When discussing licensing and regulation of an industry in the United States, farriers often think of direct oversight — a government-approved agency to pass rules specific for the trade. This is a reality affecting a minority of farriers, such as certain states requiring track shoers to carry a license. However, for the majority of the industry, government regulation of the trade still doesn’t exist.

There doesn’t seem to be any momentum for advancing licensing of this trade. It isn’t part of any published agenda for federal or state governments. None of the farrier associations have promoted the cause.

Walt Taylor, probably the most vocal and active proponent of mandatory farrier standardization, addressed the Health & Regulation Committee at the 2017 American Horse Council (AHC) Convention. Despite this platform for Taylor, the AHC lobbyists haven’t taken up the cause.

So for now, licensing isn’t an immediate concern for farriers. But just because there isn’t a state or federal agency directly regulating the trade doesn’t mean regulation can’t come to farriery as unintended consequences of indirect legislation.

Who Can Become A Farrier?

In October, we detailed why California farrier school owner Bob Smith and prospective student Esteban Narez are suing the state of California in federal court. The lawsuit comes after the 2009 passage of the California Private Postsecondary Education Act mandated that all students have a high school diploma, a GED or pass a government-approved exam before entering a private trade or vocational school.        

The law’s aim was to stifle “diploma mills” — schools that prey upon under-qualified students by issuing bogus credentials after saddling them with a large student loan debt. While the law is modeled after a federal law regulating student loans, California law applies to all schools regardless of whether they accept student loans. Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School does not accept student loans. Narez applied to Smith’s school, but had to be rejected because he lacks the secondary education requirement.

Many farriers surely will disagree with Smith and Narez’s suit based on the arguably low threshold of education required. This is one potential student at one school, but for farriers who are worried about licensing and regulation, this could indicate how regulation could result from unintended consequences. Smith believes this case shows how action meant to protect students from diploma mills reveals a method for government to eventually control the industry.

“For farriers who advocate licensing, this should be a wake-up call,” Smith says. “This is a good example of what happens when a government agency has the power of a license. Non-elected bureaucrats — through regulations, not laws — can slowly invade your business. Through regulations, they take control of everything. The withdrawal or suspension of your license is the stick they use to hit you over the head.”

A common refrain among farriers is to raise the status of the industry. Determining one’s qualifications and commitment to continuing education is the choice of the individual in the absence of an authoritative body. If you are a proponent of establishing regulation to elevate the trade in the U.S., be careful of what you wish for. Your idea of how to qualify a farrier might not match the bureaucrats’ definition.