Concerns shortage of farriers in certain regions will hit horse welfare

  • Welfare concerns continue in Scotland as registered farrier numbers decline – and Government funding for farrier apprenticeships remains off the cards.

    Since 2017 Scottish apprentice farriers have had to pay their own fees to attend college, and in 2021 the Farriers Registration Council (FRC) told H&H many potential apprentices could not afford the training, leading to worries that there would be a lack of new farriers coming in (news, 27 May).

    Farriers and horse owners in Scotland have told H&H this is the case; there is a shortage of practitioners.

    Morayshire-based farrier Cliff Barnes told H&H there is “a need for more farriers in Scotland as a whole”, but particularly above the central belt.

    “Local farriers are doing their best to cover the work and are working closely with trimmers to provide as much coverage as possible, while also encouraging farriers from the rest of the UK to consider moving to the areas most at risk from potential welfare issues,” he said.

    “The biggest problem is that training of new farriers is restricted by the Scottish Government’s refusal to fund Scottish farrier apprentices.”

    An FRC spokesman told H&H there are 2,743 registered farriers in Great Britain, of which 168 are in Scotland. FRC records show a decrease of 36 in Scotland between 2020 and 2022, which “would appear to substantiate concerns and observations raised by horse owners in Scotland”.

    “The FRC is aware that owners in Scotland are experiencing difficulties accessing farriery services with lack of practitioners suggested as the reason. This raises significant concerns in respect of welfare and the delivery of equine hoof care in particular.”

    In 2021 Horsescotland published its 2021–2025 manifesto, which included farrier issues, and the organisation was looking into re-establishing a full- or part-time farriery training school in the country.

    A Horsescotland spokesman told H&H last week that the organisation, along with British Horse Society Scotland and World Horse Welfare, have been “moving forward” in the need to address the shortage of apprentice farriers, and have met with the Scottish Government, Scotland’s Rural College, and Lantra about farriers being added to the Scottish shortage occupation list.

    “The next step is an industry survey on farriery supply and succession planning,” said the spokesman.

    A Scottish Government spokesman told H&H that “given the fresh concerns being expressed” the government will “renew efforts to reinstate the previous reciprocal agreement on funding for farrier training with the department for education [DfE] in England.”

    The DfE told H&H it is responsible for apprenticeships in England, its Scottish counterpart for them in Scotland; apprenticeships policy is devolved.

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