|by Dave Millwater, RJF
published in ANVIL Magazine, July 1998
Since the Guild of Professional Farriers began to define, uphold, and promote a formal national field credential standard for professional farriers, questions have arisen as to why such a standard is needed, and why an organization such as The Guild is best suited to manage it. The following is in answer to those questions.
Why is a formal standard for professional farriers needed? The terms profession and professional have become very popular in the farrier community in recent years. This is perfectly understandable, since professionals are, by definition, more highly valued and compensated than lay workers. But it takes more to be a professional than calling yourself one. Qualifying to practice in a true profession involves years of training and study, as well as meeting a formal standard of competence. This standard could take the form of government licensing, but the profession and the horse industry would certainly be better served by a valid professional credential system administered without government interference.
Farriers often feel that their individual reputations are sufficient to establish them as professionals. While the value of a well-earned reputation cannot be overstated, all reputations are essentially based on comparison. When horse owners refer to Dr. Jones as "one of the best vets in the area," they are comparing him to a group of highly trained and tested professional veterinarians. When horse owners say that a farrier is "the best horseshoer around," they are comparing him to a group that includes untrained beginners and half-hearted pretenders. By defining "professional farrier" with a valid formal credential standard, we can raise the quality of the group each farrier is compared to, creating a higher, more solid foundation upon which individual reputations can be built.
What is the nature of a valid professional field credential? The function of a professional credential is to establish the minimum standard for the persons qualified to practice independently. Therefore, the lowest credential issued by a professional credential program must designate a fully qualified professional professional. Sub-standard credentials serve only to confuse the issue, undermine the program's credibility, and short-sell the profession.
A professional credential system must take into consideration the years it takes to become truly qualified to be a professional farrier, as well as the full range of knowledge and skills needed to provide clients with complete hoof care and shoeing services. Examinations for such a credential are naturally demanding, requiring the farrier to demonstrate the kinds of ability needed in professional practice.
Because horse owners can count on a formal standard of this kind to identify qualified farriers, the credential can be a valuable asset to working farriers. What kind of an organization is needed to issue professional field credentials?
A farrier organization which issues professional credentials needs to be made up of qualified professional farriers. This is the only way to be sure that the organization will put the interests of the qualified working farrier first.
Every organization ultimately has to be answerable to its dues-paying members. If every member in a farrier organization holds the organization's credential, every member will benefit from active promotion of the credential to the public. Otherwise, promotion of the credential would effectively mean that members who don't hold the credential would be paying dues to advertise the members who do - an untenable situation, to say the least.
The Guild of Professional Farriers is an organization which requires all members to meet the Registered Journeyman Farrier (RJF) standard, which is based on the knowledge, experience, and skills needed to practice farriery on a professional level. We issue no credentials lower than RJF, and openly promote this standard to the horse world as a way to identify qualified farriers.
The Guild is now accepting applications from qualified RJFs who wish to become a Registered Master Farrier, to help apprentices achieve our professional standard.