I’m nine month into being a full time farrier. I’ve never felt so healthy. I’ve also never done something that was so hard. I’m used to being someone that was at least pretty good at whatever I’ve tried. School work was never particularly hard, music was totally doable and learning many different instruments was easy, I was never super athletic but I did well enough in sports, I am decent rider. Research itself was easy for me. Farriery is NOT easy in any way. For that reason every success feels amazing, and I’m learning how to fail gracefully every day.
For the past 9 months I have been busy. In October I went to a pre-certification clinic offered my the Michigan Horseshoer’s Association. This is a clinic designed to help farriers pass their American Farrier’s Association exams. It was the first time my work was examined and scored by someone other than my mentors. It was also the first time shoeing on the clock. Clinicians judged my shoes I had made for the shoe board and my live shoeing go. I missed the live shoeing go by a minute and 27 seconds. I got decent comments back on my shoes, but they still needed work. I took the clinician’s advice with me as I spent the next 4 weeks practicing any spare second I got on forging for my shoe board. I learned how to jump weld and build a bar shoe, a required shoe, 2 weeks before the exam. I finished my shoe board 2 hours before the test. It was to the wire.
Certification is a two day ordeal. I passed my written exam with a 93%, a very good score for this test, but that was what I was good at- school work. My tester passed my shoe board, and I had to make quarter clips on a keg shoe in 30min. Those passed too. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved in my life. That shoe board was difficult for me to put together, by far my toughest exam to date. The second day was the live shoeing. I got my horse assigned, cleaned her up and got comments from my tester. The test started and I went to work. I didn’t plan well for the live shoeing. The test is designed for a forge and anvil, I used a stall jack and then a forge to level the shoe out. Ultimately a fitting mistake failed me. I was pretty devastated. I’m used to passing exams, this was my first official exam failure. Despite this I requested to finish out my run, and was granted permission as the mistake was not a detriment to the horse. I resolved to get myself a truck instead of my Honda Fit so that I could get a forge and anvil on the road and practice the proper way.
In the meantime my mentors nitpick at my trims and train me up on finishing touches. They have told me some details again and again and have been patient while I figured it out. I have learned about proper boxing and safeing, proper pad placement and fit, they have honed my trim skills, cleaned up my finishing, etc. Every time they have made a comment, it implies that I have failed. Every time I fail I want to be better, and I have to swallow that bitter feeling of not being good enough. This process has not only improved my work, but myself as a person. Yeah I got criticism in research, but never to this level, and usually it was masked in severity. All their comments are straightforward, there is no hiding, no excuses. Just do it better next time.
In January I decided to compete at the Michigan Horseshoer’s Association’s annual contest and clinic the night before the contest. As a result there wasn’t any time for my guys to help me prepare much. The first round required quarter clips and extended heels on a keg shoe. When Mark Milster judged the shoes after time was up, he set my shoes aside and judged the rest. I’ve never been so mortified. For the next round I took my mistakes and learned from them. This time when they were judged my shoes were in the running. I got 4th place out of 6 in the second round. That improvement was sweet.
My next certification try is in late April. I have spent time with more farriers to improve in addition to my usual help and guidance. I finally have my rig set up and I can practice my CF live shoeing run properly. I have given up quite a bit to be able to afford the truck. It’s been scary and fun to set it up with my people. It is a huge milestone in my business and my skill. I put my first set of shoes out of the truck with the forge and anvil last weekend. I’ve never felt more like a real farrier. I’m ready to go to Iowa in April and try again to earn my CF. I’m ready to fail, I’m ready to succeed. If I fail, I try again, if I succeed I get to move on to my CJF exam in which I will probably fail again before I earn those letters. I’m okay with that, those letters mean more to me than the prospect of “BS” and “PhD” ever did. Blood, sweat, and tears literally go into them. Failure means that success is real and tangible. I’m proud to have chosen a profession that tests me every day, helps me grow as a person, and allows me the privilege of working on and with horses everyday. Each morning I think “today I get to do this” and that is special.