In some parts of the world, farriers are facing the threat of extinction. Either the unemployment rates are at an all-time high, like in Pakistan, or the youth have no interest in carrying on the trade, like in Algeria. And the horseshoers in these countries aren’t ready to let their trade die out, as reported by The Express Tribune and France 24.
Muhammad Haneef is one of more than 100 farriers in Sooraj Miani, Pakistan, who is facing difficult times. He learned the trade from his father, and now, at 55, Haneef is having trouble finding horses in need of hoof care. In rural areas, horses are still used as transportation, as well as donkeys and oxen. Farriers shoe any transportation animal with hooves to protect the animals’ feet.
Despite the different animals that require shoeing, Sooraj Miani is populated with unemployed farriers. Their belief is that the younger generations no longer have a soft spot for animals, as this generation isn’t one for keeping pets, according to The Express Tribune. The farriers propose the government mandate horseback riding in school as an extracurricular to provide an income for these numerous farriers without clients.
To the west in Algeria, there aren’t enough farriers to go around. Meddah Larbi, a farrier in Tiaret, has been working with horses since he was 16.
“At the sight of an old man wielding a horseshoe over the coal forge, taking it from the flames, I fell in love. I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Larbi says, now 39.
He left school and apprenticed under the man, and when his mentor retired 4 years later, Larbi took over the job all while he continued his champion showjumping career. Riding horses was more of a hobby, so he combined his passion with his career to receive pay for it.
Larbi says each horse can take up to 4 hours, including removing the old shoe, cleaning and preparing the hoof and applying a new shoe. Despite factory-made shoes being lighter and easier to work with, Larbi prefers to forge his own horseshoes. He stresses the importance of understanding equine anatomy as sometimes farriers have to stand in as veterinarians. Bouts of laminitis or abscesses require immediate attention that farriers need to be ready to provide.
Unfortunately, Larbi has had trouble finding an apprentice who will stay longer than 6 months. He says that most young Algerians find the work “hard and thankless, and they don’t want to learn.”
With so few young people taking on the trade, the farrier numbers are dwindling in Algeria. Not counting those working for the Republican Guard, the farrier population has gone from about 15 to no more than six in the past 20 years, according to France 24. Six farriers are left in Algeria to handle the numerous horses that need care. When Larbi’s schedule is full, he sees around 200 horses a month. A private breeder had to hire a foreign farrier to work full-time.
Despite the work being hard and unwanted, Larbi averages twice the national average salary in Algeria for his farrier wages.