Roland’s nags and nails: heading back to college

  • I’m heading back to college today and I’m feeling slightly apprehensive. It’s a three week stint and I’ll be assessed, tested and examined on shoe-making, anatomy and shoeing principals. It’s the first time the college has asked us to bring our farriery tools, so I imagine we’ll be working on horses as well. Maybe we’ll be fitting shoes? That would be quite exciting and something I’ve been building up to since I started my farriery apprenticeship.

    Kris Parsons, my training farrier, has already begun to introduce me to shoe-fitting, but as yet, I’ve not actually fitted a shoe. There’s a lot going on as he is still working hard to improve my trimming, has had me nailing on a few shoes (and that’s a whole new skill set to master) and of course there is the hot-fitting side to learn too.

    You’re probably wondering what it is that I actually do each day. I’m nearly 18 months into my four-year farriery training program. Currently I remove shoes, trim the soles and frogs, trim the foot and then clench up at the end. Just the fitting and nailing on to go!

    The hardest part of the shoeing process is the trimming, and while I am slow still, I have definitely improved to the point where one could fit a shoe to a foot I have trimmed. It wasn’t that long ago that Kris would comment that my trims looked like the great wall of china. I’m starting to get the balance right so the horse will land levelly to suit its conformation as well as getting the hoof shaped up correctly. That said, I do still occasionally make a hash of a trim and luckily Kris is there to put it right.

    The UK has the hardest farriery training program in the world. In many countries there is no law to prevent anyone from shoeing a horse. In some countries the maximum training is two years and in some circles, a two week course will give you a qualification to undertake farriery which beggers belief.

    By the time I have completed my apprenticeship, I will have had 26 weeks of college training, four years practical experience and know everything about trimming and shoeing a horse, pony, foal and donkey inside out and back to front. At that point I will take my exams and if I pass, only then will I be good enough to undertake farriery work.

    Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. I have to pass this college block first which marks the start of my second year of my apprenticeship. I’ve also promised that I’ll join the rest of the boys and one girl on one of their infamous nights out. Perhaps that’s what’s making me anxious!

    Until next week



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