Worshipful Company of Farriers
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The Worshipful Company of Farriers
Promoting the welfare of the horse since 1356

An introduction to UK farriery

By Reg Howe, Master of the Worshipful Company of Farriers and former chairman of the Farriery CPD Steering Group, originally published in Forge magazine in 2009

In this series of three articles, my aim is to share with farriers, some information for the British horse- owning public on a subject which is key to successful and enjoyable equestrianism.

Farriery is built on a 2000-year history, to a time when the application of an iron shoe overcame the problems of wear caused by the first metalled roads. Let's start by trying to understand the role of the farrier and the structure of farriery in Great Britain.

What is a farrier? A farrier is, first and foremost, an expert on the foot and lower limb of an equine (horse, pony, mule, donkey, and zebras, too). He or she (there are 51 registered female farriers in the UK) is a professional person, regulated by law and contributing to the welfare of the horse.

Thus, the relationship is one of professional and client, rather than tradesman and customer! And just in case owners are not clear, it might be worth explaining that, a blacksmith is someone who works with iron but is not trained to shoe horses, while a farrier’s training includes blacksmithing to enable him or her to make a wide variety of shoes.

Few horse owners understand the commitment involved in qualifying as a farrier, or that you have worked with an Approved Training Farrier (ATF) in order to do so. There are 250 ATFs and, of those, around 187 are currently employing apprentices.

Many people mourned the demise of apprenticeship schemes and welcomed the introduction of ‘modern apprenticeships’. However, in farriery, apprenticeships never went away! Neither do they know that that training period is four years and two months, and that the ATF will pass on to his or her apprentices, the skills that they have acquired over the years.

As well as working under the guidance of their ATF, apprentices study at one of only three colleges that offer farriery on their curriculum. So who runs the apprenticeship scheme? Until October 2013 it was the National Farriery Training Agency (NFTA), a division of the Farriers Registration Council (FRC).  The NFTA was disbanded in 2013 and the administration of the apprenticeship is run by the three colleges, under the regulation of the FRC.

This organisation handles inquiries and all other aspects of the administration of farrier training, including recording the continuing professional development (CPD) undertaken by working farriers. British horse owners are lucky that their farriers are the best qualified in the world. Apprentices are examined in practical, written and oral skills – and, if successful, they are awarded the Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers.

Even as a qualified farrier, you may wonder why a City of London livery company is involved? Livery companies have been part of the fabric of the City of London for many centuries (the first recorded company – the Weavers – received their Charter in 1155). In those days, all livery companies were formed to manage and protect their trade or profession.

Early days

Taking the time machine back to the year 1356, imagine being at a meeting where the Lord Mayor of London, Henry Pykard, has summoned the leading farriers to demand that they ensure high standards are maintained within the 'mystery' of farriery (here, mystery is derived from the Latin misterium or professional skill).

So the quest for excellence in British farriery can trace its origins back over 650 years! Nowadays, a number of livery companies still have a statutory or regulatory responsibility for their 'craft' and one of these is the farriers.

The 1975 Farriers Registration Act requires all farriers in England, Wales and Scotland (including the highlands and islands) to be registered with the Farriers Registration Council. The Council is a statutory regulator undertaking the responsibilities set out in the Act – to maintain a register of farriers eligible to practise in Great Britain; to regulate farriery education up to the point of registration, and to regulate professional conduct. Thus, any unregistered person shoeing a horse is acting unlawfully.

The Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF) sets the examination and members of the company's examination board (eminent farriers and veterinary surgeons) conduct the exam. Successful candidates are awarded the Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers and are entitled to put the letters DipWCF after their names.

The British qualification is so well regarded that farriers from overseas take the examination in order to demonstrate their ability, and it is always a pleasure to see diplomas awarded to working farriers from as far afield as Australia and the USA.

There is no doubt about it, farriers are highly qualified, valued members of the equestrian community. In the next article, I will offer my thoughts on how working with horse owners to achieve an excellent relationship with them, for the benefit of the horse.

  • Richard Stephenson BVMS CertVR CertEP MRCVS, WCF examiner
  • Felicity Heather, Registrar, Farriers Registration Council
  • Peter Ablett, Chief Executive, Farriery Training Agency
  • David Goodall, Registrar and Craft Secretary, Worshipful Company of Farriers

FRC CPD Website - http://www.farrierycpd.org/