When are apprentice farriers ready for a footcare business of their own? There are many variables at play from the experiences they’ve had to knowledge held to the types of horses and clients they want to work with and so on.

I’ve been thinking about this since riding with Quebec farrier Christian Roy. This day will be featured in the July/August issue of AFJ. During that day, Roy allowed his apprentice to handle some of the floor work. He said the apprentice is capable of the work (such as trimming a mini). Furthermore, Roy wants the apprentice to keep working with him, so he wants to challenge/reward him with increasingly difficult levels of work.

Furthermore, Roy’s willing to do this because that apprentice has made a commitment to him (he demands a minimum of 2–year commitment from apprentices). The apprentice also has worked for another seasoned farrier for nearly 3 years.

A complaint I sometimes hear from seasoned farriers is that they would take on an apprentice, but have a hard time finding or keeping one willing to make the time investment. If the prospect rejects the apprenticeship offer because they can’t make the commitment, that honesty should be appreciated. In other cases, the apprentice may be dishonest or underestimate their willingness.

Prematurely exiting an apprenticeship causes a myriad of problems. Sometimes there are sore feelings. A void is left in the senior farrier’s practice despite the previous time investment.

But it also damages that existing practice when that apprentice is unprepared. I recall what Collinsville, Texas, shoer Doyle Blagg told me about apprentices who leave too early. They would quit his practice, tell new clients that they learned from Blagg, and gain the business based on dropping his name. Inevitably, they’d be over their heads and hurt more horses than they helped. In the owners’ minds, it must be a poor teacher instead of an unprepared pupil. After all, they must have learned everything from Blagg.

“And that is true,” Blagg says. “Everything they knew did come from me. But it wasn’t everything I knew. They didn’t want to put in that time.”

If you have had helpers or apprentices, how have you determined when they were ready to go out on their own? How did you challenge them?