Horse riding is one of the most popular countryside pursuits in the UK and almost all those horses need new shoes every four to six weeks. If you are interested in horses, enjoy working with your hands and want to be your own boss, this could be the perfect career for you.
Farriers make and fit shoes for horses. Their skillset is similar to that of blacksmiths but blacksmiths are not permitted to shoe horses, unless they are also a registered farrier and as such are regulated under the Farriers’ (Registration) Act 1975. In order to work as a farrier, you are required by law to register with the Farriers’ Registration Council following a four year apprenticeship with an approved training farrier.
The job requires good hand-eye co-ordination and you must be physically fit and strong. The job often involves working outside in all weather conditions as well as bending, lifting and carrying heavy tools. You’ll be dealing with owners and vets as well as horses, so you need good communication skills.
The farrier’s role involves trimming the horse’s hooves then ensuring that the foot is properly balanced before fitting a shoe. Following discussion with the horse’s owner, you must choose the most suitable type of shoe for the horse’s size, foot condition and the type of activity it will be required to perform. You will make horseshoes by hand or machine and then fit them either cold or hot, adjusting the fit of the shoes as necessary using a hammer and anvil. You will also work with veterinary surgeons and equine hospitals to provide surgical farriery services and corrective shoeing.
Farriers are usually self-employed, keeping their own diary, managing their accounts, promoting their business and ordering supplies and tools.
You must have a driving licence and a suitable vehicle equipped as a mobile workshop as you will be required to travel to your clients’ premises.
Working hours vary according to the needs of your customers, and may include some weekends. You may be called upon to provide an emergency farrier service at large events such as race meetings or horse trials competitions.
Your income will depend on the size of your client base and the type of work you are required to do. A standard set of new horseshoes currently costs around £60 and would take an experienced farrier about 45 minutes to fit. Horses require trimming and shoeing every four to six weeks. As an experienced farrier with a good sized round, you could expect to earn in excess of £30,000 per annum.
In order to work as a farrier you must complete a four year apprenticeship with an approved training farrier. You can then register with the Farriers’ Registration Council and set up in business.
To start an apprenticeship you must be at least 16 years of age, have a placement arranged with an approved training farrier and pass a medical. You will also need either four GCSEs (grades A-C) including English and mathematics and a Forging Certificate, or have passed a Farriery Access course.
Competition is fierce with a limited number of apprentices taken on each year so you would probably need to be prepared to move away from home to wherever you could find an approved training farrier who has a vacancy. As well as practical experience, your apprenticeship would include 23 weeks’ block-release study at an approved college, leading to NVQ Level 3 in Farriery.
On successful completion of the NVQ, you would sit an exam for the Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers and once you have this, you can register with the Farriers’ Registration Council. The armed forces also offer the opportunity for training in farriery via their own specific training route.
Training and development
Once you are a registered and experienced farrier you could achieve Associateship and Fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Farriers. You could go on to become an approved training farrier when all your own training and development has been completed. You could also study for Higher Education qualifications; BSc (Hons) Farriery or FsSc Farriery if you wished.
There are many opportunities for qualified farriers and good, reliable ones are worth their weight in gold to the horsey community. Depending on your location, you could be working with valuable racehorses, competition animals, riding school horses and ponies, privately owned pleasure horses, hunters or even the police mounted division.
Useful resources for would-be farriers