New Canadian Farrier Program Offers Journeyman Credentials

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By Tania Millen

Canada’s farriers can now become Approved Journeyman Farriers of Canada (AJFC) through the Association of Farrier Trainers of Canada (AFTC). This means horse owners can now hire farriers that have Canadian journeyman credentials.

“The advantage to having a farrier that is AJFC certified is horse owners know what they’re getting,” says Krissy Thesen, one of the founding members of the AFTC. “You’re getting a farrier who is committed to helping your horse, is educated, has spent time and money improving their skills, and has been evaluated by some of the best farriers in the world. They’ve received feedback on their work and have not stagnated.”

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Kai Cunningham, recent graduate of the Olds College Farrier program, shaping a shoe for a forging portion of the Level 1 exam. Photo: Madeline Kwan

Farriery is one of the oldest trades known to civilization. The Citizens and Farriers of London were incorporated in England in 1356, and farriery is now regulated in the United Kingdom (UK). But in Canada, there’s no regulation. Anyone can call themselves a farrier, regardless of the schooling and skills they may or may not have.

“It’s incredibly frustrating for horse owners when someone says they’re certified, but you don’t know if that certification is from a weekend course or what,” says Thesen.

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Caulder Morris AJFC, measuring the foot to determine the steel he needs to cut to build an appropriate shoe during his shoeing journeyman exam. Photo: Madeline Kwan

The AFTC journeyman program was initiated in response to the farrier trade in Canada potentially becoming regulated and the need for a Canadian testing and certification system.

“We’re not forcing farriers to become credentialed,” says Thesen. “Regulation isn’t our goal. Education and accountability is.”

Related: Fundamentals of Proper Hoof Care

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Kailey McIntosh CJF, trimming one of two feet for her timed shoeing portion of the journeyman exam. Photo: Madeline Kwan

“We’re helping create new, competent farriers,” says Russell Floyd, a farrier in Prince George, BC, AFTC examiner, Canadian farrier team member, and President of the Western Canadian Farriers Association.

The journeyman program requires farriers to pass three levels of examinations. Each level has five parts, including a portfolio showing the farrier’s recent work; a written exam requiring 80 percent to pass; an oral exam which includes discussions with a veterinarian; and two practical exams which involve shoeing horses.

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Stephanie Wetten shaping a shoe to match a pattern for one of the forging portions of the Level 1 exam. Photo: Madeline Kwan

“It gives farriers a roadmap, especially when they’re students fresh out of school,” says Floyd. “They can do an apprenticeship for a couple years and do these exams along the way.”

“It gives me something to work towards and provides credibility that I might not have otherwise,” says Kai Cunningham, from Orleans, Ontario who just graduated from the farrier program at Olds College in Alberta and recently passed the First Level exam in Canada’s farrier journeyman program. “There’s so much freedom when you have the skills to make shoes. You can make sure that every single horse has the shoes that will benefit them the most for their job and environment.”

Related: How to Find the Finest Farrier

At First Level, farriers are expected to trim a horse, clinch and finish shoes already in place, and demonstrate specific skills such as applying pads and tapping for studs. At Second Level they must trim, fit, and nail on keg (commercially available) shoes, plus present bar shoes they’ve made and make a second shoe to specific measurements. At Third Level, farriers are expected to hand-make shoes from scratch to detailed parameters within a time limit.

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In the journeyman program, farriers must pass three levels of examinations, each with five parts, including a portfolio showing recent work; a written exam requiring 80 percent to pass; an oral exam which includes discussions with a veterinarian; and two practical exams which involve shoeing horses. Photo: Madeline Kwan

Once a farrier successfully completes all three levels — an apprenticeship which is expected to take a minimum of three years — they are granted an AJFC credential. Farriers that already hold an American Farrier’s Association (AFA) Certified Journeyman Farrier credential or Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF) Diploma of Farriery from the UK can challenge the Third Level.

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Kailey McIntosh CJF, assessing the foot and presenting her shoeing prescription to the farrier and vet examiners during an oral portion of the journeyman exam. Photo: Madeline Kwan

“The journeyman credential is a good working competency level,” says Floyd. “A journeyman can safely shoe a regular, average, normal horse. It’s the starting point to your farrier journey.”

“I’m certified with the AFA and I’ve been a farrier for a long time so I thought I would pass all three levels right away,” says Jenn Thiele, a farrier based in Blind Bay, BC, who graduated from Kwantlen Collage in 2003. “But it’s a hard test. And it’s meant to be hard.”

Related: Finding the Hoof Care Balance - Top Tips & Myth Busters

Thiele has attempted the handmade shoeing requirements several times but hasn’t passed them, yet.

“The examiners provide support,” says Thiele. “They care about making you a better farrier.”

The program was developed between 2018 and 2022 by a group of dedicated Canadian farriers.

“We have incredibly skilled, talented farriers in Canada who have high international qualifications and who have subsequently become our examiners,” says Thesen.

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Examiners for Canada’s farrier journeyman program checking the shoe (above), and the trim (below). Photos: Madeline Kwan

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They reviewed farrier certification by the AFA and WCF plus others to create a program specifically tailored for Canadian farriers and horses.

“Our Canadian journeyman exam requires comparable knowledge and skills to the American journeyman exam and the diploma exam in the UK,” says Floyd. “I would say they’re all equivalent, but they have different test questions, procedures, and methods of testing.”

“Just practicing for the journeyman, you do things that maybe you don’t do regularly like use modern materials and install studs,” says Thiele. “So, it increases your everyday skills. You get faster and better qualified because you’re continuing your education. And clients love hearing about it.”

Related: Therapeutic Horseshoeing

The program continues to be updated. Certification for therapeutic farrier work is under development, with additional categories for higher levels of achievement in the works. The end goal is to have a full apprenticeship program which helps place candidates with mentors in their area who are qualified, knowledgeable, and willing to teach.

“The program keeps new farriers motivated and gives them something to strive for,” says Thiele. “It holds them to a certain standard, which helps make all of us accountable.”

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L-R: Examiners Dean Sinclair CJF, FE, DipWCF and Olivier Dufresne CJF review the score sheet of candidates. Photo: Madeline Kwan

Hopefully, many of Canada’s farriers will choose to voluntarily participate. Floyd estimates that only about 20 percent of the farriers in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are members of the WCFA, one of the organizations that supports the journeyman program.

Journeyman exams are held in spring and autumn at three different locations: Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, BC; Olds College in Olds, Alberta; and through the Eastern Ontario Farriers Association in Ashton, Ontario.

“We all strive to do what’s right for the horse — but you’re probably getting worse if you’re not getting better,” says Thiele.


Certification Designations

  • CJF - American Farriers Association Certified Journeyman Farrier
  • AJFC - Approved Journeyman Farrier of Canada through the Association of Farrier Trainers of Canada
  • DipWCF - Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, UK certification

Related: The Wild West: Navigating Canada’s Unregulated Horse Industry

Related: The Well-Fed Foot - Nutrition for Healthy Hooves

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Main Photo: Madeline Kwan