As expected, we heard from several American Farriers Journal readers concerning Walt Taylor’s article on “Why Farrier Licensing Makes Sense” (see pages 100 to 107 of the March/April, 1999, issue).

As with any highly controversial horseshoeing topic, farriers lined up on both sides of this issue.

Uphold Our Freedom

While I have much respect for Walt Taylor and consider him a friend, I strongly disagree with his case for licensing farriers.

We haven’t needed to license farriers for 223 years in this country. We are lucky enough to live in a free country, so why voluntarily give up the freedom to practice horseshoeing as we see fit?

Every time we make a new rule, it takes away our freedom and is a slap in the face to those veterans who fought for our freedom.

I can’t understand the continued promotion of the British licensing system. Who wants to be part of that socialized system? If you’ve ever asked a British licensed farrier what his income tax rate is, you know that you are lucky to be living and working in the United States.

I haven’t talked to one veterinarian who’s thrilled to pay his licensing fee every year—yet there’s still poor equine health work being done by licensed vets. Besides, we are horseshoers and not doctors.

Most veterinarians know as much about shoeing as horseshoers do about equine surgery. So why are we asking the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to endorse our certification program? Do they ask us to endorse theirs?

There are those within the veterinary profession who don’t want us to pad a foot or bar shoe a hoof without asking them first. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? Obviously, too many vets can’t find enough work.

The farrier business takes care of itself. If someone is a poor shoer, they will not get good clients or last very long in this profession.

Another problem is the “good old boy” syndrome which continually takes place in our society. Bad farriers will get licensed if they know the right people.

My suggestions:

1. Take pride in yourself and your shoeing work.
2. Participate in voluntary farrier certification as a personal goal.
3. Do the best you can every day when you shoe.
4. Try to do better every time you shoe.

In 22 years of shoeing, I’ve yet to meet many farriers who wish to be licensed.

More importantly, I am an American and do not want to give up my individual freedom.

While the idea of farrier licensing may be noble and have good intentions, this is the kind of attitude that gets us into trouble in this country. Someone will pass a law with good intentions to benefit a few people and end up hurting the majority.

The biggest cancer today in this country is complacency. For your sake and mine, don’t let this farrier licensing idea go anywhere.
        —Barry Denton, Skull Valley, Ariz.

Right On Target

Regarding Walt Taylor’s comments on farrier licensing, I could say more, but I couldn’t say it any better.

I agree with him 100 percent.
      —Lyle Petersen, Sewanee, Tenn.

A Different View

In the March/April, 1997, issue of American Farriers Journal (see pages 90 to 92) I listed my reasons against farrier licensing. These reasons have not changed. Licensing is a recipe for disaster toward the business health of the men and women who practice our trade.

People in every other trade are green with envy of us. In addition, there has never been a complaint lodged against a farrier in Pennsylvania for injury to a horse, to The Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals, The Large Animal Protection Society, The Humane Society or the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA).

There are 15 points in Taylor’s letter I take issue with. But there’s one point in particular that does not belong to him exclusively and has permeated our industry for years.

This is the notion of the mysterious “they” who are out to get us. This is the “other party” who will not rest until we are licensed or in a state of complete paranoid confusion regarding their direction or purpose.

I want to know what party or parties have the jurisdiction, intention or inclination to require me to carry a license against my will. Or to exercise “statutory” control over how I train my employees or conduct my business.

The government could license us if they wanted to, but I don’t hear any interest from legislative offices here in Pennsylvania. When I asked my representative about such matters, she was aghast.

Her response was why would anyone want to bring more government down upon themselves. She says the state’s Republican administration wants deregulation and feels farrier licensing legislation wouldn’t have a chance unless Pennsylvania horseowners were to insist on it.

This is the only circumstance that would motivate me to become licensed. If owners wanted farrier licensing, it would be bad business for me not to do it. Since they feel it’s not necessary, I won’t add to their costs by encouraging licensing.

Does another trade or profession wish to control the process by which we train ourselves or dictate the way a person enters this trade? Not likely.

Taylor says AAEP doesn’t consider me a professional. Yet 100 percent of AAEP members I know personally consider the greater majority of farriers to be professionals. I’d be interested in seeing a written statement from AAEP professing their lack of respect for me and my trade. When I see it, I’ll hold it up to the exemption of “farriers and the art and profession of horseshoeing” that the PVMA inserted in recent revisions to the state’s veterinary practice act.

I believe veterinarians have a great amount of respect for professional people who make their living shoeing horses. Sure, there are some who are jealous of the fact that we do business in an unlicensed, less stressful atmosphere than they enjoy.

But if you really press them as to why we should voluntarily acquire the licensing baggage, they will tell you we are better off without it. They wish they had less regulation.

Who favors licensing? Is it those in our profession who don’t feel they get the respect they deserve? If so, licensing is not the answer.

I strive to have the respect of my peers and customers because I have earned it—not because the government wants to grant it to me.

Taylor is a man of integrity and his opinions should always be considered regarding matters of this profession. But after 15 years in the trade, having served as the president of my local AFA chapter and being a successful Certified Journeyman Farrier in the organization Taylor founded, I have as much of a reason to be against licensing as he has to be for it.

If we are going to discuss an issue as volatile as this one, let’s do it with facts. The adage of “well, if you guys don’t do it, then someone else is going to do it for you” just doesn’t scare me anymore.

I’m a professional farrier and an independent businessman who is determined to keep control of my own destiny in the last of the free trades. That’s the bottom line, with all due respect to those on both sides of this issue who are passionate about this great trade.
—Jay Flynn, Pottstown, Pa.

Farriers Or Rodney Dangerfield?

“I just don’t get any respect,” sounds like Rodney Dangerfield.

The idea of requiring state licensing of horseshoers never seems to go away. This is odd since horseshoers tend to be so independent.

I have yet to figure out what problem we are trying to “fix” by requiring horseshoers to get a license. Horseshoers who support this idea seem to have several goals:

1. They think it will give them some kind of badge to wear.
2. They think it will limit the number of horseshoers and reduce competition.
3. Those in the horse community in favor of licensing likely want a mechanism to target blame or a way to sue the horseshoer.

In 24 years of shoeing, I’ve been involved in many community and government programs. My most recent experience is that of a fire marshall for our volunteer fire protection district.

If you think licensing is the answer, you are mistaken. Once the government has your number, regulatory agencies will be waiting to tell you what to do and how to do it.

Once you are licensed, you will hear from the department of revenue regarding state sales tax. In fact, shoers are already paying this tax in Wisconsin. Next will be the department of transportation asking questions about the hazardous propane you carry in your truck.

Then there’s the Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA), which might require you to use only OSHA-approved equipment. The department of labor will be looking at your employment practices, the local fire marshall could ban your forge, cities will want you to have a business license and there are many more agencies.

Once you have a state shoeing license, there will be a need for a governing board to administer the program. They may look at arrest records, make criminal background checks or even order a credit check before issuing a license. Could your license be affected if you don’t make child support payments? How about a domestic violence charge?

When your shoeing business crosses state lines, will a state require you to be a resident in order to have a shoeing license in their state? Maybe all the shoers who head south for the winter hunter, jumper, dressage and polo events will need licenses or have to be residents of Florida. Will this mean they have to file a tax return and pay taxes in two different states?

With a farrier license in your pocket, what will happen if one of your customers gets mad at you? If they complain, the “state board of horseshoers” will have to set up procedures to process the claim. Could the state take away your license? And who would sit on these boards?

Taylor is concerned about being respected as a farrier. No matter what profession you work in, a license alone will not bring you respect. You have to earn it from colleagues and customers instead.

We have a good thing going in this business that is pretty much free of regulation and interference. Let’s let sleeping dogs lie and enjoy life.
—Tad Keegan, Sedalia, Colo.

Need For More Debate

I read Walt Taylor’s article with considerable interest, as the licensing of horseshoers has been of interest to me for most of my adult life.

While I agree it is highly controversial, I’ve been trying to spark debate on this topic for years.
—Jim Addison, O’Fallon, Ill.

In 1991, Jim Addison wrote “Licensing Vs. Certification” to spark debate and bring back farrier licensing in Illinois. If you would like a copy of this article, let us know.