Why Farrier Certifications Are Important
To put it bluntly, certification is the only barometer of skill level for farriers in the United States. Unlike in other countries, such as Great Britain, there are no legal requirements, standards or laws governing who can call themselves a ‘farrier’ in the US. There are no educational requirements or official apprenticeships.
Voluntary farrier certifications are important because they give horse owners a means of differentiating between skilled and unskilled farriers. Completing a certification program shows a willingness not just to learn, but also to showcase skills and knowledge in front of respected colleagues.
The certifications described below are all conducted by respected farrier organizations that strive for the highest level of competence in their candidates. Knowing that your farrier was willing to test his or her knowledge and skill to achieve any of these titles can help a horse owner know if they chose a qualified, dedicated horseshoer.
What is the Worshipful Company of Farriers?
The Worshipful Company of Farriers is the British organization that is responsible for the exams that anyone wanting to shoe horses in Britain must legally pass before they are allowed to work professionally. The Company examines and awards Diplomas to entry-level farriers, as well as conducts higher-level examinations for Associates and Fellows. Farriers must pass the Associate exam before they can propose a research study and begin the process of examining to be a Fellow.
The Company’s Diploma (their lowest level of exams) is equivalent to the American Farrier’s Association Certified Journeyman Farrier exam, the highest American certification possible.
According to the Worshipful Company of Farrier’s website:
“The membership of the Worshipful Company of Farriers consists of craft farriers, veterinary surgeons and an amalgam of persons committed to the welfare of the Horse and the continuing of the craft.
Its involvement over the centuries with the evolution of the farriers’ craft is evident from a simple listing of the activities for which it bears a major responsibility today. It assists apprentices; encourages and gives prizes for shoeing competitions; examines for the Diploma that entitles farriers to statutory registration and for two higher qualifications, namely the Associateship and the Fellowship.”
What is an Associate (AWCF)?
An Associateship is awarded to farriers who pass the higher exam offered by the Company. As of Summer 2013, there are only 251 Associates (AWCFs) in the world and only 11 in the United States. Mike Poe passed his Associate exam in October 2012.
The AWCF exam consists of two modules and several subsections that are evaluated over a two-day period:
1. PRACTICAL MODULE
1.1 Candidates’ Exhibition of Shoes
1.2 Live Shoeing and Shoemaking
1.3 Modern Farriery
2. THEORY MODULE
2.1 Written Paper
2.2 Live Horse and Radiography Assessment
2.3 Candidates’ Exhibition of Shoes
2.4 Oral Examination
From the article “So You Want to be an Associate? The Philosophy behind the AWCF” by Simon Curtis FWCF HonAssocRCVS:
What Are The Examiners Looking For?
- They are looking for you to convince them that you have a depth of knowledge of anatomy, conditions and diseases of the foot, and how conformation affects the gait and the foot, and vice versa.
- You need to show traditional forging skills and be able to apply them to an individual horse. You need to show a range of shoemaking skills in different materials including fabricating.
- They are assessing your ability to think on your feet when confronted with a task that you might not have experienced. You need to be able to use and have an opinion on the modern materials listed.
- You need to be comfortable looking at x-rays and assessing a horse with a veterinary surgeon.
From a Facebook discussion on how practising for the AWCF theory exam has many benefits for your farriery practice, by Alistair Dalziel, AWCF:
Whereas newly qualified farriers are typically reactive – they fix unforeseen faults on their next visit – Associates are able to foresee how the growth of the hoof will react to what they are about to do, and adjust their shoeing plan before taking action. They appreciate that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and adapt their plan accordingly.
It isn’t that newly qualified farriers are less conscientious. Far from it! The difference is that Associates have had more high-minded experience. From the time when they first envisage their future as an Associate, they are reflective on their own practice asking themselves, “What’s happening? So, what am I going to do? Now…What am I going to do in the future?”.
What is an AFA Certified Journeyman Farrier?
The American Farriers Association (AFA) Certified Journeyman Farrier (CJF) certification is their highest classification and is only granted after a set of rigorous exams. The CJF examination process “requires in-depth knowledge and highly developed performance skills displaying a level of professional artistry,” according to the AFA.
Only 559 AFA members, or 20 percent of the approximately 2700 AFA members, are CJF certified. (These numbers were accurate as of 2008.)
The CJF certification process consists of three phases. Mike Poe passed all three phases in only two days, even earning a 90 percent score on his written exam.
The written exam requires a thorough understanding of gaits and movements, blood circulation and pathology of the horse as well as the ability to correctly identify the functions and origins of all bones, cartilage, joints, tendons and ligaments in both front and hind limbs.
The practical exam is broken into two phases. For the first phase, farriers must shoe the four feet of a horse with handmade shoes under time constraints. The final phase is a forging exercise in which candidates make a bar shoe from scratch that fits a specified pattern in less than 35 minutes.
Other AFA Certification Levels
The following descriptions are reprinted from the AFA’s publication “An Introduction to the American Farrier’s Association Farrier Certification Program.”
Certified Farrier (AFA CF)
The Certified Farrier exams, which constitute the first level of AFA Certification, are open to farriers who have at least one year of horseshoeing experience, and have demonstrated knowledge and skill to perform hoof care on a professional basis. The Certified Farrier process requires successful completion of written and practical testing, as well as the creation and explanation of a horseshoe display.
Certified Tradesman Farrier (AFA CTF)
The Certified Tradesman Farrier exams, which constitute a second (optional) level of AFA Certification, are open to farriers who have at least two years of horseshoeing experience and have completed the CF level. The Certified Tradesman Farrier process requires successful completion of written and practical testing, including the forging and fitting of a handmade shoe within a prescribed time limit.
Certified Journeyman Farrier (AFA CJF)
The Certified Journeyman Farrier exams, which constitute the highest level of AFA certification, are open to candidates who have at least two years of horseshoeing experience and have completed the CF level. Farriers sitting for this level of certification are expected to display in-depth knowledge and highly developed performance skills evidencing a level of professional artistry. The process requires successful completion of written and practical testing, as well as the forging of a specific bar shoe within a prescribed time limit. The shoe must fit a pre-determined foot pattern.
Certified Journeyman Farriers have the opportunity to continue their pursuit of education and professional development through the AFA’s Specialty Endorsement program, which acknowledges areas/concerns that require specialized knowledge & skill. These may involve working with particular breeds, activities, disciplines, and/or audiences. The AFA currently offers three Specialty Endorsements: Therapeutic, Forging, and Educator.
Therapeutic Endorsement (CJF TE)
Candidates for the TE must have previously obtained status as an AFA Certified Journeyman Farrier and have five year’s experience in this specialization. (this is not to be confused with five year’s experience shoeing horses). Candidates for this endorsement must be well informed in practical and theoretical issues relating to foot and hoof pathology.
Educators Endorsement (EE)
The Educators Endorsement is designed for those members that have obtained their Certified Journeyman Farrier certification and will be teaching other farriers. This endorsement is not only for those farriers teaching in schools, but also for those farriers that may give clinics, lectures, or any other form of teaching farriery. The Educators Endorsement focuses primarily on the candidates ability to teach in a one on one environment, as well as a small clinic setting or in the case of a large lecture as one may encounter at the AFA convention or a veterinary symposium.