This is my last week of college before I return to the hard graft of being an apprentice farrier. The hours are definitely more civilised at college and I am really enjoying the learning side. So much of what I do with my training farrier is put into context at college, whilst everything taught at college, is brought to life by my training farrier. It’s a superb way to learn.

I will be returning to college in three months time to complete my second year exams, which I have to pass to continue into the third year. As one college lecturer put it, they are beginning to tighten the screw now.

Previous blocks have been very much introductory level, while the content is now becoming more in-depth and there is less leeway given for poor performance. This next stint at college is a vital block. No one is safe as each of us (students) is either strong in the theory or strong in the shoemaking/practical side. It means any one of us could fail the block if we don’t master our weak areas.

Failure would mean retaking the exams again and, if the retake is failed, then the Farrier Training Agency will remove us from the apprenticeship program. You cannot re-apply or re-take the exams so could never become a farrier.

This is a new system introduced into the apprenticeship as in the past, students could keep on failing and retaking for years (literally). So it’s do or die and there is no third chance. None of us wants to fail a block and have to face the sudden death exams so we’re all focused on getting it right first time.

There is a lot of work to do: tendons, ligaments and joints in the limbs, blood supply, arteries, veins, circulation and mechanics, osteology (bone formation, disease and functions), muscles and of course “the hoof”. The only thing yet to be introduced to us is the nervous system which we will start next.

On the shoemaking side, we now have to produce shoes to a very high standard (no excuses and no room for manoeuvre) and to time, which is ridiculously short if you ask me! The shoes have many technical variants to them and each one has to be almost perfect. It’s easy to make a mistake when you are under time pressure and often any mistake made is not correctable.

Over the next three months we will all be practicing and revising like mad to get ourselves as ready as possible for these vital exams . . . and we will only have evenings and weekends to do it in. Our day jobs are all consuming, hard work and long hours as, not only are we assisting our employers, we will also be learning to fit and nail on shoes.

On that note, I must publicly thank the long suffering horse who stood for hours this week and allow me to put two front shoes on him. I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing, but was very aware that the horse was not. My tally of shod feet has now reached a massive total of three. Step by step . . .

Until next week,

Roland

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