As a horse owner who regularly communicates with my farrier, I’ve recently been told that there could eventually be changes with who can legally shoe my horses. I was given a copy of letters by a seemingly nice fellow named Walt Taylor. The claim is that many horses are being abused and injured by immoral and unqualified farriers. The implication is that horse owners are not smart enough to know the difference between a reputable farrier and a counterfeit scammer. While I’m sure he means well, Mr. Taylor has insulted my intelligence and indicted his colleagues. My question to him is why?
I personally hold a state issued license in another trade and have even been an instructor, teaching my trade at a technical college so I have some insight on how things look from the perspective of professional with a government license to practice. During my time teaching, I had to pass students if they met a minimum requirement and were able to pass a standardized test administered by the state. What I can tell you from experience is that in no way was that the best criteria to be considered a professional with standards. Some of my former students have gone on to become very successful individuals who are thriving. Some of them were not so impressive. One student in particular comes to mind. I hope that this individual has never been in practice for fear that they’ve caused damage to others even though they were able to complete the program and pass the test. Although, if they did go on to work in my industry, I’m sure it wasn’t for very long. A person can only do a bad job for so long before they destroy their own reputation, no matter how much faith the government has in their abilities.
As a horse owner, I understand that it is MY responsibility to hire a qualified professional and because I understand this, my horses are in good hands and are doing well. My fellow horse owners may not be so discerning and while that’s unfortunate, it’s unavoidable. If it appears that there are so many horses experiencing pain and suffering from an unlicensed farrier’s work, imagine Mr. Taylor’s escalated concern for horse welfare when the average blue collar horse owner can’t afford the service of someone with knowledge and skill. When horse owners are faced with the decision to pay more or do it themselves, what will happen? If you had to pay a podiatrist to clip your toenails, wouldn’t you just do it at home? Probably. That analogy may not completely fit this situation but applying the logic of an uneducated horse owner, you can see how it might be similar. Without ANY advice or training from a trade school or a knowledgeable farrier to guide a struggling horse owner, I ask Mr. Taylor to consider this; how many more horses will be harmed inadvertently at the hands of their owners?
Where are the boundless horses injured by farriers being referenced in this movement toward licensing? Not in my barn. Not in my neighbors barn. Not at my Saddle Club either. The incidents that I’m familiar with where a horse was badly injured were the result of owner neglect, abuse or misinformation. Is a widespread lack of ethics and education in the farrier industry a legitimate problem or is the “Farriery Initiative” a solution in search of a problem? I suspect the latter. In any industry, there will be incidents of malpractice or bad judgement. Giving the government control won’t eliminate that. Animal cruelty is already against the law. There are already programs, associations and certifications in place that do a great job of turning out educated and capable farriers. There are online resources for horse owners to help them find these farriers and check their credentials.
Increased government oversight can't educate horse owners about the importance of paying a professional for quality hoof care or help make doing so financially feasible. It can't instill business ethics into an individual who will gladly accept money for a service they’re not qualified to provide. These sorts of education and outreach efforts are best undertaken by trade associations, farrier schools and horse owner communities. And they would have a much more immediate effect than the years or decades it could take to accomplish similar feats via federal regulation.
By the way, tax payers will foot the bill for a new government agency. Perhaps all of the previously working farriers could find a new career as government regulators when dozens of less affluent horse owners stop calling for their services.
In searching for a way to improve the welfare of horses, maybe everyone who works with or owns horses will eventually be required to have a license. For that matter, maybe we should all be licensed before we’re allowed to have a cat, a dog or even more importantly, a child. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? As a free American, I would never stand for anything close to that kind of government control. There’s a name for the type of government that imposes excessive restrictions on citizens, where the people must ask for the government’s permission to own, do or be what they want. You may have heard of it before. It’s called Communism. Why would farriers ever want to hand over their industry to an already oversized, ineffective, irresponsible bureaucracy?
If government can AND DOES effectively deny responsibility for damage and abuse of power, with zero accountable while the rights of Americans are shredded, then how can it possibly solve any real (or perceived) problems in the farrier industry?
Forcing government regulations on farriers in America does nothing more than turn hard working men and women into criminals if they don’t comply while making horse ownership even more of an unaffordable luxury for middle class Americans.
Farrier licensing is bad for farriers, bad for the equine industry, bad for horse owners and in the end, bad for horses.