What Is a Farrier and How Do I Become One?

Written by Calvin Bowers

What is a farrier? It is quite an old-fashioned job title and is used to refer to the professionals who put the shoes on horses. They are focused on equine hoof care and do everything from trimming and balancing hooves to doing the work of shoeing them. It is a profession that is somewhere between a blacksmith and a veterinarian and intersects with both.

It is still possible to get into the farrier trade by securing an apprenticeship, though obviously, this is not as large a profession as it once was since cars have largely taken over from horses as the main source of transport in the UK. 

Prospects for Farriers in the UK

There are still good prospects for farrier apprenticeships as there was an estimated 375,000 horse owning households in the UK in 2019, according to MSD Animal Health, and this comprised 850,000 horses in total. 

Starting salaries for farriers can range from around £16,000 pa to around £25,000 pa and more experienced farriers can go on to earn over £30,000 pa. 

What Qualifications Do I Need?

A farrier apprenticeship will last around 48 months, or four years, not including the End Point Assessment (EPA) and is an advanced apprenticeship, which means that in terms of academic attainment, it is the equivalent of two A-level passes. This relatively low academic value means that it is easier to get the qualifications necessary to undertake it.

In order to start a farrier apprenticeship, you will need to have 5 GCSEs or to have completed a level 2 apprenticeship already, as this will allow you to move on to an advanced apprenticeship. 

Not everyone is especially academically minded and there are many different routes to success in life. If your dream is to work with horses and help to ensure their health and welfare, this will be a great experience for you and should help you to have a successful career in an area that interests you.   

What Qualities Does a Farrier Require?

One of the primary requirements to become a farrier is to be physically strong, which makes perfect sense as you will be dealing with large horses and have to be able to move them around deftly and with confidence to avoid spooking them.

It is important to be adept at picking up new skills with tools and have a good level of manual dexterity in order to become successful as a farrier. Good situational awareness is important as well and having a calm presence can help to soothe frightened animals under your care. 

You must have a sense of self-confidence when talking to other professionals such as vets and must be able to account for your own decision-making processes in case there are professional disagreements. You must be able to talk confidently to horse owners and be able to explain things in terms that are easily understood, while also not appearing to be patronising. 

Many horse owners can be difficult to deal with because a large proportion of people who own horses have a lot of money and there is a sense of entitlement that can sometimes come along with that. You must be able to keep your cool and stand your ground while projecting a pleasant demeanour, even when they are adamant that what you are saying is wrong.    

What a Farrier Apprenticeship will Teach You

As an apprentice farrier you will learn a lot about equine health and will learn to know the signs to look for that indicate a horse is unwell. You will learn when there is something that you can do to help and when it is more appropriate to call in a vet to assist with the animal’s welfare. 

Best practices as regards equine health will be part of both your on-the-job and off-the-job training and you will develop a thorough understanding of equine hoof care, across all of the different breeds and the various equine disciplines. 

These disciplines cover things like normal riding, dressage, hunting and elite sports racing horses. All of these can take their toll in different ways on the hoof health of the animal and you will be expected to have knowledge covering all of this.

The daily work you undertake will have a large focus on health and safety as this can be a dangerous job due to the proximity to the hooves of large horses. It is important that you follow these procedures and conduct yourself in a safe and responsible manner at all times as failing to do so could also endanger others around you. 

This is not the type of job to tolerate people goofing off, because the consequences can potentially be very grave for all concerned. Expect the apprenticeship to be rescinded if you are unable to bring the required level of seriousness to bear. 

You will be expected to learn how to expertly handle safety equipment and will learn how to identify the needs of various horses based on a combination of their breed and their age.  

Farriery as a profession is one that is understandably quite heavily regulated and in order to practice as a farrier you must pass the rather quaintly named “Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers”, which will then allow admission to the Register of Qualified Farriers. Only then will you be allowed to call yourself a farrier and work in this field. 

You can take a look at the Farrier Apprenticeship Standard in order to understand in more detail what you will learn during your apprenticeship. 

Find a Farrier Apprenticeship

If, after reading this, you think that you would be well-suited to a role as a farrier’s apprentice, you can search for an apprenticeship in your local area by visiting our dedicated apprenticeship jobs board

This could be an excellent opportunity for you if you are keen on working with horses and it may be worth ensuring that your CV is the best that it can be, prior to applying. We also have advice on writing a covering letter and this can also help you to secure your dream apprenticeship. 

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Last Updated: Wednesday November 16 2022
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