Roland’s nags and nails: Week one as a farrier’s apprentice

  • It is with huge satisfaction (and some relief) that I have completed my first week as an apprentice farrier. I am absolutely exhausted, but still in one piece . . . sort of!

    My corporate-soft hands have hundreds of little cuts and rasp grazes. My back is aching and I’ve used muscles that I never knew I had. For those who aren’t familiar with my story, I’m 39 and have left business life to begin a career as a farrier — much more rewarding by a long shot.

    My head is whirling with the unfamiliar imperial sizing of horseshoes, and my grasp of steel section measurements have seen what was an organised stock system, reduced to chaos!

    I am training with Kris Parsons (pictured left), who also has an apprentice in his fourth year of training, Alex (pictured centre), as well as myself (pictured right). Alex is mostly shoeing in Kris’s second van, but we meet up regularly with him.

    I overheard them reminiscing about their first few weeks as apprentice/trainer as they watched me wrestling the shoes from a cob. It is incredibly hard work and my legs feel like jelly afterwards. I have, though, got much better throughout the week and I can already feel my legs getting stronger.

    There is so much to learn and, even though Kris and I discuss shoeing theory between jobs, most of it is lost on me. However, I need to concentrate on mastering the basics first.

    These include:

    • Taking shoes off and counting every nail so that I know that I have them all and have left none behind
    • Determining (with help) the size of the new shoes and operating the gas forge
    • Safeing-off the heels of the shoe with a rasp
    • Clenching up and final dressing of the foot

    I am conscious that I am slow and that it is taking longer for Kris to shoe a horse as he spends time giving me instruction and help. I need to speed up, but not before I have properly mastered each of these basics. On this, Kris has been very clear.

    I am amazed how every horse seems to know who the apprentice is. They behave so much better when Kris is working on them. With me it’s an opportunity to “take the mick” it seems!

    Finally, I am really looking forward to next week and will try and get to grips with the imperial sizing, as well as improving on my basic skills. We’ll no doubt continue to visit some beautiful places and meet some great people and horses. Corporate life seems a long way away now and I am very glad about that!

    Til next week



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