By Ashley Gasky, APF

There is no such thing as a free lunch, unless you participate in the American and International Associations of Professional Farriers’ (AAPF/IAPF) mentoring program.

I attended six colleges in 6 years before graduating in 2012 with a degree in environmental policy. My family hoped my next step would be law school. I hoped that I could make it as a farrier. After several years of attending clinics and using my personal horses as guinea pigs, I found the AAPF.

The AAPF has a mentoring program available to its members. This program joins mentors and mentees in a no cost, learning relationship. Coming from years of expensive college tuition and subsequent clinics with limited individual attention, having a list of mentors who are willing to work with me one-on-one is outstanding.

The concept of having access to industry professionals at the top of their game seemed too good to be true, but it really isn’t. It’s among the benefits offered to all AAPF members. There are a few rules and stipulations, but mostly it involves documenting the experience and ensuring that the experience is educational, not business. Using the mentoring network eliminated any awkward introductions, competition or potential for rude behavior in seeking a local ride along.

Because I spent my life thus far in school, I felt obligated to learn all I could and had no reservations in seeking continued education. In the spring 2014, using the AAPF’s mentoring bulletin board, I found a suitable mentor in Tim Cable.

Roy Bloom Scholarship Program

AAPF mentors and mentees have an opportunity to win a trip to the 2017 International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati, Ohio, via the Roy Bloom Scholarship Program. Three grand prize winners also will receive a 3- to 4-day opportunity to work with the AAPF mentor of their choice. Apply before the Nov. 1 deadline.

Cable is a fourth generation farrier and while he primarily shoes racehorses, he has sport horses clients in nearly every discipline. It was this variety of skill and his proximity to my home that lead me to pursue a mentoring relationship. We would be working at a large Standardbred race facility about 2 hours from my Saratoga, N.Y., home.

I would be responsible for transportation and lodging, but otherwise there was no cost associated with the mentorship. Up to this point, all clinics I’d attended had varying costs, some with hefty price tags. So, of course, I jumped at a “free” learning opportunity.

Thanks to Cable’s easy-going nature and long list of horses to be shod, we jumped into work.Following the Blasdell, N.Y., farrier’s instruction, I went to the shoe rack to get half swedge shoes, I remember sheepishly turning around and asking, “What’s a swedge?”

Suffice to say I was green. Patiently, Cable explained to me the concept of half round- half swedged shoe, and how they are used when you want a limb to grip or slip. Being new, and rather intimidated by my surroundings, I spent much of the first day holding a broom and staying out of the way. By the next day, we had settled into a routine of what Cable expected of me, and what I felt comfortable doing.

Perhaps the most valuable thing I took away from our first mentoring experience was heading out to the training track in the morning and watching the horses work. It was an opportunity to discuss the horses with their trainers, as well as watch them perform. Comparing horses side-by-side made gait variances much easier for my untrained eyes to spot than trying to pick them out on a lone horse.

Cable has become a resource for me, though our business demographics vary. He has helped me keep shoes on chronic pullers by teaching me about weight and traction of the hind and front limbs. Sometimes a heavier shoe behind will help with shoe retention. But it’s possible to go too heavy as I learned on a dressage horse that came back from a show having demonstrated a consistent “pace-y” walk. Some weight might be good, but more is not better.

He helped me customize some of my tools — sharpening my clinch block made all the difference with my finish, treating my hammer handles for longevity, and learning to use the full length of a rasp.

Cable also emphasizes the importance of a routine shoeing schedule, working on his racehorses every 2 to 3 weeks. While this is not always practical or necessary on saddle horses, it helped me confidently require my clients to maintain a schedule. As we all know, appropriate scheduling benefits all hoof-care providers, but I was able to cite first hand experiences from my mentorship in which short shoeing cycles alleviated hoof issues.

Through the remarkable opportunity of the AAPF mentoring program, Cable has respectfully guided me into the basics of Standardbred shoeing.

What I find very unique about the mentoring program is that it’s a free service provided with AAPF membership. There are so many mentors offering a varied skill set, the possibilities are only limited by your desires.

Until you have worked with someone, it’s difficult to know whether you’re personalities will mesh well, so I recommend only spending a couple days with your mentor/mentee at first. After that, there is no commitment to continue with them if you’d like to pursue another mentor.

Don’t be afraid to call around and ask for references from a potential mentor. Many mentors have previous mentees who can give you an idea of what to expect during the experience. Most importantly, remember that this is your time and it’s important to spend it wisely, have goals for the experience and write down questions as they arise.