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July Day Incident – Farrier Association President Responds

Reassurances that professional standards are met

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.

Here is the background

John M. Murdoch (ASF AWCF) has addressed our readers in his capacity as National President of the South African Association of Professional Farriers.

South African Association of Professional Farriers (SAAPF) President John Murdoch on the far right in a post-race presentation at Kenilworth

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!


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20 comments on “July Day Incident – Farrier Association President Responds

  1. Steve Reid says:

    Having been privileged enough to witness farriers working on some of my horses over the years, I can only say that I have the absolute admiration for their ability and courage. Shoeing horses is not for sissies. Reading some of the comments, it seems the bunny-hugger brigade is of the opinion that all horses are gentle lead ponies with no vices. I have owned and seen a few in yards that only the bravest would venture into their stables, and some of these had every intention of inflicting bodily harm to intruders. Never forget that these are animals that weigh half a ton and more on occasion, and have the equipment to seriously injure. Farriers have my respect when you consider what they need to do to physically do their work.

  2. Editor says:

    How refreshing to witness a genuine and unsolicited effort to inform and communicate with the public.
    This just doesn’t happen in horseracing.
    Thanks for making the effort John and for dealing with the opinions of our readers in a dignified and constructive manner.

  3. jc lee ching says:

    Mr Murdoch, thank you very much for your lengthy repy to all the complaints regarding horses losing their shoes on the way to the start. You have laid out the history of your association and backed it up very well with all your various lofty certifications and rightly so. I do feel that you have not or even attempted to address the main cause of this discussion, that is, “why are the horses losing shoes? and what are you as President of the farriers association going to do about it?”

  4. jc lee ching says:

    Mr Editor no sensible person bunny hugger or not should suggest that a farriers job is a easy one. It is a taxing and labour intensive activity not for feeble bodied persons, but it must be done. But there is a problem and it must be fixed. Or perhaps you also condone the time wasting and irritations at the start? As for horses not all being gentle creatures I am very much aware of that, one bit me on my arm when I was still a teenager so I know.

    1. Editor says:

      JC, nobody condones time wasting.
      But there are a multitude of other factors suggested
      And hopefully Robbie will cover that aspect when he responds

  5. John Murdoch says:

    Mr Lee Ching. If you care to have another look at my article you will note that the nuts and bolts of shoeing racehorses will be explained by Robbie Miller. He is the expert in this field! Do you not see our education program as an attempt to improve all farrier related problems? Including limiting the problem of shoes being lost between the parade ring and the starting gate? I do not shoe for the track so with your indulgence will be leaving that to the experts in that field.

  6. Keith sing says:

    we are only interested in the individual whose action on July day whose his name and is a farrier or not or employed by gold circle

  7. Philip says:

    I have personally watched in awe, as Farriers hung onto very unruly horses, attempting to trim their feet. Their job, is NOT for the faint hearted. Although the July day incident may have involved a Farrier, it is not a reflection of his attitude to his craft. I have seen him trying to refit a shoe which has become dislodged at the course. He does this with a passion.
    Lets give credit to all Farriers, instead of making a mountain out of a molehill. Farriers will always get my vote. They are really dedicated to their craft and truly the unsung hero of a racing or any yard!

  8. Marc Harford says:

    I played golf on Sunday after the JULY, and after a few wayward drives, I personally picked up 2 shoes on the track. From what the shoes looked like, I’m not surprised that they came off. I’m no expert but I was very surprised as to what they looked like. I have them if anyone is interested in seeing them.

    1. Editor says:

      Hi Marc
      If you’d like to email the pics to us on [email protected], we could look at them

  9. satish Singh says:

    Please don’t blame the farriers.

    In my humble opinion horses should race in the steels. These are durable and don’t have to be replaced often. Allys should be fitted when necessary.

    I believe that replacing shoes often will weaken
    the hooves of the horse.

    In the good old days steels were used and horses losing their shoes did occur often.

  10. Mark Truter says:

    Hang them on your wall for good luck and stick to golf

  11. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Happy to see Steve likes somebody in the Industry L😂L
    Same here, I knew a tough cookie farrier Mr Seymour, think he left for Aus or NZ

    ” This looked bad ” sparked a nice debate and I appreciate Mr Murdoch’s letter. I respect different opinions, and look fwd to Robbie’s article.

    I wouldn’t like my selection/s scratched cause he/she lost a shoe….

    My take on the original article a little different. It is Not Ok to strike and unknown reluctant filly. If it was Belgarion the outcry would have been Big. Jockeys uses bad language or one whip (strike) too many and action is quick.

    SP wrote to the so called bosses regarding this matter. Unlikely they’ll respond, trivial matter ? Then come out and say so – Klomp D….

    Look I am (no) bunny hugger, but must admit (I use) to like Hugh Hefner’s bunnies …..

    Good Night

  12. Frankie says:

    Frankie Zackey…
    I’m certainly in Steve Reid’s camp on this one…I’ve personally seen farriers getting ripped apart by horse’s,,broken arms legs ribs you name it I’ve seen it…Some of the posts that have been posted one can only laugh at,, the best was a jail term,,do you honestly believe the man had full intentions to harm the animal in such a way that a jail sentence would be a fair outcome ? key board warriors just to let you know,, this job is definitely not for geldings

  13. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Hanging horse shoes for Good Luck! Now, do we hang it ends (heels) up or down ?
    What the heck, we have 2….

  14. shabir hoosen says:

    It seems that everyone is deviating from the actual problem. I have personally seen horses being shod by some unqualified farrier cause he is cheap. The qualified farrier refusing to shoe horses because of non payment by trainers. Yes its a risky job but horses behave according to how they have been treated from young. Bad trainers bad horse behavior.

  15. Tex Davie says:

    Well said Mark

  16. Rob Stranger says:

    Can we still use a twitch ?

  17. Dayalan Moodley says:

    The shoes could be put to better use than hanging them on the wall. Place it close to the green if you are unable to hang it on the pin. It will take care of your swing and finding the green will be a shoo-in

  18. Debi Vogt says:

    Seriously Horses have been shoed for a very long time and shame poor farriers like some comments above are trying to say what a difficult job well then get another job … Because when you have to hit a horse like that you are out of control and should seriously get away from horses .. I quickly learnt to teach my horses to give foot when asked because it was much easier to teach them than having a farrier hit them like the footage clearly showed …

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