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No visit to a pioneer museum would be complete without a visit to the farrier's, or blacksmith's, shop. Most living history sites have on hand a man who makes horseshoes in the old-fashioned, pioneer style--heating metal bars over hot coals to such high temperatures that the metal turns pliable, and the blacksmith shapes it into shoes for the museum horses to wear.

Although the farrier's work is demonstrated as a pioneer craft, much like butter churning and candle dipping, it is a craft that is still practiced today. While butter churning and candle making are left in a historical context, the work of the blacksmith is still done today, although, admittedly, in a slightly different way.

Many farriers specialize in one horse type (show horses, work horses or recreation horses) and make standard shoes to sell. They also remove old shoes, treat hoofs for any injury or infection, and size the hoof. They nail on the new shoes, ensuring that they fit well.

As well, farriers still forge custom-made shoes for certain horses, as well as take mass-produced shoes and reshape them to fit particular horses. Shoes are important to horses in that they protect their feet from harm, and allow them to move at a more sure,and swift, pace. Farriers, the men and women who lovingly create those shoes, keep alive traditions that have transcended history and have found a valued place in the modern equine world.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a farrier? Farriers must be creative, and enjoy being around horses. They need good manual dexterity, steady hands, and should be patient, careful, and not afraid of taking risks and trying out new and unknown things. They need physical stamina, perseverance, good eyesight, and coordination. Farriers need to have excellent communication skills. They should be self-motivated and business minded, especially if they would like to make this their career.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Remove old shoes
  • Examine hoof for size and condition
  • Trim and shape hoof, look for any developing problems
  • Consult with supervisor, head designer, or client about required shoe
  • Research current trends, historical and cultural traditions
  • Sketch ideas and plans for each shoe
  • Use various techniques to create ornamental and functional horseshoes
  • Nail on shoe
  • Manage a shop or online business
  • They typical day for a farrier involves meeting with clients, creating sketches and drawing up plans for the custom-ordered or mass-production shoe. Farriers only have about an hour in which to make each shoe, and quick accurate work is crucial. Farriers may travel around the world to shows exhibitions, festivals, and schools to sell their work, conduct seminars, and for research, to learn about new techniques and ancient metal working traditions.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Farrirers take portable forges, anvils, and tools to their clients' homes and horse stables. They work outdoors in stables or corrals. They also work in small shops, with breeding farms, riding stables, racetracks, and feedlots. They are usually self-employed, and work alone.
  • The work is physically demanding, and farriers are at risk of burns, kicks, bites and being stepped on or pushed. There are generally more opportunities in the summer months.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Farriers can specialize in certain styles, or exclusively create custom orders for top equine stars. They can get into other forms of metal work, become full-time artisans, and open a shop to sell their wares. They can become instructors, and write books and articles on the history and technique of their art. They can also work as a blacksmith with living history museums.

  Educational Paths  
First of all, Farriers should love horses, and have taken a number of riding courses, in order to be familiar with the animals. As well, consider courses in equine studies.

There is no required program to take or path to follow to become a farrier. Often, they will study under the guidance of an established farrier, so it is a good idea to find an individual with whom they can work and learn. Some colleges and private schools offer courses in metal work and blacksmithing. It is a good idea, however, to complete a college diploma in business if they plan on establishing your own.

Prospective farriers may want to look for courses in history in order to understand the historical context of the blacksmith, and their crucial role in European and settler societies of the past.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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