The actions of an unnamed individual when striking a reluctant horse on the way to the start in a Vodacom Durban July day feature has been hotly debated on these pages.
John M. Murdoch (ASF AWCF) has addressed our readers in his capacity as National President of the South African Association of Professional Farriers.
He writes that following a recent exchange in the comments section stemming from a video clip posted by Sporting Post under the heading, “July Day Feature – This Looked Bad”, which unfortunately (although having nothing to do with farriery!) deteriorated into a farrier bashing session, it became abundantly clear that there is a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding or just plain ignorance about farriery in South Africa.
As a result, we as the South African Association of Professional Farriers (SAAPF) believe we have a responsibility to shed some light on the farrier industry and to give some peace of mind to the horse owners, trainers, punters, and other interested parties, that we are doing our level best to ensure that your horses’ podiatry needs are being properly met.
It would be arrogant and foolhardy to suggest that we have reached a point of overall acceptable levels of proficiency at this stage.
We come from a long history of complete freedom from any regulation or any hard and fast rules regarding farrier education, which has had the effect of some substandard practitioners still inflicting their lack of skill on the equine population.
This said, there are a number of really well qualified graduates from the old training centres such as The Newmarket Farrier School (now closed), the South African Defence Force, the South African Police Service, Damelin College, and some farriers having gone through good apprenticeship programs.
Despite what some of the aforementioned commentary suggests, South Africa has some farriers of which we are justifiably proud and the situation is not nearly as dire as suggested.
Notwithstanding, the SAAPF has made it our mission to expand the number of highly proficient professional farriers!
To start with, Robbie Miller ASF AWCF was subjected to some harsh criticism for his passionate response to a suggestion that substandard farriery would be the cause of what a commentator felt to be an unacceptable incidence of lost shoes on the way to the starting gates.
Robbie has agreed, as an undeniable expert in this field, to write a separate article for the Sporting Post covering specifics in this regard. I will therefore not be commenting any further on this matter. Having mentioned Robbie, I feel we must give credit where credit is due!
The credit I speak of relates to Robbie’s passionate pursuit of ongoing farrier education throughout South Africa, and his instrumental part in introducing the FITS certification program as described below.
I believe the sweeping allegation of substandard farriery came across as a bit of a slap in the face, and the discrediting of a process of education so close to his heart, and that is what provoked Robbie’s outburst, for which he has apologised.
The farrier education process I have referred to will now be explained for those who wish to hear!
The SAAPF has adopted the Farriers International Testing System of certification (FITS), with the intent of uplifting our farriers to a point of establishing international recognition and acceptance of our abilities beyond the borders of South Africa.
FITS is the brainchild of world-renowned Chris Gregory ASF CJF FWCF, a leading farrier and farrier educator through his Heartland Horseshoeing School in Lamar, Missouri, USA, and also across the globe as a clinician dedicated to worldwide farrier education.
The system has been adopted by other countries such as Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, and is one of a number of certifications acceptable in the United States.
The recommended SAAPF program is conducted on a 3-tiered level, briefly, structured as follows: CERTIFIED FARRIER (CF): Prospective farriers enter into a minimum 3 year apprenticeship with a training, or journeyman farrier, where they are taught the practical aspects of the trade through a hands on approach.
Through this period, they receive broad exposure to how the various aspects of the trade are approached, starting with stripping and clinching and getting comfortable under the horse.
All the while honing horsemanship skills and work ethic. Theory is largely self-study with the journeyman’s guidance and input when needed. The apprenticeship is considered successfully completed when the Apprentice passes the FITS CF exam.
The examination constitutes 3 modules, being theory, shoe building and modifications, and practical trimming and shoeing. A CF is safe going into a solo practice, but is strongly advised to call on more experienced farriers if confronted by cases that fall outside their abilities.
CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL FARRIER (CPF): After passing the CF exam, it is up to the individual to pursue the more advanced CPF, which requires a more in-depth knowledge of the trade, again based on theory, shoe building and more advanced shoeing requirements.
ADVANCED SKILLS FARRIER (ASF): This is the highest-level qualification under the FITS program and theory, shoe building and application thereof require an exceptionally high skillset in order to pass the exam.
FITS examiners are required to have passed at least the ASF qualification. The panel of examiners will always include a local farrier, an international farrier and a recognised equine veterinarian.
The pass mark at each level is 70% on each of the 3 modules. We long have held the belief that, to become the best we need to be willing to subject ourselves to the scrutiny of the best! The number of properly certified farriers introduced to the South African scene over the last decade and a bit hasgrown exponentially.
Many of our graduates have moved to successfully ply their trade in the Middle East, and elsewhere in the world, which surely endorses our approach.
A more recent development in local education has been (again, the driving force being Mr. Miller) the introduction of the British examination as set by the Worshipful Company of Farriers, London (WCF).
History was made two years ago when a panel of British examiners came to South Africa to put a number of us through the highly demanding and thorough process of acquiring what is considered to be the Gold Standard of farrier certification.
The South African pass rate for the WCF exam was above the world average and seems to suggest that the FITS program has been successful in producing a number of high-quality farriers, of which we are understandably proud!
I don’t know where Mr. Pieta Louw gets the information on which he based his rather dismissive comment, but I hope this disclosure puts his heart at rest!
Pieta Louw wrote in the SP comments platform on 29 July 2020:
We have had the discussions re the local farriers in the past…..Mr Miller’s response comes as no surprise…..they are a close knit community and will defend themselves come hell or high water…..you will not convince them to do internal soul searching. The only way to solve this ongoing problem is for each farrier to subject themselves to international accreditation by redoing their courses under international supervision and get the certification they should have to serve the local racing…….currently they are not.
Mr. Louw, what we are doing is soundly based on, and as a result of some critical soul searching!
The process started some 12 years ago. Also, we don’t resort to dressing down our farriers in public but do most definitely address problems on a person to person basis when called for.
Despite the progress made, we cannot, nor will we become complacent in what has been achieved.
We will continue to offer the certification exams and to look for further avenues towards improving farrier education.
There is a need to explore some regulation in order to minimise the negative impact fly-by-night practitioners have on the industry. We need the help of every horse owner, trainer, veterinarian, physiotherapist, equine chiropractor, etc., out there to encourage the farriers you come across to embark on the process of self-improvement and certification.
Not only is the process hugely rewarding, but serves to protect us as individuals from unwarranted attacks with regards to our abilities.
To be able to call ourselves a profession, we need to equip ourselves with professionalism!