The Horse Podiatrist

No, that post title isn’t also the title of an upcoming book. After all, I’m not sure it’d be flying off the shelves if it were. Instead, it’s a clue to today’s topic, that of farriers.

As you might expect from a long-running western series, many of my heroes in my Blue Falls, Texas series are ranchers and/or rodeo cowboys. Every now and then, I throw in a little something extra, too. That was the case for A Rancher to Love, which was book eight in the series. Tyler Lowe not only has a ranch, but he’s the local farrier — or the man you call when your horse needs a hoof trim or new shoes. When you think about it, farrier seems an odd word for such a profession. But not surprisingly, it’s because the term has its roots in other languages — this time French and Latin. It’s comes from the Middle French word ferrier,

meaning blacksmith, and the Latin word for iron, ferrum.

Although in the past, farriers did blacksmithing work as well, today the two professions are more distinct. Unlike podiatrists, farriers in the United States don’t have to have any formal education or certification. In fact, scary as it might seem, farriery is not regulated at all in the U.S. There are voluntary certification programs through three organizations — the American Farrier’s Association, the Guild of Professional Farriers, and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers.

By contrast, in the UK it is illegal for anyone to call themselves a farrier or to carry out any farriery work. This is so that no harm or suffering are endured by horses through the unskilled efforts of someone who isn’t qualified. They are organized as the Worshipful Company of Farriers and have been around since 1356!

While trimming hooves and shoeing (including for such special purposes such as racing) are the farrier’s main duties, they also take care of damaged or diseased hooves.

It was fun to write a different aspect of life surrounding ranching and the cowboy life, but next month I’m back to rodeo cowboys with the release of book number 12 in the Blue Falls, Texas series — Her Texas Rodeo Cowboy. Hero Jason Till is in hot pursuit of a national championship in steer wrestling.

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22 thoughts on “The Horse Podiatrist”

  1. Good morning- I grew up in the rodeo world and I remember my dad bent over working on replacing shoes for our roping horses. This is not an easy profession and I commend the men and women who become farriers. They certainly earn their back breaking pay. There are excellent schools for this training and farriers are a true godsend to horse owners. Thanks for featuring this great profession, that many will probably never understand is a necessary for horse husbandry.

  2. Very interesting blog. Now I’m wondering if farriers in the U.S. come under such strict regulations. I’ve never thought about it before. I have known many a farrier in my day that I wouldn’t think that they would have any type of formal education about the trade.

  3. Hi Trish,

    I enjoyed the bit of history — way back to the 1300’s! So farriers aren’t just all about getting the correct horseshoes on the horse. They have knowledge with the diseases too. That was news to me, but it makes sense.

  4. Hi Trish, very interesting! Man, the research you’d have to do to write a story with a farrier! Did you actually go watch one or talk to them? It’s fascinating work I would imagine. I don’t know if I could hammer nails into a horse’s hoof though. Looks like it would be very painful. Nice that the farriers have knowledge of diseases.

  5. Love your post! We have a farrier that visits our horses in a regular basis. Horses feet need loving care too!

  6. What wonderful info. Trish. I am glad to learn the origin of the term, although I have long known what farriers do. A teaching colleague of mine was an equestrienne, and her husband an astrophysicist. He learned to be a farrier to relax! I’m shocked there aren’t licensing requirements, though. We have a qualified farrier at the horse rescue. Some of our precious beauties come in after abandonment and their feet are an absolute mess. xo

    • It’s amazing that you do horse rescue, Tanya. I once did an article for a magazine I used to work for on The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. They do amazing work rescuing elephants that have been in circuses and the like. The poor animals are built to roam, but they are so often kept chained up in small enclosures standing on concrete. This causes them to develop foot rot, which can be fatal. To see them and how happy they are after they’ve gotten used to the sanctuary is amazing.

  7. Wow, what a terrific post, Trish. I love learning the history of things I didn’t know before, such as farriers, and the Latin and French origins of the word. It makes sense to me that French was an influence since it was the international language used in the Middle Ages (and the huge influence Middle French had on Middle English at that time). And I have to wonder that if there was an organized group in 1356, how much further back unknown groups went or even the term. So I decided to have a look. 🙂

    I found a site called “The Farrier Guide” with an article on its history, which mentions Celts, Romans and Normans. (The site even has a free ebook on farriers!) I found two sections I particularly liked and hope it’s okay to share them here:

    “Cultures whose horses were shod, especially military cultures like the Roman Empire, tended to have farriers on staff to keep their cavalry shod and sound, both at home and on military campaigns. The Roman writer Vegetius tells us that farriers, smiths of all sorts, and anyone who plied a specialized trade necessary to the army were exempt from battle and also from routine military tasks like patrol, or ditch digging.”

    “Some sources suggest that William the Conqueror’s farrier was given a coat of arms and the surname de Ferrers, from which our modern “farrier” comes. Others suggest that the name de Ferrers is a reference to an ancestral home in St. Hilaire de Ferrers, which was an ironmaking district in France. Others suggest that the word just comes from the Latin “ferrarius,” meaning iron. Either way, the coat of arms the de Ferrers family received has six horseshoes on it and suggests that the craft of farriery was in high regard.”

    Hope you don’t mind the lengthy post, Trish. If anyone is interested in other aspects too, this site has them and can be found here:

  8. Prefer a Barefoot trim and hard to find a farrier willing to do so = leave them as natural as possible!

  9. Our daughter studied to be a farrier. She completed the course, but injured her hip in a fall from a horse and couldn’t Bend or support the weight of the horse. Our son took over her small propane forge and taught himself blacksmithing. We now have a full size coal forge and he does nice work.

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