continuing Education. Now the CE requirement is a good one but it is hard to verify. So, one question to ponder is, if an individual already has a credential from say, the AFA, GPF, or ELPO, why do they even need a (non)credential from the AAPF? One answer to that might be, because in today's world of horse owners vs horsemen/women, the former are more easily impressed by a string of letters after someone's name, even if said horse owner hasn't a clue as to what they mean or how they were acquired. In all the years I have provided professional farrier services to the industry, I have been asked perhaps a ten times if I have any credentials/certifications.
        So much so that a few years ago I decided to no longer list my credentials after my name, choosing only to use the appellation "PF" (Professional Farrier). If a prospective new client wants to know about my credential, they have but to ask(which should be one of the questions they ask me when they first call). Other questions to ask might include, Do you get CE? If so, how much? To what trade journals do you subscribe? Do you work in a veterinary practice? What breeds of horses do you work on and in what disciplines? What is your opinion/practice regarding taking or keeping a horse barefoot? Where, in the next week or so will you be trimming and shoeing because I would like to come and observe you as you work. Are you, yourself, formerly or currently an owner of horses? If so, have you ever been acknowledged, by others, as a 'horseman/woman'?
        And, more mundanely, What is your preferred method of payment? Do you accept credit cards?

        Please expect during your first 'interview', that the farrier will also be interviewing you(at least the smart ones do) You should expect questions regarding your facilities, your horses(particularly with regard to their behavior), who your previous farrier was and why s/he is no longer providing his/her services, and assorted questions about your horses.

        I am very leery/skeptical/critical of, of any association that awards a credential that must be kept current through the yearly payment of dues. Imagine if your college degree was only valid if you were a member of the alumni association or paid money directly to the University.


        • #5
          Well my previous question might have seemed uneducated. I've always chosen my farriers, the few I've had, from recommendations from other horsemen, or having been familiar with their work. I never paid much attention to the letters after their name.
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


          • #6
            Yeah, I find those letters don't mean a whole lot, as described above. It's trial and word of mouth. Kind of like finding a hairdresser. Or you could have him sit down and write a 50-page dissertation on the bio-mechanics of hoof function while he interviews you.


            • #7
              I've always gone by referrals from my vet, who has a really good eye for feet. I've never seen a direct correlation with accreditation and skill. But you can take what I say with a grain of salt because I had one farrier for the first 20 years of my life (also my trainer), went through one bad farrier before finding my new one when I moved to my own place. I found him because he worked closely with my [very good] vet, and he was my farrier for the next 10 years until he moved to Arizona. So I had to find a new farrier once 10 years ago and then again last summer.

              My vet and I were both caught off guard when my last farrier moved and struggled to find a new competent guy. I went through two who had lots of certifications, references, and talked the talk. But they treated both my vet and I like gnats buzzing around offering useless advice. They were rude, dismissed everything either of us had to say, and took my sensitive upper level jumper TB down a very bad, underrun, ugly path. As a consequence of another poor decision by one of them we're now dealing with a hind hoof wall sloughing off right at the nail holes 10 months later.

              I finally went to a good friend who has to commute a fair distance to get here. He seeks my advice on how my horses are going, takes what I say into consideration, and then forms his opinions based on what he sees and what I say. He's totally willing to work with my vet, and obviously believes that you're never done learning. I guess the other two farriers were a good reminder that the primary thing that I'm concerned about is a farrier who's obviously intelligent and good at what he does, but also willing to take other opinions into account. In case I sound like a back seat driver, I'm not. My opinion is that a farrier should listen to what I have to say and then I'm totally and completely open to hearing, "you're wrong because....." But I want a dialogue, not an overbearing "know it all" ignoring everything I have to say.

              So in response to your question, I expect a farrier to tell me he's going to add a pad and then tell me why. I consider myself relatively uneducated in regards to feet (the farrier IS the expert, for sure), and I can be swayed by a good explanation and solid theory supporting it. But I know my horses well and they were all exceedingly sound and happy with my former farrier, so I have a pretty good baseline to compare things to. Once I trust a farrier, it's not even about "convincing" so much as telling me what they're doing. I have a new mare and the utmost respect for my new farrier. So when I pull her out I ask what his plan is. Not to debate, simply so I can follow what he's doing and thinking.

              I don't envy your position. The 6 months I spent second guessing everything about my decisions and my horses' feet was exceedingly stressful to me. Good luck and I hope you find a good person soon!
              Flying F Sport Horses
              Horses in the NW


              • #8
                Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                What does a CJF entail, and what should one expect from one? Is one to assume that that is an AFA designation.
                The AFA CJF certification is an advanced designation for a higher level of shoeing skill than the CF. The live shoeing exam requires hand made shoes. The arbitrary trim and shoe fit criteria are the same as the CF and the scoring is the same.


                Previously the Guild accepted the AFA CJF exam as a substitute for the RJF exam as long as the candidate also met the 4 years full time experience requirement. The majority of the Guild membership was grandfathered under this qualification as there were very few Guild RJF exam events offered over the decade that the organization existed.

                In regard to what one can expect from a farrier who has earned an AFA "Journeyman" certification, you can expect basic knowledge and proficiency in completing the tasks involved.

                However, you cannot expect that the designation includes any problem solving ability. The test does not require the candidate to figure out what the horse needs - again the criteria is set in stone and three is a strict time limit.

                Whether or not a farrier can figure out what a horse needs is something that is very difficult to quantify. It is an essay question, not multiple choice or true/false.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                  I've always chosen my farriers, the few I've had, from recommendations from other horsemen,..
                  Horsemen or horse owners?


                  • #10
                    My Vet referred my farrier to me because he wanted me to have a guy who knew Saddlebreds and their issues.
                    Founding Member: Spotted Saddlebred Pals Clique


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by pal-o-mino View Post
                      Yeah, I find those letters don't mean a whole lot,
                      Really? That is a downright stupid thing to say. Before you pass judgement on a farrier's accomplishments and achievements, perhaps you should make yourself available and stand for the exams.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                        Well my previous question might have seemed uneducated. I've always chosen my farriers, the few I've had, from recommendations from other horsemen, or having been familiar with their work. I never paid much attention to the letters after their name.
                        Ditto. Did not really like the farrier the owner of my current ride was using for her horses. Tried to convince her to switch a number of times, but she hates "to burn bridges" and sometimes I think she's just VERY averse to change. Needless to say when I started paying for his farrier work I switched him lol. She is now also using this farrier for her other horse and is happy. Our vet/chiro was also much happier with his feet. Farrier was one that already came out to do other horses at the barn and always did a nice job. He does take quite a while as he's very precise and checks things over a number of times, but I'm totally OK with that as he does a great job for am awesome price!! We do occasionally have some scheduling issues... but we're figuring it out. We finally have enough horses that are all on the same schedule that its worth him setting off an afternoon for us lol.
                        Custom Painted Brushes: spcustombrushes@gmail.com


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Rick Burten View Post
                          Really? That is a downright stupid thing to say. Before you pass judgement on a farriers accomplishments and achievements, perhaps you should make yourself available and stand for the exams.
                          LOL You make it sound like you went to eight years of medical school. You didn't. You're a farrier. Like I said, similar to a hairdresser. You provide a service. The farrier 'certification' letters, most people don't know or care what they mean. That's how important they are. And as stated above, some are just bought anyway. What people want is somebody who knows what they're doing when it comes to their particular horse. Somebody who can look at the whole situation, the whole horse, listen to the vet, the history, not be an arrogant ass, etc. Letters don't do that. A good horseshoer will. And usually the ones yakking about their letters are not all that great. People who perform a good service can let their work speak for itself, not their mouths. Just like a good hairdresser. Word of mouth and trial.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Rick Burten View Post
                            Horsemen or horse owners?
                            Rick, I do know the difference.
                            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                            • #15
                              All things posted by Tom and Rick: But regardless of credentials, which are helpful, ask to see a few horses in your area that have been under the farriers care for a at least a year or better a few years.
                              You should see some happy feet or keep look'in.
                              Charlie Piccione
                              Natural Performance Hoof Care


                              • #16
                                So when you interview a prospective farrier does it go something like this?

                                I have two horses that I use for trail riding and occasional weekend shows. They only need front shoes. The last farrier had a problem keeping shoes on my horse. And dobbin has a low heel on his RF. How much do you charge for front shoes?

                                As the farrier being interviewed, I don't expect an owner to know what their horse needs, front shoes, 4 shoes, or barefoot. But usually they have already made up their mind on the "standard package deal" based on what the previous farrier did. And if that deal was working for them, they wouldn't be looking for another farrier.

                                So now MY part of the interview begins. I want a complete history on the horse from the day it hit the ground. I want to see the animal for myself, examine its feet, watch it move, evaluate its conformation and way of going, and see its living conditions.

                                And after that I will have more questions. I don't expect the owner to know "what I need to know" to make intelligent hoof care decisions. It is MY JOB to ask the questions, gather data, analyse the data and provide a hoof care plan.

                                No different than going to the doctor. "Hey doc, I need an appendectomy, 'cause I have a tummy ache."

                                Well the doctor isn't going to just take your self diagnosis and run with it. He will get your history, do a physical examination, run some tests, ask more questions, and then make a diagnosis and offer a treatment plan.

                                I welcome input from my clients, but seldom do they get a chance to offer it unprompted. Usually I am the one asking detailed questions and soliciting their input - leading the conversation. That's MY JOB. And usually I am also the one asking for veterinary input and medical history before the owner thinks I should have it. Because, that's MY JOB.

                                So as an experiment, the next time you interview a farrier, don't tell them what your horse needs. Instead, tell the farrier you want them to figure out what your horse needs. Then see what happens.

                                Believe it or not, that sort of thing puts a lot of pressure on the farrier to perform. Because you haven't given them anything to go on, and they are either going to start with 20 questions about your horse(s) or they will ask you if you need shoes or just trimming.

                                Are you going to hire the one that asks you what your horse needs when you just told them it is their job to figure it out?


                                • #17
                                  Lesson to be learned, OP: look for passion
                                  With passion comes a thirst for knowledge and perfection of their craft. No one can deny that Tom and Rick are passionate; just look at their responses. And they give good advice too.
                                  Letters are nice, referrals are nice, but you want to avoid complacency. That's why I look for passion.
                                  chaque pas est fait ensemble


                                  • #18
                                    Double post
                                    chaque pas est fait ensemble


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Charlie Piccione View Post
                                      All things posted by Tom and Rick: But regardless of credentials, which are helpful, ask to see a few horses in your area that have been under the farriers care for a at least a year or better a few years.
                                      You should see some happy feet or keep look'in.
                                      What a great Idea, Charlie. I'm going to start drawing smiley faces on horse's feet with a permanent marker.


                                      • #20
                                        Charlie, I appreciate your kind words and your advice to look at hooves that have been under any given farrier's care for some time, is a good one. That said, what do happy feet look like? And, given the level of knowledge that most horse owners have regarding hooves, how is a horse owner to determine whether the feet are happy or not?