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Farriery is defined in the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975. It is ‘any work in connection with the preparation or treatment of the foot of a horse for the immediate reception of a shoe thereon, the fitting by nailing or otherwise of a shoe to the foot or the finishing off of such work to the foot’. A farrier is a skilled craftsperson with a sound knowledge of both theory and practice of the craft.

Farriers are highly skilled, and have to keep their skills up-to-date in order to continue practising. The UK is the only country with regulation, and leads the world in the basic standards of farriery. However, this does not necessarily carry through to research and development of new techniques. As other countries introduce legislation, this may alter the relative position of the UK.

Key statistics:

  • There are 2,143 registered farriers and apprentices in England.
  • The majority of farriers run their own businesses or work within a small company. The number of businesses in the UK is, therefore, estimated to be almost equal to the number of farriers.
  • The majority of farriers and student farriers are male, white and British.
  • There are estimated to be one million horses in the UK.
  • It is an offence for any person to engage in any act of farriery who is not registered on the Register of Farriers nor employed under Articles of Apprenticeship.

Jobs in the industry include: approved training farrier, farriery supply business proprietor, apprentice farrier, field officer, college tutor assessor, registered farrier

To become a farrier it is necessary to qualify for entry into the Register of Farriers. To qualify individuals are required to complete a course of training and a minimum period of experience approved by the Farriers Registration Council (FRC). The approved course is an Advanced Apprenticeship, including an NVQ Level 3 in Farriery and a Technical Certificate, which is the Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers. The prescribed period of experience is 4 years and 2 months.

Skills needed to become a farrier include: horse handling; technical skills (e.g. blacksmithing, operating machinery); customer care; business skills; and essential skills (literacy, numeracy and communication).

The increasingly technical nature of farriery and the need to keep abreast of both new treatments and legislative requirements creates a clear need for effective job-specific training. Arising from this is the need for greater acknowledgement of the skills, knowledge and experience of farriers gained throughout their professional life. Most farriers are self-employed, so there is a need for business and technical skills. Future skills needs include:

  • Specific skills in the use of new technology
  • Higher level business planning skills
  • Marketing and communication skills
  • Higher level customer service skills
  • Higher level understanding of legislation in respect to animal welfare
  • Higher level ICT skills

An estimated 293 apprentices will need to start training each year in order to keep the number of horses per farrier constant. Approximately 100 people undertook apprenticeships in the UK in 2006/07, so there is a need to increase numbers.

The number of farriers by region and nation are:

  • 439 in the South West
  • 409 in the South East
  • 312 in the East of England
  • 238 in the West Midlands
  • 214 in the East Midlands
  • 205 in the North West
  • 171 in Yorkshire and the Humber
  • 162 in Scotland
  • 125 in Wales
  • 79 in London
  • 76 in the North East
  • 12 in Northern Ireland

Pay scales in this industry are variable, so the following only provides an indication of the annual salaries. Salaries range from around £8,500 up to £35,000 a year for experienced farriers. Further information on salaries can be found on the Defra website.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010