Admittedly, I was harsh and not thorough enough in the detail in my critique of the institutional evaluation of farriers contributing to veterinary continuing education. Due to the brevity of the editorial, I didn’t touch on the farrier’s responsibility in this.

Institutions love things to be black and white. It is easy to checkbox a veterinarian as a CE contributor because a degree and license process exists. There is a common pathway of education and board that grants a vet a license. Right or wrong, those common credentials simplify evaluation by those approving CE to vote yay or nay on one’s credentials.

Obviously, that commonality doesn’t exist for U.S. farriers. The pathway for becoming a farrier is up to the individual. Some may spend several to a couple dozen weeks at a horseshoeing school. Some don’t go to school, instead rely on an apprenticeship that is defined by the mentor and mentee. And there is a wide spectrum in between.

And then once a person hangs a shingle stating he or she is a farrier, there is nothing to contest it. Education has nothing to do with it. Membership in any group is voluntary, and the standards of maintaining membership within these groups are esoteric to these groups.

Hoof care is a complex subject with dozens of variables at play in how one becomes and remains a farrier. So then a vet board has a difficult time evaluating a farrier’s credentials.

Fixing This

The way to remedy this is to make standard by which farriers are deemed farriers. For the sake of this blog post, I’m not discussing what those standards should be or who should be in charge of it. For a unified front, there needs to be some way to rate that a person is a farrier despite their modality preference. There is much more at stake than teaching vets for CE. Coming together allows for self-protection. 

Recent Changes To Race

After the July/August issue went to press, RACE announced changes to its policy regarding non-veterinarians instructing veterinarians for CE. Some of this invalidates the criticisms I made in the July/August editorial, but doesn’t completely remove the overall issue of evaluating farriers. You can read the entire policy, to be effective next month, here.

Today, there seems to be a growing concern that if farriers don’t organize, there is a potential to fall under control of an outside group. I find the most common worry among farriers I speak with is veterinary oversight through various state’s veterinary practice acts. There are other perceived threats out there with varied degrees of plausibility.

None of my thoughts in this blog post have come to me in a vacuum — I’ve had conversations with hoof-care providers from varied backgrounds and beliefs that have helped shape my opinions. Out of respect to those private conversations, I’m not going to name names or what we discussed. But among these farriers, some build every shoe at the horse, others only use keg shoes — some not at all. Some work in the lavish confines of Wellington’s barns, others sweat it out under a tree in the Southwest. 

The common link, despite how each person trims a foot, puts on a foot or location is that each farrier I speak with is concerned about the future of farrier trade and how it is perceived.

The great hurdle preventing the majority of farriers from coming together, beyond the concern of government intervention, rests with the inability to define what is a farrier. It isn’t easy to answer and once you think you have it figured out, someone can poke a hole in that definition. 

But it will be important for the members of this industry, regardless of the hoof-care theories they subscribe to, is to find a way to define the members’ common traits rather than bicker over the differences. For children, the boogeyman disappeared by turning on the bedroom light. The boogeyman of veterinary oversight that many farriers feel threatened by will disappear only when those farriers unite.