Regulation is a dirty word among farriers. Just its mere mention raises the hackles among many across the industry in the United States. While lawmakers on the state and federal levels aren’t overtly creating legislation to rein in farriery, inroads are being made — and in some disciplines, paved.

Regulation doesn’t arrive quickly or easily. Nibbles and small bites are taken, building momentum.

It’s Predictable

Jamie Cooper, a Texas attorney married to farrier Matt Cooper, predicted nearly a decade ago that regulation would arrive in the form of animal safety.

“Some well-intentioned, well-meaning farrier is going to hurt retired Senator So-and-so’s grandbaby’s princess,” she said at the 2015 International Hoof-Care Summit. “Retired Senator So-and-so is going to go on a rampage, and we’re going to get licensing in this country.”

Although retired Senator So-and-so’s legislation wasn’t inspired by a farrier performing hoof care, catastrophic racetrack injuries and doping scandals in 2018 and 2019 did. 

Bipartisan U.S. legislation in 2020 created the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. Racetrack farriers are no strangers to regulation. They can’t touch a horse without a license. Yet, the law created the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which governs how racetrack farriers trim and shoe horses. While most racetrack farriers agree that the law and authority have good intentions, they say its rules and enforcement leave something to be desired.

That same month, the Chicago City Council voted, 46-4, to ban horse-drawn carriages. They cited 344 violations in 1 year to carriage drivers. They didn’t mention that Chicago’s electric scooter pilot project resulted in more than 363 hospital visits over two 4-month durations. Nor did it weigh the 1,433 speeding tickets issued to taxi drivers or their 966 citations for “unsafe driving,” WBEZ radio reports. Yet, carriages are the problem.

It was particularly troubling that employees from three carriage companies, farriers, vets, grooms, and feed and tack suppliers were put out of work as the city saw a 47.44% increase in unemployment from January to March 2020, reports WalletHub, citing data obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service circumvented the legislative process by creating a rule prohibiting action devices and non-therapeutic pads and wedges that can conceal soring of Tennessee Walking Horses (see "Walking Horse Industry Plans to Challenge Rules”). 

To be clear, soring and other forms of animal abuse are nothing short of evil and must be stopped. But what is abuse? There’s little scientific research about whether pads harm Tennessee Walking Horses. Yet, what is available is contradictory. Who’s right?

Who’s next?

Los Angeles, Calif., banned rodeos last year. Some show horse farriers say the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France, will be the last for Eventing. It certainly will be for the modern pentathlon after a German coach struck a horse at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Will the so-called animal rights activists target long-footed horses because of their scary shoeing packages?

Will common athletic injuries among reiners, cutters and show jumpers become weaponized to ban these equine competitions?

Regulation is here, and it’s gaining momentum. Are your hackles up?