American Farriers Journal and the other members of Lessiter Publications are in the process of moving to a new office. Packing and purging for a move is not one of my favorite activities, so I’m happy to procrastinate by providing extra “scrutiny” when going through old magazines, story ideas and photos.
Admittedly, I’m a sentimental sap who enjoys going through old photos and seeing legendary farriers when they were up-and-comers. We have thousands of those printed photographs and slides. None of these will ever end up in the purge bin.
The same goes with reading the stories these farriers wrote. As I skim through about 40 years of articles, I’m struck by how many times certain topics re-emerged. That’s not an accusation of unoriginality, as many of these articles on the same subject offered a fresh perspective. Circumstances change and fresh perspectives enter the trade every year — of course topics should be re-examined as time goes by.
One of these subjects is the issue of licensing and regulation of the farrier trade in the United States. The subject was covered in the 1970s and 1980s, but it was the following decade when discussion really heated up. I don’t think the continual reemergence of this topic was “scare-tactic” journalism because a) there was always a prompt outside of the journalists and b) who was talking about the topic.
Some of this had to do with those in support of licensing (without defining what it would be). The late, great Charley Orlando promoted licensing 20 years ago in AFJ. He felt “if farriery is to gain any respect from the horse-owning public and society at large, farriers need to work toward the establishment of certification or licensing within the profession.”
Two years later, Walt Taylor, the founder of the American Farrier’s Association, took heat for his article in 1999 calling for licensing.
Of course those farriers against licensing were vocal at that time. Government intervention and giving up the liberty that attracted so many to the industry seem to be most important reasons. Arizona’s Barry Denton respectfully disagreed with Taylor seeing the industry as a self-regulating one. “If someone is a poor shoer, they will not get good clients or last very long in this profession.”
Licensing and regulation in the farrier industry seems to have regained popularity in recent, especially on Facebook. Maybe this is social media’s ability to create a false perception thanks to immediate interaction and loud shouting — and the ability for those topics to turn into digital donnybrooks.
But there always has been a trigger to make licensing and regulation a widespread discussion. I think the most recent example of this was the December 2014 announcement of the formation of the Veterinary Equine Podiatry Group (VEPG), which aims to establish a college of specialty in veterinary equine podiatry.
Mark Silverman, the chair of the VEPG, assures farriers have nothing to worry about. “We’re not looking to set up regulations and require testing for farriers,” he told AFJ back in December. “We want to improve both the availability of current research and the development of future research that’s focused on podiatry so we can be a resource for the area of farriery. This group is not looking to take over the shoeing of horses on a day-to-day basis.”
Despite these assurances and zero proof otherwise, it didn’t stop some in the farrier industry to sound the alarms that this group would be the first step in veterinarians gaining official oversight of the farrier trade.
Nonetheless, regulation of the farrier trade always will be a popular topic of discussion — some years more than others. Somehow it is appropriate to write about this subject on Friday the 13th because it is like the supernatural killer Jason Voorhees of the movie franchise named for the day. There have been 12 iterations of Friday the 13th franchise. No matter how times the hockey-masked villain was “killed” in each one (other than the first), moviegoers were never surprised when he came back for another. And I suppose for years to come, the U.S. farrier trade’s reaction to discussion of licensing and regulation will be the same. The big difference is this boogeyman hovering over farriery may become real someday whether the industry wants it or not.