How to become a farrier in 4 steps (with definition)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Farriers are responsible for the health and wellbeing of horses, which is a huge responsibility when working with the Household Cavalry, the police or in equestrian sports. To become a farrier, it's vital that you're knowledgeable about equine anatomy and physiology. This is because it's necessary for you to understand how horses move so that you may care for them properly. In this article, we look at what a farrier is and how to become a farrier, with a section on what to expect when working in this field.

What is a farrier?

A farrier specialises in the care of horses' hooves, which includes trimming, shoeing and balancing them. While many people assume that a farrier only works with horses, they may also work with other animals such as donkeys, mules, cattle and goats. Farriers perform many different tasks, such as pulling nails out of hooves or administering an animal's medication. Their main responsibility is to ensure the health and comfort of the animal they're working with, which means that they may also perform corrective shoeing.

Related: Popular careers with horses and stables

How to become a farrier

Here's how to become a farrier in four steps:

1. Study a related college course

When becoming a farrier, it's worth studying a related college course like a Level 2 Access to Farriery course. This is because such courses aim to help students gain more knowledge about the industry and also help them understand how to perform their job more efficiently. Students also learn about all aspects of equine care and healthcare that go together with horse maintenance. Students have access to a wide range of horse-related resources during their time at college, which is ultimately beneficial when starting work as a farrier.

Though the requirements for getting on to a related college course vary according to the provider, they generally want students to have at least two A*-D (9-3) GCSE grades. This is because such college courses aim to equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to apply for an apprenticeship. It takes around 12 months to complete the course. To pass and receive a certificate from the National Examination Board for Farriers (NEBF), students are usually required to pass theoretical and practical exams.

Related: GCSE equivalent qualifications

2. Get onto a related apprenticeship

The experience you gain during an apprenticeship supplies you with the skills and training necessary for becoming a professional farrier. When working directly with a professional, you gain further insight into what their day normally consists of and understand the skills they need for performing certain responsibilities. It also provides opportunities to network with other farriers so you can learn from their experiences, which may help you find work in the future. Apprenticeships allow for more hands-on experience, which in this case is usually more beneficial than theoretical learning.

To become a farrier, it's necessary to complete an advanced apprenticeship with an approved trainer. This generally takes around 48 months to complete. As the experience includes on-the-job training combined with study at a college, it's vital that you seek a course approved by the Farriers Registration Council (FRC). This accreditation is nationally recognised and strengthens your future job applications. Requirements for this apprenticeship include four or five A*-C (9-4) grades at the GCSE level and a City and Guilds certificate in forgework.

Related: Tips for writing a great apprenticeship CV

3. Join the Household Cavalry

A popular route to becoming a professional farrier is to join the Household Cavalry as a soldier, as it's an elite cavalry unit that's been caring for and maintaining horses since 1992. They're generally charged with performing ceremonial duties throughout London before serving at the operational regiment at Windsor. As a soldier in this unit, you learn how to care for horses so that you may keep them healthy enough to perform their duties. You also learn how to ride horses at full speed while holding onto their reins.

The requirements for joining the Household Cavalry as a farrier are fairly straightforward. For example, candidates are usually required to be at least 19 years old with evidence of at least five A*-C (9-4) GCSE grades or equivalent. The Household Cavalry also requires applicants to have at least two to three years of experience working with horses. This tends to include experience shoeing them or training them for riding. A candidate looking to get into this role who's already a member of the military may get credit for their previous experience during the application process.

4. Register with the FRC

Once you register with the FRC, you can legally practise as a farrier in your local area. The registration process is not only very simple and quick, but it also ensures that you're practising your profession safely. This helps farriers find clients as it's a nationally recognised institution. To join, farriers sit an exam that tests their knowledge of how to check a horse's legs and hooves for potential issues, how to cut excess hoof growth and whether they can properly fit the right type of shoe.

To register with the FRC, candidates first meet certain criteria. For example, the process begins by asking applicants to confirm that they're over the age of 18. They then ask applicants to attach proof that they've already completed an apprenticeship programme that meets or exceeds the requirements set by the FRC. Applicants then sit a pass/fail exam on basic farrier knowledge and skills from one of several approved providers. If a candidate meets these criteria, they may register for membership through a member organisation or directly through the FRC.

Farrier duties

In their role, a farrier can expect to do the following:

Be on their feet for long periods

A professional farrier is on their feet for long periods due to the amount of time it takes to shoe a horse. The process begins with cleaning and trimming the hooves, which takes about 20 minutes per foot. After this, the farrier attaches a shoe to each hoof and secures it with nails. It takes about 20 minutes to attach a single nail. After the application of the nails, it's necessary to trim the horse's feet before adding another nail. This process repeats until the horse's feet are all successfully shod, which may take around two hours.

Spend a lot of time outdoors in all kinds of weather

Farriers adapt to a horse's needs, which sometimes means taking care of them when the conditions aren't ideal. For example, if a horse has an injury, it may need extra help getting back to the stable. Professional farriers work with the horse to ensure they're comfortable and safe while exposed to the elements. They also help the horse regain its health so it can once again live comfortably outdoors without any health or safety concerns.

Related: Top 20 popular jobs for animal lovers in the UK

Develop a deep understanding of the anatomy of a horse's foot

A professional farrier develops a deep understanding of the anatomy of a horse's foot during their work. A horse's foot contains many different parts, each with its own function. Professional farriers spend their time working with the horse's feet on a daily basis, which means that to do their job well, they understand how all these parts work together. This helps them identify injuries and create treatment plans.

Develop a deep understanding of how footwear affects a horse's performance

A professional farrier also develops a deep understanding of how footwear affects a horse's performance, as this is integral to the horse's health. The structure of a horse's foot is complex, and changes in how it's impacted by the environment can have serious consequences. For example, if a horse's hoof wall becomes too long or thick, it may interfere with the growth of new bone beneath it, which causes lameness. If a farrier doesn't recognise this issue, they may perform corrective surgery to cut away excess tissue before it becomes too painful for the horse to walk.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles