County students shape a future in ancient craft

editorial image

The art of farriery might seem like an ancient craft but caring for the hooves of a horse is critical for their health and wellbeing and at Myerscough College a team of apprenticeships are eager to break into the industry.

The Bilsborrow campus offers a world renowned course in the study of farriery and there are currently 100 students undertaking an apprenticeship in the tough craft.

Farriery manager Linda Quinn, who has been at Myerscough for more than 20 years, says the four-year training scheme is no mean feat.

Apprentice farriers have to be highly skilled, capable of making shoes to suit all types of horse and their working conditions.

The modern farrier must have knowledge of the anatomy of horses’ feet and legs, be able to work alongside vets, manage and handle horses, understand and meet the needs of clients and successfully run their own business.

Linda says: “It is an in-depth study and certainly not easy, the apprentices will spend long times with their employers ‘on the job’ training but have a long academic year, studying at the college in three week blocks over the four years, taking in all the theory. Learning the anatomy of the horse is vital.

“At the end they are subject to a two and a half hour theory exam, two hours practical and an oral exam in order to gain their membership to the Worshipful Company of Farriers.”

Myerscough is one of just three colleges nationally to offer the training programme and the only one in the north west.

Qualified apprentices from Myerscough have gone on to work on the Queen’s estate at Sandringham, across Europe and even for the Sultan of Oman. Students also worked at the London 2012 Olympics and regularly shoe horses for Lancashire Constabulary.

Nicol Coulter, 31, is due to complete apprenticeship in July 2017

Initially set to become a photographer, after completing a university degree in the subject, Nicol opted for a career change working with horses instead.

She says: “‘I didn’t grow up with horses so it wasn’t an obvious choice, but I’ve always been an outdoors person with a love for horses. I first learnt about the work of a farrier when I helped my friend whose horse was having new shoes fitted.

“As soon as I saw a farrier at work I just knew it was what I wanted to do with my life.’

‘’I made countless phone calls to colleges, local farriers and read anything I could get my hands on to learn more about the industry. I just wanted to try and find out as much as possible to make sure it was the right career path for me.”

Nicol says being a woman in such a physically demanding industry won’t hold her back, she adds: ‘’I thought the physical nature of the work would be a challenge at first.

“So far though I haven’t had any problems. It is slightly unusual being a woman in the industry, and there’s certainly not many of us around, but I’m definitely not fazed by it. I just get stuck in and get on with it.’’

Linda adds: “Farriery is still very male-dominated, around five per cent are women. It is physically demanding but we are certainly seeing one or two more girls keen to get an apprenticeship. And there is so much to learn, every horse is different, just like people hence the saying no foot, no horse. “Their shoes are critical to their welfare.”

Nicol says: “It is a tough profession involving very hard, physically demanding work, so you need to know wholeheartedly that this is what you want to do.

“I’d say try and gain some experience and learn as much as you possibly can about the industry. I started with a special 12-week access course designed to give people a feel for the life as a Farrier.

“This really shows whether it’s the right choice for you, so I’d encourage people to start out on a similar course.’’

This is only one way of becoming a practicing farrier. The apprenticeship usually lasts four years and two months - working for an Approved Training Farrier and undertaking block release training and assessment at Myerscough College in preparation to undertake the Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF) Diploma in Farriery.

To gain a DipWCF and in order to be eligible for registration onto the Register of Farriers (and be allowed to work as a farrier), in addition to passing the final exams, candidates also must complete a Technical Certificate in Forgework, a Level 3 Diploma in Farriery, and English and mathematics functional skills (to GCSE level).

Only people who hold a DipWCF can work professionally as a farrier.

Linda adds: “We are the only college in the world offering a foundation

‘’Farriery is a tough profession involving very hard, physically demanding work, so you need to know wholeheartedly that this is what you want to do. I’d say try and gain some experience and learn as much as you possibly can about the industry. I started with a special 12 week access course designed to give people a feel for the life as a Farrier. This really shows whether it’s the right choice for you, so I’d encourage people to start out on a similar course.’’

Note – a farrier and a blacksmith are different. Only a farrier can shoe horses & look after their feet. A blacksmith makes items with hot iron which might include horseshoes. A blacksmith might also be a trained farrier. A farrier should not be confused with a blacksmith. A farrier works with horses but needs training in blacksmithing in order to make the shoe properly. A blacksmith works with iron but may never have any contact with horses.

About apprenticeships in farriery:

Candidates must be at least 16 years of age, however there is no upper age limit.

Candidates must serve a period of Apprenticeship of four years and two months whilst employed by an Approved Training Farrier (ATF).

An ATF is a person who is a Registered Farrier and fulfils the criteria laid down by the Farriers Registration Council (FRC), who oversee the training of Farriery Apprentices in Great Britain.